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5 considerations when specifying a pneumatic tool for metalworking applications

The tool used can play a significant role in the success of a metalworking task. That is why managers should pay careful attention when specifying pneumatic tools to ensure they contribute to the efficiency, productivity, and safety of the operation. Here we outline five factors that you should review when making your selection.


Speed should be a key consideration when selecting a tool, as it affects the material removal rate, and therefore productivity. The optimal speed is defined by both the application and the material, while factors including disc type, disc size, and the required surface finish quality all contribute to the choice. There is no universal guideline that would apply to all applications. Instead, the operators will need to look at the individual requirements in each case. It is also good to bear in mind that high speed is not always better: with certain materials, it can result in local heating, damaging the material as well as the tool. 


Different materials have very different requirements, so there is no one-size-fits-all tool. To receive the best results, operators need to consider each material separately. Steel and steel alloys, for example, can be very tough to grind, so the tool will need to be powerful to achieve the desired efficiency. Fiber Reinforced Polymer composites (FRP composites), on the other hand, require a gentler approach. It is vital to use the appropriate speed and adhesive to get the best results and, crucially, avoid melting the FRP composite onto the abrasive.


The application plays an essential role in the tool selection process, as different tasks rely on different features of the tool. Cutting, chamfering, and weld seam removal applications, for instance, are usually best carried out with angle and vertical grinders, using grinding, and cutting disks specifically designed for these tasks. In surface sanding applications, low-speed tools, such as angle rotary sanders, usually provide optimal results. When it comes to finishing, it is ideal to choose rotary orbital sanders and belt sanders that feature a central vacuum, such as Chicago Pneumatic’s CP7250CVE orbital sander, that provide oil-free operation. This helps ensure a clean and contamination-free sanding process.

Safety and ergonomics

The safety and comfort of the operators should also be taken into account, as they have a considerable impact on productivity. One example is the power-to-weight ratio: will operators be able to use the tool continuously over a long period? Another is the availability of an autobalancer. The feature can significantly reduce the vibrations the user is subjected to, enabling the tool to be used safely for longer, and reducing worker fatigue. 

Additional features

Specifying a tool is also an excellent opportunity to review any additional features that might enhance efficiency and productivity. For example, some pneumatic tools feature spindle locks, which are designed to enable quick abrasive replacement to minimize downtime. In addition to the ergonomic benefits mentioned earlier, autobalancers are also a worthy add-on for other reasons. For example, they can increase the material removal rate by up to 15 percent, as workers can use the tool safely over longer periods. They also reduce the wear the abrasive disks are subjected to, improving cost-efficiency as fewer replacement disks need to be purchased. 

These five points demonstrate how different features contribute to the overall suitability of the tool. 

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