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Advantages of using air tools over electric tools

Manufacturers will always look for ways to reduce cost while improving throughput. While the initial up front price for an electric power tool is attractive, the pneumatic tools offer a lower total cost of ownership and greater productivity in the long run. Why is that?

September 10, 2019

Industrial Tools & Solutions Atlas Copco Products

Here are some reasons why pneumatic tools are better than electric tools:

Superior ergonomics - For high productivity grinders, the most important ergonomic factors are weight and vibration level of the tool. Holding a heavy grinder throughout an entire workday puts stress and strain on the operator. If the operator is also exposed to high vibration levels from the grinder, the situation becomes even worse. The working process takes more time, and the operator runs great risks for future work related injuries with sick leave as a result.

Power to weight ratio - Pneumatic grinders offer a better power-to-weight ratio than electric grinders. Simply put, pneumatic grinders develop far more power in relation to their size and weight compared to most other motor types. Electric tool manufacturers often classify the power of their tools by the wattage fed into the electric motors. What's not stated in electric tool specifications is that the power fed into the electric motor is not the same wattage that arrives to the spindle. In fact, only 50% to 60% of the rated wattage actually arrives to the abrasive mounted on the tool. Conversely, with pneumatic grinders, power in equals power out. An air tool rated for one horsepower will provide one horsepower of material removal power at the spindle.

Increased productivity – A pneumatic grinder is not sensitive to overloads and can maintain stated power, giving a higher production rate. The operator using an electric tool has to be careful, not overload the tool as this will damage the motor – leading to costly repairs or replacement of the tool.

No risk of electric shock - Grinders of all varieties are frequently used in environments where moisture, conductive materials, and flammable liquids are present. Damaged cords and wires pose a risk to operator safety resulting in an electrical shock. Furthermore, metal fabricators often rely on flammable chemicals, such as acetone, to clean and prepare metals prior to welding. Pools of spilled liquids can quickly be ignited by faulty electrical cords. Vapor concentrations can be higher when working in confined spaces such as those found in the mining and tank cleaning industries. In contrast, air tools use no electricity and their rotary vane air motors generate no spark.

High performance in harsh environments - The two biggest threats affecting electric tool life are dust and heat — dropping them in water, or baking them under a hot sun don’t help either. By their very nature electric motors have a rated duty cycle which must be respected. Without a periodic rest, the heat generated by the motor itself will diminish performance and eventually cause premature tool failure. Furthermore, the generation of particles is inherent in any material removal process. With the open grate style motor compartments required for cooling, electric tool motors are more susceptible to the accumulation of dust and debris. In contrast, air tools are designed specifically for use in foundries, shipyards, off-shore oil platforms, power plants, metal fabrication facilities, and petro-chemical refining plants. Air tools have a 100% duty cycle, meaning they are designed to run 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Ease of servicing - An industrial grade grinder is not a disposable piece of equipment. They can be periodically rebuilt and serviced over many years. The average electric tool maintenance interval is between 60 and 120 hours after which the tool will typically need brushes. Comparatively, a garage/maintenance grade air tool averages 200 hours between service intervals while an industrial grade air grinder can run 2000 hours between tune ups.

Advantage air tool

Conclusion - Regardless if you are de-burring parts in a machine shop, preparing a surface for painting, or parting gates and risers in a foundry, everyone's goal is to get the product out of the door faster. With pneumatic grinders, you'll spend less time accomplishing your task and feel safer and more comfortable doing so. Additionally, with their 100% duty cycle rating and long service intervals, you'll spend more time working and less time servicing your tools. While the upfront cost of a pneumatic grinder may be higher, it's the total cost of ownership that matters. Air tools are a sound investment that results in significant gains in manufacturing productivity.