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December 7, 2020
Price is an important consideration when choosing a tool for metalworking applications, but it alone should not be the deciding factor. Other things also contribute to the total cost of ownership, performance, and, ultimately, the overall productivity.
One of the key things to look out for is the ergonomics of the tool, specifically the following aspects:
The power-to-weight ratio affects how long an operator can handle the tool over a given period, the speed of material removal, and the operator’s well-being. If you are hesitant between two tools, the power-to-weight ratio is essential to choose the right one for your needs. Chicago Pneumatic’s CP3650 angle grinder, for example, weighs only 1.8 kilos but delivers a power of 1,800W to maximize productivity.
Limiting the vibrations that the worker is exposed to when handling the tool is crucial for well-being and productivity. Excessive vibration can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), which, in the worst case, can result in total loss of sensation in hands, permanently disabling the operator. Selecting tools with features that reduce vibration and stabilize the tool, such as autobalancers, help make it safer to use for extended periods, increasing the material removal rate by up to 15 percent.
The tool’s vibration level and the length of exposure indicate whether an operator will be at risk from HAVS. Vibration and noise can both be minimized by choosing tools with low vibration levels, evaluating the work pattern, and wearing appropriate PPE, such as ear defenders.
With some tools weighing over five kilos, weight is an important consideration when comparing tools. Can the operator handle the tool for hours at a time? The weigh value can be found in the manufacturer’s catalog, but the operator should always test the tool to ensure its suitability. On paper, weight can be a deceptive value: an ergonomic design can make a heavier tool easy to handle, minimizing the physical strain on the operator.
Additional tool’s features and accessories can contribute to the performance and maneuverability of the tool. For example, tools with an ergonomic handle design can reduce vibration, while those with a curved head can deliver better weld bead visibility to optimize precision.
The right tool can also help reduce the risk of accidents, safeguarding productivity. Many tools from Chicago Pneumatic, for example, feature a two-position safety trigger, which can be adapted to the operator’s grip above or below the housing to reduce the risk of their hands slipping. Governed air grinders, especially when featuring an overspeed shut-off, are also a good way of managing both safety and productivity. They help maintain maximal speed to optimize material removal rates while protecting the operator from the damage caused by abrasive bursts.
As the maintenance cycles and requirements vary between tools, comparison can be challenging. The most important feature to look for is the maintenance interval, which shows how many hours you can use the tool before maintenance is recommended. Knowing and maintaining the maintenance requirements is crucial for ensuring the best performance and preserving the specifications, such as power and speed, that contribute to productivity.
These three questions help you find the right tool for your requirements.
1. What do you use the tool for – grinding, cutting, or drilling?
2. What size abrasive do you need?
3. Will the tool be used over long periods?
Consulting with the leading manufacturers will help you ask the right questions and identify the tool that is best placed to answer them.
As the above points highlight, several features can contribute to productivity and long-term cost-efficiency. Reviewing the requirements and finding the tool that is the best match for the application, and the operator's needs, will help you make the most out of your investment.