Are you in the market for a new random orbital sander and wondering whether to go with the electric or pneumatic? This article covers various aspects to consider in making this decision, beyond simply the cost of the units, including the technical aspects and how and where you’ll be using the sander(s). Continue reading for more information about whether to get an air or electric sander. (scroll down for an air vs electric cheat sheet)
Uneeda’s orbital sanders are all a similar style, featuring an ergonomic, symmetrical, lightweight body with a lever on the top to activate the sander. Both styles come with the option of 3/16” or 3/32” orbits and are available in 3”, 5”, 6” and 3×4” formats with and without dust extraction options. The electric sander has an elongated handle on the back, which contains all the electrical components. The pneumatic sanders do not have this handle and are therefore smaller/lighter.
Uneeda’s pneumatic sanders are built with an aluminum housing for durability and to help the unit be more lightweight and absorb vibration. They require 90 PSI of air to run smoothly. The 5 and 6” units run at 12,000 RPM and the 3×4 option runs optimally at 10,000 RPM.
Uneeda’s electric sanders have a brushless and DC driven motor. They contain internal fans to reduce heat on the center nut, thus helping the unit run cooler internally and reducing problems that would occur from heat. They have four adjustable speeds, from 8000 to 12,000 RPM and have a system to protect against overheating.
Regardless of whether you choose air or electric, all the round units – 3”, 5” and 6” – offer a random orbit pattern, and the rectangular units have a “fixed” orbit pattern. The benefit of the random pattern is that it makes it more difficult to observe the sanding pattern on the sanded surface and in the finish, whereas with a fixed rotation, it is more likely to see sanding swirls and other issues. When using the 3×4, this can be reduced by using a pad saver on your backup pad. Swirls and evidence of orbital sanding can be removed or reduced by running the sander at proper speeds/psi for air sanders, and sanding with a non-woven product prior to finishing.
Air Capacity in the Shop Vs Using a Sander On the Go
When deciding whether a pneumatic or electric sander is right for you, it’s important to consider whether you’ll be primarily using the sander in the shop/plant or on the go. Furthermore, it’s essential to consider what your overall air capacity is and whether/how many other air based tools will be used simultaneously.
Generally, if you are sanding on the go, such as in restoration or construction, electric sanders could be a better option, for both ease of transport and the ability to plug in to the available power source on site, versus having to bring a portable air compressor and also plug that in.
However, when you are stationary in a shop or factory, as previously mentioned, first note your overall air capacity and what/how many other tools will be run at the same time. Uneeda’s pneumatic sanders require 90 PSI to run optimally. Too much or too little air pressure can cause issues in sander speed, ultimately leading to poor sanding results and problems with the sander itself.
When running pneumatic sanders, it can seem like they are a dime a dozen as compared to expensive wide belt sanders, and therefore sometimes it’s not seen as important to have to replace them. However, this mentality can lead to carelessness where the air sanders are concerned, leading to premature and overly frequent replacements. To keep air sanders running well, it’s key to keep a regular maintenance routine/schedule per our other article: 5 Simple Tips to Keep Your Air Sanders Running Smoothly. If the sander is not well maintained, such as lubricating regularly, keeping the air filter maintained, and so on, the sander will tend to lock up in the bearings or motor and stop functioning properly – leading to problems in sanding results and other issues.
With an electric sander, internal maintenance is not typically required. On the other hand, if the sander gets too hot, it can potentially overheat and shut down. However, this is easily resolved by recalibrating the sander, a process that can be done in a matter of minutes.
Both styles of sanders will need to have their backup pads replaced from time to time, depending on the usage.
Cost – Short vs Long Term
Would you rather save some money on the initial purchase, or over the long term? While, it may appear that investing in an electric sander will be more expensive, based solely on the cost of the units, it’s likely to cost less in the long term – since they are very efficient and will last a long time. For example, in a typical case, they’ll run for less than $.35 per day (based on 8-hours/day of usage)!
Additionally, as previously stated, in larger shops, pneumatic sanders often tend to receive the brunt of abuse and lack of care, thus needing more frequent replacements or repairs. This fact and the price to run the air compressor routinely, can lead pneumatic sanders to cost more in the long-term use and maintenance of the tool.
Wrapping it up
So you’re considering a new orbital sander, but you’re not sure whether electric or air is better for you? A few major considerations for this important decision include: the technical aspects of the machines, such as the RPMs and body style of the units; the air pressure capacity of your shop; the ways in which you’ll be using the sander and the location; what level of maintenance you’d like to do for your sander; and the price of the units at time of purchase versus the long-term cost of running and maintaining them.
If you have questions about our sanders, or would like to get support in making your selection, contact email@example.com