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Innovations in Abrasives: Metal workers can benefit from the latest improvements

Like any other professional on a job site, metal workers quickly learn the trade-offs that come with choosing one type of tool over another. One option may do a better job, but cost more. Another might last longer, but be more difficult to handle. Yet another may be faster, but leave a less-finished surface.

When it comes to abrasives, however, technology and design innovations are worth noting given that metal workers have requested these improvements to increase their productivity on the job site.

A New Approach to Flap Discs vs. Grinding Wheels
Whether the job requires finishing welds on metal, grinding off rivet heads or deburring metal, professionals want an abrasive tool that is both versatile and easy to use while also delivering tough performance.

For years, the traditional grinding wheel has been the solution. However, through innovations, flap discs have become easier to use than traditional grinding wheels. Additionally, they deliver less vibration and offer a smoother surface finish than traditional grinding wheels. Flap discs are also three times faster and fifteen times longer lasting than fiber resin discs, allowing users to grind and finish in one step.

On the contrary, flap discs bring their own aggravations. For example, the fiberglass or plastic backing can get in the way of being able to use all of the flaps on the disc, and they are slower at removing material than traditional grinding wheels.

DEWALT, Baltimore, has tackled this problem by developing a product that combines the advantages of both traditional grinding wheels and flap discs. DEWALT’s new wearable backing flap discs have an abrasives backing that wears away at the same rate as the flaps. The resulting disc combines the finish and ease of use of a flap disc, with the speed of a grinding wheel. Lasting more than six times longer than most other flap discs, the wearable backing flap discs deliver an excellent return on investment with the longer life more than compensating for the higher initial cost.

A New Hub Design for Thin Cutting Wheels
Another choice that often divides the ranks of metal workers is to go with wheels that have either 5/8- to11-inch (16- to 279-mm)threaded or 7/8-inch (22-mm) straight arbors. Market data indicates that about 30 percent of purchasers, often the heaviest users of cutting wheels, prefer using wheels that have a 5/8- to11-inch thread. While slightly more expensive, threaded wheels are faster to switch out than straight arbors when job requires both wire wheels and grinding wheels since there is no backing flange and nut to remove. Threaded wheels can be held around their outer perimeter for leverage and stability when securing them in place. They can even be installed while still wearing gloves, unlike wheels with straight arbors, which require more dexterity for threading the nut to keep the wheel in place.

Until recently, the only abrasives not offered with a threaded option were thin cutoff wheels. This has been frustrating for those who prefer threads and would rather not have to carry a second grinder for when they need a thin cutoff wheel for specific applications.

DEWALT’s answer to this challenge was to develop a hubbed thin wheel that gives professionals the interchangeability they are looking for. The innovative hub design of the 5/8- to11-inch thin wheel maximizes cutting depth by having the wheel hub sit on top of the raised center of the wheel.

The hub itself is a two-piece design with the threaded piece on the bottom. This design tightens the wheel on to the shaft during use, practically eliminating the possibility of slippage that may occur with more conventional hubs.

Getting the Best Value out of Abrasives A third area where professionals may want to rethink their past options is investing in high performance grinding wheels. Given the recent focus on cost management within the construction industry, project managers evaluate every opportunity to maximize efficiency and productivity of every tool used on the job site. As a result of this focus, there is a demand for manufacturers to provide profitable product offerings.

Project management teams have begun to take a hard look at claims about high performance, and are interested in the cost savings that come from productivity.

In the end, professionals are looking for durable solutions that are designed to help them deliver the high-quality results their customers are expecting. By listening to their concerns and addressing their aggravations, DEWALT has focused on introducing innovations that can smooth the way for metal workers to succeed.