Wide belt sanders are routinely used to sand rough material until it reaches a desired thickness and/or is sufficiently conditioned for coating. While most of them operate the same way (a conveyor carries the piece through the machine while the wide abrasive belt smooths the surface) they come in different configurations, and knowing the right one for your application is essential for best results.
In this blog, the team at Fintech Abrasives will highlight the points that make it easier to find the best wide belt sander for your facility.
Identifying The Application
Wide belt sanders are available in different sizes and configurations, so you need to select the right one for your application. How wide are the biggest pieces you work on? What is the maximum infeed height you need?
Other considerations are highlighted below. They range from general concerns like safety to workpiece-specific attributes like coating.
Wide belt sanders are powerful machines. While they’re generally safe to operate, they still need to be equipped with the latest safety features. This means they require an emergency brake that the machine operator can access easily and, for larger sanders, multiple emergency stops for added safety.
The horsepower of your sander will determine how quickly the work is completed. A higher horsepower means faster sanding. Ideally, your wide belt sanding machine will have 5 to 30 HP, although higher-volume plants can invest in a faster machine, provided that operators have the appropriate experience.
Dust Collection Requirements
Sanding projects generate A LOT of dust, so you’ll want to invest in a wide belt sander that has a built-in dust collector. With some machines, the collector is a type of dust bag, while on others, there will be a port where you can attach a vacuum.
There are times when you’re going to want to switch out your abrasive belts quickly. If it breaks while you’re in the middle of a job, a swift swap-out can have you back in business with little to no downtime. A second consideration is sanding level expansion: some wide belt sanders include multiple sanding levels, but if yours doesn’t, you want to be able to switch belts easily to avoid production delays.
Wood Calibration Needs
If you are calibrating solid wood, you need a steel sanding roller to evenly remove both soft and hard wood sections. Fiber panels and chipboard should be calibrated with hard rubber rollers. Levelized grinding is required for veneered surfaces, so use rubber sanding rollers with an appropriate shore hardness.
If you frequently work with irregularly-shaped workpieces, laser cameras or sensing rollers can calculate the pressure that the varying surfaces exert on the sanding belt, allowing the operator to determine how to handle these special zones. For example, a plywood panel with solid wood edge banding may require higher pressure at the edges.
If you have a lot of demand for wood products with a rough or vintage effect, look for band saw and cutter block aggregates for best results. On a similar note, if you do a lot of historical furniture restoration, orbital sanding aggregates do a great job on workpieces with different grain patterns.
Workpiece Size and Coating
Small lacquered pieces can be difficult for the feeding belt to hold, resulting in slipping and jamming. Wide belt sanders with a vacuum transport carpet can prevent flat parts from ‘shivering’ out of control.
If your workpieces are unusually long or you want to make your wide belt sander part of a production line, your best option is a machine where you can raise the head to adjust height while the table remains at the constant height.
Superfinish-aggregates are typically available on higher-end wide belt sanding equipment. They support a smooth sanding pattern free of oscillation marks, so if your shop produces lacquered MDF workpieces for upscale markets, this aggregate is a must-have.
Popular Wide Belt Sanders
Searching for the right wide belt sander can be overwhelming, as there are several different options to choose from. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular wide belt sanding machines for small manufacturing shops and larger industrial manufacturers below. You could start your search with these options and expand as needed to find the perfect fit for your application.
Wide Belt Sanders For Smaller Manufacturing Shops
SHOP FOX W1710
The Shop Fox W1710 is a great option for those new to wide belt sanding. It is designed to be very user friendly and is commonly found in small woodworking shops that focus on producing smaller pieces.
The sander is smaller than the typical wide belt sander at only 24 inches in width. For this reason, it’s not great for working on larger projects with large workpieces.
The Shop Fox W1710 is unique in that it operates on a single power phase (similar sanders typically require at least three). The sander also features a quick-change belt system, so you can change belts with ease. Changing belts with the Shop Fox W17170 is as simple as releasing the tension, taking off the belt, putting on a new belt, and turning a knob to automatically set the belt to the proper tension.
SHOP FOX W1757
Like the Shop Fox W1710, the Shop Fox W1757 is also very beginner friendly. Unlike the Shop Fox W1710, the Shop Fox W1757 is wider and can handle larger workpieces. The Shop Fox W1757 sander can accept stocks as long as 43 inches and as thick as 6 inches.
The Shop Fox W1757 does use a three-phase motor with variable speed settings. As a larger model with more features, it does have a higher price point than the W1757, but the benefits far outweigh the additional costs.
POWERMATIC 1791251R MODEL 1632
If you’re looking to save money or working with a smaller budget, the Powermatic 1791251r sander may be your best bet. This sander is the least expensive sander on the list. It is smaller in size, which makes it easy to move around the shop and reposition if needed. The sander also doesn’t include a built-in digital readout, which saves you more money. You can still buy a separate digital readout if you’d like to have one.
The unit is an open sander, so even though you’re limited in capacity, you’re not limited in the length of your workpiece. Open sanders are also easier to clean and maintain. The unit does have a 4-inch dust port, so you can connect an additional vacuum to help remove dust.
SAFETY SPEED CUT 3760 WBS3760101
The Safety Speed Cut WBS3760101 doesn’t have many of the technological features that some of the other large belt sander machines on the list have. There is no digital readout or automatic adjusting that takes place. However, lack of technology keeps the cost of this sander down.
While limited in technological features, the Safety Speed Cut WBS3760101 does have an electric belt tracking system with five different emergency stops to make the tool accurate and safe. It is available in different varieties. You can get a 10 HP or 15 HP motor in single or three phase options. The sander is an open sander, so there is no limit in the length of workpieces that it can tackle.
LAGUNA 25IN. WIDE BELT SANDER 7.5 HP- MSANWB25X601
The Laguna 25-inch wide belt sander 7.5 HP- MSANWB25X601 is a compact machine that delivers industrial-quality results at an affordable price. Its 60” belt length with two feed speeds and automatic pneumatic oscillation support precise results even when working with heavier material.
The platen is fully adjustable, so it can be used in conjunction with the 4" rubber drum for optimal results. If you want to shape wood, raise it and use the drum alone. When sanding more delicate material such as veneer, lower the platen to eliminate the risk of going through the material. For such a low price tag, you get a lot of versatility.
Wide Belt Sanders For Larger Industrial Manufacturers
SHOP FOX W1738
The Shop Fox W1738 is very much a heavy-duty professional wide belt sander. It is commonly used by woodworkers in the production of doors and cabinets. It delivers a perfect soft and smooth finish with incredible precision.
The Shop Fox W1738 is a 37-inch wide sander and can be used for larger workpieces. It has a variable speed conveyor with adjustable oscillation controls. The sander also has three different sanding options: platen up, platen down, and platen even. The digital control pad doesn’t let you do anything manually, but that isn’t really much of a drawback, because the automated adjustments are very precise. This is definitely a sander worth considering for professional shops working on larger pieces.
GRIZZLY INDUSTRIAL G0487
The Grizzly Industrial G0487 is another industrial-grade wide belt sanding machine. It boasts an impressive 30 HP and a conveyor belt capable of speeds up to 60 FPM. For shops that need a strong, powerful, and fast machine, this may be the ideal choice.
Other features include ten dust collecting ports, a digital depth control for better precision and accuracy, and a disc brake that can pull an emergency stop. You can even adjust the material feed rate when needed.
While it’s more expensive than some other large belt sander machines, the manufacturer states that the Grizzly Industrial G0487 is capable of cutting most sanding time in half, so you’ll soon recoup your investment. Other considerations include the machine’s large footprint (this is not a wide belt sander for smaller shops) and the need for professional support when installing. When you need a high-performing workhorse, these drawbacks are minor compared to the performance advantages.
TIMESAVERS 23 SERIES
The Timesavers 2300 Series wide belt sanders are a fixture in mid-sized to larger woodworking facilities like cabinet and furniture plants. They feature up to four heads in a variety of combinations for added versatility, so if you are looking for an industrial sanding machine that can shape and finish your wood products with maximum efficiency, this may be the solution for your facility.
Depending on the application, you can select a unit that’s 37”, 43”, or 52” wide and has drum or combination heads installed. (Should you opt for the combination head, it comes with a 5.5” diameter drum and 2.5” platen. Bottom head configuration is also available.) The 75" long abrasive belt (103" on the 52" version) has been designed to extend the life of the belt. The drive motor is available in up to 30 HP and you can get feed speeds of 15-45 FPM.
The Timesavers 2300 Series comes with an equally robust price tag, but when you consider that many of its standard components are only available as options on other models, the added cost is worth it.
TIMESAVERS 53 SERIES
The Timesavers 5300 Series is a huge machine packed with heavy and durable components for aggressive use. It’s ideal if your shops are running 24/7 and/or you need higher-volume wide belt sanding, heavier stock removal, and lacquer or veneer sanding. An LED light bar shows product status and an optional productivity reporting feature makes it easier to assess operational efficiency.
This industrial sanding machine works by delivering smooth and complete finishes on just one pass, which can save a significant amount of production time. It features up to five heads on a single machine and the sanding heads have a maximum of 125 HP. This combination of power and speed also makes the 5300 series compatible with non-wood materials, including metal, rubber, foam, fiber-glass, mineral core, composites, and more.
LAGUNA 37IN. WIDE BELT SANDER 20HP 1K MSANWB37X751
This Laguna 37″ wide belt sander is not as high-velocity as the Timesavers 53 series but it can keep woodworking shops of all sizes on schedule with a combination head that lets you sand either using the drum or the sanding platen or both at the same time. The belt length is 37″ X 75″ and, when combined with the large 20 HP motor, makes the machine capable of easily dimensioning wide boards.
If you use the machine to dimension your work, you should only use heavier-duty abrasive belts, such as 60 or 80 grit. The heavy carpet feed belt, which has feed speeds of 15’ and 49’ per minute, is powered by a separate 1HP motor, so the Laguna MSANWB37X751 is up for the challenge of most woodshop production lines.
Selecting The Right Abrasive
The abrasive removes all material needed to prepare the workpiece for the next step in the production cycle. The type, grit, and backing must all be correct for the application: although the machine runs the belt, it is the abrasive that does all the hard work.
Depending on your application, your best option may be:
Aluminum oxide: An industry standard for common applications, aluminum oxide sanding belts can be customized for specific applications. It’s highly friable, meaning that the grain tips fragment during use to continually provide a sharp cutting surface.
Silicon carbide: This specialty abrasive is often used for finish work because it cuts evenly and consistently. By removing material without building up excessive amounts of heat, silicon carbide does an excellent job with heat-sensitive applications like epoxy and resins.
Ceramic: Ceramic sanding belts are ideal when you need to aggressively cut metals and hard woods. Although more expensive than most other abrasives, its longer lifespan justifies the investment.
Zirconia: Like ceramic, zirconia is an excellent choice for intense jobs like removing material in hardwoods and metal polishing or grinding.
The application also dictates abrasive grit size. The coarsest grits (P8 to P80 on the FEPA scale) do an effective job of removing stock and stripping away varnishes, paint, and other coatings. Medium grits (P100 - P220) are commonly used for final shaping as well as preparing surfaces for new coatings while fine grits (P240 and up) are recommended for sharpening and polishing.
Understanding Dust Collection Needs
Dust accumulation affects the performance and working life of an industrial sanding machine. If dust collects between the grain on the sanding belt, the resulting heat build-up can cause streaking and poor cutting performance. Although dust extraction devices can be designated as separate machines, they may also be integrated into the wide belt sander.
Once you identify and purchase the best wide belt sander for your application, staff need to be trained on how to use it correctly. This means understanding:
The configuration of the machine
The correct operating speeds of the sanding heads and feed belt
The minimum length and width of material the machine is designed to handle
The direction of the calibrating mechanism
When a grit change is required
Manufacturers achieve best and consistent results by selecting wide belt sanders that can accommodate key variables like beginning and ending parameters, sanding sequence, the condition of the piece’s surface on the first pass, and whether the sander’s entire width is being used. Knowing your requirements and working process can ensure that you buy the best machine for your application.
About Fintech Industrial Abrasives
At Fintech Industrial Abrasives, we sell wide sanding belts for the unique applications of different industries. Coated with premium-quality abrasives and built for maximum working life, they deliver ideal results as well as a quick return on investment. Our abrasive specialists will recommend the right belt for your application and provide the support you need for a positive experience. Speak to a technician today by filling out our contact form or calling (888) 223-8768.