Industrial sanders are designed to process larger-scale metal and wood products for mass production. Although there are different types, they all have one thing in common: smoothing surfaces in a certain way to achieve a particular purpose. Furniture, automobile parts, and more have all been finished by industrial sanders before reaching their intended markets. In this blog, the team at Fintech Abrasives reviews the most commonly used types of industrial sanders and when to use each one.
The belt sander uses a fully looped sanding belt rather than static abrasive sheets like disc, orbital, and finishing sanders do. The belt, which is applied within the sander’s housing, surrounds the drive wheel at the rear and the guide wheel at the front. While the electric motor spins the sanding belt forward, tension controls and alignment guides keep it in place.
Belt sanders are excellent tools for smoothing out wood and metal surfaces and preparing them for less aggressive finishing tools like random orbital sanders. (Just remember to sand with the grain if you’re finishing wood instead of across it: otherwise, the lateral action of the machine can negatively impact your work.)
Below are five common types of belt sanders:
Belt File Sanders: Belt file sanders are handheld machines that use narrower sanding belts. They are ideal for grinding, deburring, and finishing in tight spaces or removing welds from corners. If you do a lot of precision-type sanding, such as descaling, weld polishing, and shaping mortise joints, a belt file sander will be an asset to your shop
Floor Belt Sanders: Floor belt sanders are mobile sanding machines used to manually sand wood floors. They are powerful sanders capable of finishing larger jobs more quickly. Due to their aggressive cutting ability, they deliver an exceptionally flat floor.
Hand-Powered Belt Sanders: These portable sanders are often used by DIYers and small shops, although you can also apply them in industrial settings. They are corded or battery-powered, include variable speeds, and have built-in dust collectors.
Tube Belt Sanders: Pulley systems on tube belt sanders allow the sanding belt to contour around tube-shaped surfaces like stainless steel and plastic pipes. Most of these machines are handheld and powered by electricity.
Wide Belt Sanders: Wide belt sanders are larger machines with a width upwards of 13”. Due to their bigger size, they are often used for sanding large wood and composite boards as well as metal and plastic sheets. You can also use them to sand several smaller pieces at once for greater efficiency.
At Fintech Abrasives, we sell sanding belts of different sizes and can even design a custom size for your unique application.
Regular Orbital Sander
Also known as a ¼ sheet sander, the regular orbital sander has been a fixture in industrial settings since the 1950s. Sanders of this type are easy to load and operate.
The electric motor vibrates a spring-loaded base in a circular motion. As a result of its square shape, it covers a larger area with each movement than smaller detail machines like belt file sanders. It also uses a smaller motor for less aggressive sanding.
Using regular orbital sanders before or between topcoats helps create the smoothest finish possible. These sanders are a popular choice for DIYers as well as smaller manufacturing shops, especially those that process wood.
Random Orbital Sanders
Random orbital sanders are a form of disc sander (covered in the next section.) They are popular choices in most manufacturing facilities due to their versatile performance. They don’t remove the material as aggressively as a belt sander, so they aren’t a first choice for stock removal, but they can apply a fine finish that makes your workpiece market-ready.
These sanders have a round base that measures five or six inches across. During operation, the base spins. For a more random pattern, an additional elliptical movement is added to the spin.
While similar to regular orbital finishing sanders, random orbital sanders differ in two distinct ways:
A regular orbital sander oscillates in a predictable pattern, whereas a random orbital sander oscillates randomly, leaving virtually no scratch marks.
Random orbital sanders use round sandpaper, while standard orbital finishing sanders use quarters of standard sandpaper sheets.
Random orbital sanders are best used for large-area pieces like wood panels and sheet metal. Best of all, you can operate them using one hand whereas belt sanders are two-handed machines.
Fintech Abrasives sells sanding discs that range in size from 2” to 30”. Some are general use while others are specially engineered for woodworking, metal finishing, wet sanding, and even scissor sharpening and auto body work.
Disc sanders are smaller than belt sanders and are often used for more intricate work. Larger stationary grinders use abrasive discs attached to rotating motors through a pressure-sensitive adhesive or a hook and loop system. They also have a foot pedal that allows users to always keep two hands on the material during work. With smaller ones, you can control them with one hand while holding the workpiece steady with the other.
There are some disc sanders that have non-orbital sanding faces, resulting in a fixed motion. It is best to use these sanders for rougher work where a lot of material needs to be removed: for example, stripping layers of paint and varnish from older wood doors or panels. If you need to get into tighter areas, you can use a type of disc sander called an angle grinder to access places that larger and bulkier belt sanders can’t reach.
Drum sanders are used to finish large pieces of wood or plastic which would be difficult or impossible to finish with a smaller tool. The user feeds a large plank of wood into one end of the machine, and it is conveyed through the moving sanding belt to the other end. Drum sanders are popular because they provide precise results every time and can be adjusted to sand material to a specific size. To ensure sufficient working space, at least two feet of clearance is required on all sides of the machine.
Almost all drum sanders have a suction mechanism for collecting debris, which is important because they are used to sand materials at a higher speed than other industrial sanders.
Fintech Abrasives offers drum sander strip rolls that allow you to save money cutting your own drum sander strips. You can buy pre-cut strips, but they cost 300% more on average. It only takes a matter of minutes to cut a roll into strips. Our rolls range from 50 to 70 feet in length, so you’ll also be able to re-stock less frequently.
How to Select the Right Abrasive for Your Industrial Sander
Choosing the right abrasive for your application is just as important as using the correct industrial sander. In this instance, ‘right abrasive’ refers to the appropriate material and grit: the wrong selection can burn or gouge your material or cut away material at a less-than-ideal rate.
For example, if you’re working with raw wood, you’ll want to start with a coarse grit for initial stock removal and gradually progress to a finer grit for smoothing. You might start with a 60-grit open-coat aluminum oxide to quickly strip away any roughness or uneven surfaces and progress to a 150 or 220-grit paper for final smoothing.
At Fintech Abrasives, we offer the following abrasive materials in different forms to suit practically all types of industrial sanders:
Aluminum oxide (available in open coat for wood and closed coat for metal)
We have a free sanding resource guide you can use to figure out which grain type and grit would be best for your application. If you aren’t sure what abrasive will yield the results you’re looking for, feel free to reach out to our abrasive technicians for help.
About Fintech Industrial Abrasives
Fintech Abrasives is a trusted manufacturer of sanding belts, sanding discs, sanding rolls, and other abrasives designed to support manufacturers of all sizes. We are committed to product excellence: when you buy from us, you receive the same premium quality abrasives used in some of the largest industrial facilities in the country. If you have questions about our products, need assistance with an order, or want to discuss a custom abrasive order, we’re here to help. Please call 1-888-223-8768 or contact us online today!
Additional Related Resources
Looking to learn more about the various types of industrial sanders you can use for your application? We’ve written more detailed comparisons of specific sanding tools. We also have buying guides you can review as well. You can find all of our related resources below: