May 10, 2005
Efficient and economical metalworking, from cut-off and grinding operations to blending welds to final finishing, depends on selecting abrasives of the right kind and grade and using them safely.
Professional metalworkers hardly need reminding that maximizing output and minimizing costs in welding require selecting the right abrasive for each application and using that abrasive correctly.
Still, in the rush to get the job done or the finished product out the door, too often many use whatever abrasive is handy, fail to match the abrasive product to the machine, or ignore fundamental grinding safety rules. The results can be lower-quality products, increased grinding or finishing costs, and lost productivity.
Those who measure total grinding results and want to achieve the lowest grinding cost for an application will consider the bestabrasive products available and reserve the use of betterabrasives for high-productivity applications in which initial abrasive costs are important. Fabricators who want the lowest initial abrasive costs likely will select good abrasives, but should understand that such a choice may not be as economical in the long run.
If you do not measure total grinding results but want to, you can work with your abrasive supplier to test various grades of abrasives or abrasives products from different manufacturers. Such tests, performed in your shop, can determine relative abrasive cost based on initial cost and wear rate and measure relative worker productivity based on a worker's wages. Then, relative wheel cost can be added to the operator's cost to determine the total grinding cost. What such tests typically show is that the most advanced (best) abrasive product typically lasts longer, works faster and may be the most cost-effective choice.
Click to see the Abrasives Selection Guide. These abrasive selection guidelines are for typical welding and metal fabrication operations. Products are listed in descending order: 1 = best, 2 = better, and 3 = good for the applications listed.
One of the most fundamental rules for using grinding products safely is to match the abrasive product to the machine being used. Abrasives manufacturers' catalogs clearly specify which products are designed for which machines. Some use icons or other graphical representations of allowable machine/abrasive matches. Operators also should look for similar information on product packaging. In fact, the No. 1 safety rule for all abrasive disks and wheels is to read and follow the safety information included on the product packaging. If the packaging has been discarded, make sure you know what you have mounted onto a machine and follow appropriate safety procedures.
The following are tips for properly using and maintaining abrasive products.
Even if you're using the right abrasive product to get the job done, remember how important it is to use grinding and sanding equipment as though your life depended on it. Only then can you ensure the greatest productivity, cost savings, and safety.
Jim Elving is coated abrasives product manager at Saint-Gobain Abrasives, One New Bond St., P.O. Box 15008, Worcester, MA 01615-0008, 508-795-5000, www.nortonabrasives.com.
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