Industry experts weigh in on the importance of brush sanding and how new innovations are impacting users.

When purchasing a brush sander, considerations such as machine configuration and the sanding needs of the company should be taken into account. Photo courtesy of Loewer/MillSpec

With brush sanding becoming more widely used in the woodworking industry, Wood & Wood Products recently sought the opinions of experts from sanding machinery companies to learn more about how the process has evolved, where it is headed and how it can improve quality and productivity.

“The most significant advance in brush sanding in recent years has been the development of slotted drum cylinders and the ability to use pre-manufactured sandpaper strips that individually fit into the slots or key ways,” says Robert Kostelnik, director of technology and education at Cefla Finishing America. “This development allows a great variety of sandpaper brush lengths, cuts and backings that permit the sanding to be customized to the individual job or part.”

“You can get sanding strips with abrasive impregnated nylon, non-woven sanding media, metal brushes, tampico brushes and more,” says Ronald Kohnke, president of OptiSand Inc. “With the variety in available sanding materials, this opens opportunities for using brush sanders for more applications. I think that you will continue to see new ways for using brush sanders in the future.”

“With the change of higher production levels and a wider variety of product being processed, machinery technology has changed to incorporate advances in process adaptability,” says John Becker, vice president of SlipCon Finishing Systems. “No longer is one style of machine going to fit every facility’s needs. Machinery and abrasives are now matched more precisely to a specific process. The change in coatings alone has sparked the need for more advanced and process-specific brush sanders. As customers move towards eco-friendly, water-based products and with increased usage of UV coatings, machinery will need to be adaptable to new applications.”

Brush sanders continue to evolve in design toward specialty applications. Photo courtesy of Tagliabue/European Woodworking

It Has Its Advantages

There are numerous benefits to brush sanding, in both the pre-finishing (whitewood sanding) and post-finishing (sealer sanding) stages. Mark Kraft, managing partner of MillSpec Machine LLC and Friedrich Von Schuman, CEO of Loewer Machinenfabrik, comment that in the whitewood stage, brush sanding provides a consistent finish on all component surfaces for a superior color match, and that because brush sanding breaks the sharp edges, paint or stain stays better on the edges for a heavier, more consistent finish.

“Basically, brush sanding saves a lot of time by replacing manual work with a throughfeed machine before and between coats, and there will be lower costs of finish material,” says Kraft.

“Brush sanders have 3-D access so the workpieces can be finished with a higher quality from the start, allowing continuous production by an automatic machine, which saves on finishing costs,” says Michael Schadt, general manager for Tagliabue, which is distributed by European Woodworking Machinery Co.

“Brush sanding gives a more uniform sand, with a faster production speed,” says Matthew Deckard, president of Sand-Tech Inc./QuickWood “The denibbing processes make the finishing department require less sealer for the product and better stain consistency.”

“Automating with a brush sander will greatly improve product quality by removing loose wood fibers or ‘nibs’ that will pop up after the stain and sealer process,” says Becker. “Fewer nibs translate to a much smoother surface finish and reduce coating consumption.”

“Brush sanding upgrades the previous face sanding by also sanding into the profile, which provides for more uniform staining results on all surfaces,” adds Tim Middleton, sanding product manager for Stiles Machinery Inc. “The abrasives work deep into the profiles to shorten the wood fibers to more closely match the surface-sanded areas and greatly improve the after sealer-sanded results. Lacquer, or sealer coats, do not adhere evenly to sharp edges and tend to flow away from the sharp edges.”

Brush sanding can give a more uniform sand with a faster production speed. Photo courtesy of SlipCon Finishing

Getting the Details

When purchasing a brush sander, considerations such as machine configuration and the sanding needs of the company should be taken into account. Kostelnik says that too often, the wood products manufacturer will be too conscious of the price and will buy a machine not suited for the application.

“Significant testing should be made on machine configurations before the machine purchase is made” he adds. “Another important factor is to be sure the supplier offers competent and experienced training services.”

“I think there are four key factors to look at when considering the purchase of a brush sander,” says Kohnke. “Overall construction and quality of the machine frame and components; ease to mechanically adjust the sanding wheels and hold-down rollers when you go from one part to the next; ease to use variable speed control of the sanding wheels and conveyer speed; and replacement parts that are readily available, not only from the manufacturer, but other domestic sources as well.”

“The sander should be able to sand the parts from all directions equally to achieve a uniform edge break and/or scuffed surface,” says Becker. “When investigating potential brush sanders, key factors to include should be: type of finish line, coatings used, feed rate, product being processed, shifts per day and future potential changes to the finish line.”

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