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The best polishing machine for a collision repair shop is …

 

To make it clear from the beginning, I will not name the best brand or model, even if I do have a very strong opinion about the best electric tools in the market. The main objective of this short post is to clarify to our readers what machine they should have in their bodyshop to solve car refinishing problems. For the last couple of years, collision repair professionals have been approached with a great variety of tools, and I have been asked quite a few times about the best choice.

Types of polishing machines

All the existing polishing machines in the market can be divided into three categories: rotary, random orbital and dual action (DA). Below I am going to explain the major differences between them.

Rotary polishers

Rotary polishers are the oldest polishing tools in the market. They use simple circular motion on a single axis. Modern rotary polishers come in a variety of designs and with the possibility of speed adjustment (usually from 600 to 2500 rpm), but the two most important parameters we check in a rotary machine is the power output and weight.

Orbital polishers

Orbital polishers unlike the rotary polishers, which are using direct drive on one axis, have two centers – machine central spindle and pad’s own axis. The movement of the pad is orbital, like the Earth’s movement around the Sun. The shape of the orbit depends on the distance between the two axes. This distance is a crucial technical parameter and usually is somewhere between 8 to 21mm. The best example (at least from marketing point of view) of random orbital technology is Rupes Big Foot series. The good thing about orbital polishers is that they are very safe, and it is almost impossible to overheat or damage the coating while using an orbital polisher.

Dual action polishers

Dual action or DA polishers are usually confused with orbital ones. DAs are actually a hybrid between rotary and orbital machine, in which forced rotary movement is combined with orbital. This machine is supposed to have the best from the two worlds. Flex XC3401 VRG is the most known DA polisher in the market. The Das indeed can do the job of minor scratches correction, on the other hands, it is very hard to remove wet sanding marks, for example.

What polisher shall we buy for a bodyshop and why?

First of all, we need to understand when usually we use a polishing machine in the collision repair shop? The main usage of polishing or buffing in a bodyshop occurs when a painter needs to remove certain paint defects revealed after the repair job is completed. The most frequent paint defects, which require buffing, are dust nibs, runs, excessive orange peel and clearcoat dieback. Usually prior to compounding, a painter use either wet or dry sanding paper to speed up the polishing process altogether. So, in other words, polisher is a kind of fire extinguisher helping to prevent the potential customer’s complaints. Nobody likes those nasty dust nibs on a freshly painted car. The key parameter for polishing is the speed. Paint defects must be removed quickly and effectively, so that the vehicle could leave the workshop on time.

From the three types of polishers I mentioned above, the fastest and the most powerful tool is a rotary buffer. Rotary machine quickly increases the temperature of the paint, softens it and by friction between pad, compound and the surface, removes the upper layer of the clearcoat. DA polisher and especially random orbital machines will fail in most of the instances to remove sand paper scratches even from grit P2000. Fact. Despite the ease of use and safety, dual action and orbital polishers are not the preferred tools for a bodyshop professional. They are very useful for the detailers to remove holograms, swirls and to apply wax or sealant, but this is another job.

Conclusion

If you need to buy a polishing machine (every bodyshop must have one), go for a reliable rotary polisher. Pay attention to the machine’s weight (something within 2-2.5kg range is a good choice) and power output (900 – 1100 Watt are good enough). However, if you consider to offer polishing and detailing services, which I strongly recommend you to do (read a separate article about this topic here), then a DA polisher or random orbital one will be a well-justified and worthwhile investment.

 

P.S. A car sprayer should consider purchasing a pneumatic orbital polishing machine. Unlike car detailing shops, all bodyshops are equipped with decent air compressors. Pneumatic polishers are powerful, durable, lightweight and almost maintenance free.

The 3 most neglected tools in a bodyshop.

Logopic
In this
post I would like to turn your attention to 3 tools, which almost every auto
body repair shop owns and at the same time ignores their existence. Everyone
knows that by investing in this equipment you will be able to improve overall
paint quality, save time and money. This is the reason why you bought them in
the first place. However, for some mysterious reason nobody bothers to use nor
properly maintain them. So what are these tools? Well, from my countless visits
to collision repair places all over the world, I have noticed that infrared
drying lamps, dust extracting units and primer/filler guns are either in very
poor working condition, collecting dust in some corner or do not  exist at all.

 

Infrared drying lamps

Infrared Heater  Lamp1Infrared
technology has been adopted by auto body repair professionals for a long time
now. The vast majority of infrared curing units is using short-wave infrared
lamps to speed up the drying process of putties, fillers, primers, basecoats
and clearcoats. There is a great variety of designs, models and brands, which
supply high quality infrared lamps stations.

The major advantages of infrared curing system
are:

-         
accelerate
significantly the drying times of all painting materials

-         
No
need to use spray booth for smaller jobs

-         
Great
savings on energy bills

-         
Mobility
of infrared lamps allows more efficient exploitation of bodyshop space.

 

Despite the
obvious advantages of using infrared lamps for curing car painting materials, a
lot of car painters use infrared lamps like hangers. Often the major reason for
this is the fact that a spare lamp must be ordered to replace the burnt one. In
fact, there is no good reason to avoid using infrared technology in any
collision repair shop, so…plug in your lamp and speed up your work times!

 

Vacuum dust extractors


Dust extractor

Another
neglected piece of bodyshop equipment is vacuum dust extractor, which is
supposed to be connected with power or air sanding machines.

The major advantages of using vacuum dust
extractors are:

-         
Dust-free
environment, professional and clean state of the working place

-         
Better
health conditions, therefore less money spent on breathing protection

-         
Higher
quality of prep jobs (less paint defects, like dust inclusions or sanding
marks)

-         
Significant
increase of abrasives’ life time (abrasives are not loaded up and perform much
longer)

-         
Saving
on cleaning materials like tack rags

 

When I ask
bodyshop managers why they do not connect their sanding machines with vacuum
cleaner, they usually shrug their shoulders. Not working, filters must be
replaced, or lack of disposable bags…

                       
Pri gun                                                               
Primer/filler spray guns

Well, this
one frustrates me the most. How is it possible for a professional sprayer not
to have a gun which is solely dedicated to primers and sealers?

Primer guns
and how you apply your primer is as important as your paint gun. Primer
(sealer) is also “paint”, thus it must be treated as well as the top coats. If
your primer is rough, then your base coat and clear coat will map it. Period!

The main advantages of having a proper primer
gun:

-         
Time
saving for sanding rough surfaces

-         
Economy
in materials (good spray gun for primer will certainly decrease materials
consumption)

-         
Even
and controllable primer thickness will help to avoid many paint defects afterwards

 

I have seen
a lot of painters using cheap low-quality spray guns to apply their primers. Some
chose to use “ancient” top-coat guns to spray sealers, although these should
have been thrown away ages ago. They are fooling themselves that this is the
way to save money. Also I hear a lot the excuse: “I will sand my primer anyway”.
Well, I believe it is a foundation of car body paint job, to keep all painting
layers controlled and measured.

 

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