Are we ready for the Next Generation of Sanders?
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Sanding is boring. Let’s just get that out of the way.
But we have basically been doing it the same way since Festool released the first random orbit sander in 1972. Since then, there really hasn’t been much innovation. Better dust collection, different mechanisms to control the random action, different strength of motors, different grips, but overall they have remained the same. That is until sanders like the new Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander came to play, he’s mixing things up a bit.
That is, until recently.
With the advent of brushless motors, HEPA filters, and high capacity batteries we are finally starting to see some innovation in this space. I am not so sure we are ready yet though, or maybe manufacturers are still figuring it out themselves. Let’s take a look at a shining example that illustrates where the industry looks like it’s going Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander.
Cutting the Cord
First off, batteries have come so far! The power and durability of a modern lithium ion cell is on a totally different level from old Ni-Cad batteries. With the shrinking and increased quality of high capacity cells, small batteries are starting to pack so serious punch. I just took a look at Milwaukee’s new 12ah REDLITHIUM High Output battery with their new FUEL Brushless circular saw.
The new batteries also have feedback mechanisms with the tools to prevent overheating, over-drain, and to throttle the power output to provide more run time. Milwaukee is really at the head of the game in the category of capacity.
One thing though, There is still the matter of up-time in most use cases. If I am sanding a table or a case side, I am not going to be sanding for 30-40 minute. I’ll be there for potentially hours running through various grits of sandpaper. I COULD do it, but if I am already being chased by a vacuum hose to optimize dust collection, what is the harm in having a cord chasing me too? I could see as a painter in a customer home not wanting to have a cord chase you around cleaning up spot patches on wall before hitting them with paint while 10 ft up on a ladder.
Otherwise though, I don’t entirely get it, maybe I am old school? OR, maybe this is like Apple getting rid of the headphone jack since we weren’t getting the memo?
Addressing Health and Safety
For the longest time palm sander just came with a canvas dust bag to “collect dust.” With modern medical science, and all of the problems micro particles can cause with your lungs, that is just not good enough anymore. On top of that, what good is collecting all that dust in a bag if you have to release it into the air when you empty the bag?
The Milwaukee Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander mixed it up a little bit with a hard plastic dust bin, with an integrated paper filter. This way everything is removable separately and you don’t have to put all that dust into the air to empty the bag/filter. My only problem with this mechanism is there are so many damn parts.
This is the one thing I have not seen addressed about the new cordless sanders in a review yet. Removing the cord, and thus the little piece where the cord stress relief is and the defacto handle of the tool, takes away a definite direction in which the tool should be used. With infinite ways to hold the tool, it is easy to get into tight spots and eliminate hand fatigue.
The Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander does a really good job as well with the placement of the power switch as well as just an overall solid and high quality feel with all of the contact points on this tool.
A cordless sander will never replace a corded sander for me in my shop. With the battery life, ergonomics, and innovations the Milwaukee M18 Random Orbit Sander might try and sway me. Likely for the foreseeable future a cordless sander will come out only for specialty applications. It is great to see companies like Milwaukee innovating in this space.