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Power options for portable machine tools: which is best for you?


Portable machine tools such as flange facing machines are used in a variety of different industrial environments and are therefore available in various power options. There’s no single solution ideally suited to all industrial environments, but there will be a best option suited to the environment you intend to work in.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of the three options available: hydraulic, pneumatic and electric.

Hydraulically Powered Machines


Hydraulically powered machines are the most powerful option as unlike air, the oil used in hydraulic power packs is non-elastic, which means it provides an efficient means of transmitting mechanical energy, with little energy being lost to compression of the fluid.

Little maintenance is required, as internal parts are always bathed in oil. Motors of this type can operate in a wide range of temperatures including sub-zero temperatures. It is possible to operate them in wet conditions which means that many hydraulically powered machines can be operated underwater.

 Pneumatically Powered Machines


Pneumatic machines offer a simple, cheap and convenient solution where a compressed air-line is available. They are also safe to use in many environments where combustive gases may be present, or in situations where a hydraulic oil spill would cause a contamination issue.

Downsides include the weaker power output as compare with hydraulics. Also, the potential issue of flying material caused by expelled air can endanger both the worker and those in the nearby area.  Moisture needs to be removed from the air motor and constant lubrication of moving parts is needed.  This is taken care of by using an air preparation unit supplied with each machine. 

Electric Powered Machines


Electric flange facing machines are available, but these are less common than hydraulic and pneumatic types. In situations such as in the nuclear, pharmaceutical and food processing industries, they provide a safe and clean option.

However, they do not deliver as much torque as a hydraulic flange facers, and because of the risk of sparks causing explosions, they aren’t advisable for use in the oil and gas industry. ATEX approved motors are available but are generally more expensive and difficult to source.

Types of electric flange facing machine

Some manufacturers include an electric unit integrated within the machine, fixed directly onto the flange facer assembly. An  alternative arrangement is to convert a standard hydraulic or pneumatic machine by adapting the drive unit to accept a flexible drive powered which is by a standalone electric motor. (These motors are the type commonly used for grinding and polishing machines).

The image below shows how a Mirage MM1000i flange facing machine can be adapted to use with an electric drive. This was tested with the machine in the vertical orientation. Greater care would be needed to support the flexible drive when used horizontally. RPM Speed can be adjusted accurately using the control box.


Above: Mirage MM1000i connected to external electric motor and control box.

If you need portable machining equipment for a project get in touch with your regional contact using our enquiry form, or by using our online chat service available on our main website.

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