Choosing the Right Tools
Brad Burns - Technical Director, HTC, Inc.
When helping contractors understand the polishing processes and practices for providing quality floors, I am often asked which is the best tool or how does one select the right tool.
"Tool" is a device used to perform or facilitate manual or mechanical labor. For instance, an HTC RX remote control machine would be a good tool choice to eliminate many obstacles within the polishing process and ease labor at the job site. I know that contractors have several choices when it comes to grinders - and the bottom line usually comes down to pricing. However, I would encourage you to look at the overall impact of purchasing that next grinder. Most likely, spending a few more dollars on the front end will gain you several thousand by years end - contributing to the real "bottom line". Tomorrow’s grinders will be better constructed to help contractors in the field make better tooling choices, and these new designs are on the horizon.
That being said, grinders are simply one of the tools used at the project and, truth be known, it isn't the most important. Polishing contractors are faced with two major challenges that greatly impact the finances of a project - labor and diamond tooling. Of these two, I regard diamond tooling as the most important because it can have a direct impact on the amount of labor spent on a project. So, what is the best diamond tool? That's easy to answer - the one that works best for your application and project conditions! I know, you think that answers a cop out, but it is the only honest question. The only way a diamond tooling salesman can help you is to know the application and circumstances surrounding the project you are currently on - without that information it's simply a wild guess.
That leads us to the real question; " how do I know how to select the right tool"? Your probably not going to like this answer either, but, for now, experience and is the best way. As a polishing technician, knowledge of what the diamond tool was designed to do, how it is supposed to perform, and under which conditions it should provide that performance paired with knowing the characteristics of the concrete your trying to polish is crucial to the success of the project. Sometimes, due to the ever extending performance range of diamond tooling, a technician can spend a little extra time and stumble upon a successful tooling selection that yields a good looking floor within a reasonable time and material cost. But to consistently provide quality floors, you will need knowledge of the diamond tooling.
Today's hybrid tooling ( HTC FL Series) is an excellent choice for "first cut" tooling. I suggest starting with a 100 grit and if that isn't aggressive enough, work towards more aggressive tooling. Hybrids eliminate the need to select the right bond/grit combination based on the hardness of the concrete. That doesn't mean that the hardness (or abrasion resistance/age) of the concrete isn't a factor in performance of the diamond tool, but the tooling selection process isn't as complicated. Once the grit of hybrid tooling is determined, simply moving through the grit sequences at a slow, methodical pace ( paying particular attention to the 100-400 grits) will usually yield a good looking floor. Using a resin bond tool designed for quick and thorough refinement, such as the HTC Fenix pads or FL Series, also assist with trouble free tooling selection.
Hybrids, in most cases, aren't aggressive enough to expose large aggregate or remove heavy grease, paint or coatings. Metal bond or specialized tools such as HTC T-Rex or Ravager speed up these processes. I recently used the new Ravager tops to remove a 1 1/2" overlay in a fraction of the time that I would have spent with metal bond tooling. Contractors are successfully using the Ravager tooling in place of scarifying and profiling to speed up removal needed for floor prep. HTC has broadened the performance range of our metal bond tools with the new SMHX series, easing the selection choice for technicians.
During a recent trip to our home office in Sweden, I was introduced to our R&D department and facilities. I was amazed at the time, money, and research invested to ensure that HTC tooling is optimized to perform efficiently and effectively on HTC grinders. I don't think that Tony Stark (Iron Man for those of you not familiar with Stark Industries) could build a better weapon to combat the complex issues contractors face when polishing concrete. Seriously! Now, I'm not saying that HTC is the only manufacturer to make quality tooling, but if you are currently running HTC grinders, I'm convinced that HTC tooling would be the best choice for optimized performance and consistent results.
New "tools" will become available that will make concrete polishing more science and less art. Change is inevitable and oftentimes good for an industry. I hope that we can look to other industries that have paved the way with technology and create better tools to up understand the science within the polishing processes. I see this as a crucial need for advancing the industry and helping contractors become more efficient and profitable. Contractors are the backbone of our industry risking their money and reputation to provide a quality floor to consumers. They rely on manufactures to stand behind their products and provide the innovations needed to advance the industry. HTC recognizes this and readily accepts the challenge to bring to market the right tools to help contractors succeed.