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How to Use Mirka Tools With a Robot

Alex Owen-Hill
by Alex Owen-Hill. Last updated on Mar 03, 2020 8:00 AM
Posted on Mar 03, 2020 7:00 AM. 5 min read time

Mirka sanding tools are a very popular brand for industrial finishing jobs. But, are they compatible with robots? They certainly are!

It seems that robotic finishing is coming-of-age. People are starting to see the great benefit of using a robot for sanding and polishing jobs.

There are a ton of different sanding tools available on the market. Many models are aimed at consumer users and are not rugged or long-lasting enough for industrial use. Amongst those that are aimed at industrial use, everyone has their favorite brand.

Understandably, people want to use their favorite brands of sanding tool with their robot. Mirka is a brand that has a loyal following.


We have recently added support for Mirka tools to our Surface Finishing Kit. 

You can now use these highly popular tools with your sanding and polishing tasks. Here's an introduction to how to use Mirka tools for your robot finishing task.

Mirka sanding tools: an introduction

Mirka is a Finnish company that was founded in Helsinki in 1943. The tool's popularity took off quite rapidly and, by the early 1960s, many of their products were being exported to the USA, UK, and Iceland. They are now used by manufacturers all over the world.

In the late '60s, Mirka decided to stop making cheaper products for the consumer market and focus their efforts entirely on industrial finishing. This move is perhaps why many manufacturers now prefer their products. Mirka has a long experience developing tools specially for industry.

They now produce a large range of finishing products ranging from simple sanding blocks (for hand sanding) all the way up to self-contained electric random orbital sanders.


Pneumatic vs electric sanding tools for robotics

Mirka does have both electric and pneumatic models.

Our sanding kit currently only support the pneumatic models (aka air sanders). This makes sense as they are probably the most common type of sanders used in industrial environments.

There are several advantages to using pneumatic sanders with robots for professional sanding and finishing, including:

  • Cost — air sanders are cheaper than similar electric models (not counting the pneumatics supply, which we'll cover below).
  • Weight — air sanders are lighter than electric ones, which makes them better suited to robotics.
  • Ubiquity — air sanders are already used exclusively in many manufacturing environments, whilst electric sanders are more common for home sanding or very small machine shops.
  • Simplicity — air sanders are less complicated than electric ones.
  • Durability — air sanders tend to have a longer lifetime than electric sanders as there are fewer parts to go wrong.

There are also a couple of potential disadvantages to pneumatic sanders compared to electric models:

  • Requires an air compressor — if you do not already have a pneumatic supply in your workshop, you will need one to run an air sander. They use quite a high amount of air — around 500 l/min (18 cfm) at 6.2 bar (90 psi) — so you will need a large compressor.
  • Dust collection — air sanders may require a central vacuum system to collect dust coming from the tool. However, there are some Mirka tools with a stand-alone dust bag.

Although Mirka provides both types of sander, only the pneumatic versions are currently supported by the robot sanding kit for the moment.


How to use a Mirka tool with a robot

The robot sanding kit is compatible with both Mirka and Dynabrade sanding tools, both of which are popular in industrial settings.

Here is a quick guide to using Mirka tools with your robot:


Compatible Mirka tools

At the time of writing, there currently 16 Mirka orbital sander models that are compatible with the sanding kit. You can find a complete list on the Product Sheet.

The difference between all of these tools usually comes down to the size of the sanding disk and the orbit pattern. Heavy-duty tasks benefit from a larger orbit pattern whilst fine tasks benefit from smaller orbit pattern.


Components required

To achieve sanding or polishing with your robot, you will need the following items:

  • Sanding kit — The sanding kit contains all of the items to get started, including the bracket, sanding media, tool, and software.
  • Your chosen tool — Whichever Mirka tool you have chosen, you will need to choose this at the time of purchasing the sanding kit (though if you already have a Dynabrade bracket, you can get an additional one for Mirka without requiring a whole new kit).
  • Pneumatic supply — You will need to have a supply to run the air sander, with enough performance to at least provide enough to match the specifications of the tool.
  • Abrasive media — See our guide on How to Pick the Right Abrasive for Robot Sanding.

Apart from the pneumatic supply — which many manufacturers already have — all of these components come provided in the kit. Compared to the other ways to automate a sanding task, this makes it a comparatively easy purchase.


How to attach and program the tool

Programming your robot sanding tool is a very simple task. It only takes a few minutes to attach the tool to the end of the robot's wrist and the graphical tool provided by Finishing Copilot allows you to program complex shapes quickly and easily.

The best way to learn how to program the tool is to use the free Robotiq eLearning course dedicated to the sanding tool. It teaches how to install the kit and teach a trajectory for your finishing application.


Need more help choosing the right tool?

If you are stuck picking the specific Mirka tool that you would like to use for your task, why not get in contact with one of our team?

If you'd prefer to do some more reading yourself, you can find out more in our article: Sanding Tools: 7 Steps to Pick the Best Tool for a Robot.

What is your favorite brand of sanding tool? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or the DoF professional robotics community.

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Alex Owen-Hill
Written by Alex Owen-Hill
Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.
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