Which is More Green, Air or Electric Powered Drilling?

Recently, we had a discussion in the office about environmentally friendly procedures for our business.  One thing lead to another and we started comparing our drilling equipment to the competition’s as far as how environmentally responsible all of us in the industry were.

The discussion covered things like oil contamination in the shop and shop air, power requirements, and ultimately the amount of provisioning that the units required to actually run.  Let me explain…

Most of AutoDrill’s competitors who have been around a while use pneumatic (or air) motor drives on their self feeding drill units and lead screw tap units. Those who use electric are generally either smaller players in the game or new to the game and not quite up to speed when it comes to handling any sort of production job that requires reliable units and excellent support.

As a side note, there are times when a customer will loose more in one lost production day than they spend on AutoDrill equipment. Because of this, we are dedicated to keeping critical spare parts for our American made units in stock at all times. This ranges from small switches to critical gearing for multiple spindle drill heads.

Okay… Back to the air VS electric debate.

A typical air motor needs tens or hundreds of SCFM to run properly. The air has to be lightly lubricated and the exhaust is essentially contaminated and can be dangerous to those in the shop over long periods of time.

The general rule of thumb I read years ago was that you needed around a 1 HP electric motor to provide 4 SCFM for a production atmosphere drilling machine or tapper.  Let’s just presume for a moment that the machine is being powered by a 0.4 HP air motor.  This air motor (according to the chart I’m staring at) requires 25 SCFM.  This air motor would require a minimum of 6 or 7 HP at the compressor to reliably power it.

Using this ratio only, a 1.5 HP air motor might require as much as 95 SCFM. 95 SCFM would in turn require a *minimum* of a 25 HP air compressor.

Now… Let me appeal to your logical side for just a moment. Which do you think is more environmentally friendly:

Drill A

1.5 HP Air motor

25 HP compressor for air motor and stroke

Drill B

1.5 HP Electric motor

Low volume, small convenience compressor for stroke only

I’m willing to bet that you are sharp enough to catch on by now.

The low volume compressor is much more efficient electrically than the 25 HP unit. It throws out less oil into the atmosphere and is likely much more quiet. The initial cost of purchasing the units is lower and the long-term costs of providing electric power to the 25 HP compressor is much higher than that of the 1.5 HP drill.

In simple terms, the electric over air drill is many times more efficient and much more “green” or environmentally friendly than the air over air unit.

We predict that all of our competitors who are offering air over air units only will be out of the business within a few years.  We base this on a number of indicators…  I’ll share only one.

We sell competitor’s machines at times to meet specific needs for customers. If a customer already has a fixture set up for a competitor’s machine and needs a bunch of new AutoDrill units as well, we will gladly provide their unit plus ours. Today, we were retrofitting a customer’s existing air powered lead screw tapper with multiple spindle heads for multi-hole tapping. We needed one additional unit to complete their set-up and contacted our competitor.  Now keep in mind that today is August 2, 2012. The company quoted us a delivery date of January 14, 2013!  “Are you serious!?!”was the reply from my customer.

Turns out, the customer simply can’t wait until January to start setting up their production line.  They are currently deciding whether they want to go with the AutoDrill Control Feed Tapper option or…  Well…  Or else we are not sure what they will do.  they even talked about going to eBay to buy used units and praying that they are in good working condition and reliable.

…Did I mention that some customers loose more in a single day of downtime than they paid for their drills?

So now you know.  An electrically spun drill or tapper is many, many times more efficient and thus much more environmentally friendly.

Your employees’ lungs will thank you for the cleaner air…

Your checkbook will thank you for a lower electricity bill…

Your profits will be higher because electric motors are more reliable…

All of that having been said, AutoDrill also offers air motor drives for their units.


AutoDrill can provide single and multi-drill and multi-tap machines with either air or electric motors ranging from 1/12 HP to 20 HP.

AutoDrill can offer DC, 110V/120V/240V single phase, 208V/230V/460V/480V three phase, Canada 565V/600V motors, and even custom voltage motors if needed.

Please CONTACT US to discuss your application and receive prompt product cost, literature and technical help.

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