Buffers vs. Polishers
Dual action machines qualify as buffers. Orbital machines qualify as neither a buffer nor a polisher, though it bears a closer resemblance to polishers. Polishers exist to smooth out small scratches or give a rejuvenating shine to paint jobs – orbital polishers do just this. Buffers can do this as well as repair deeper blemishes in paint jobs, such as gouges and small holes. Polishers, such as orbital polishers, cannot do this. Some companies produce machines called “orbital dual action” or “dual action orbital,” which are almost always dual action buffers.
Dual action buffers and orbital polishers use the same motion, which manufacturers designed to mimic the motion of the human hand when applying wax or other polish materials. The heads of these machines spin in circles, though a second element, known as an eccentric offset, generates random movement, so the head moves in numerous directions while rotating. The randomness of the movement means that a dual action buffer or orbital polisher creates an even polish over an area, rather than focusing on individual spots.
Dual action polishers exert more pressure on a surface than orbital polishers because they possess smaller pads. The smaller pad allows for more concentrated action. The increased pressure allows dual action machines to correct deep gouges and scratches, thus enabling the buffer function. The less aggressive nature of orbital polishers results in a lesser degree of exertion of pressure, allowing the machine to make cosmetic repairs and shine paint but not correct scratches that go beyond the top layer of paint.
Dual action machines offer more options than orbital polishers in two respects. Generally, orbital polishers operate at only a single speed. Dual action buffers, on the other hand, operate at various speeds. A single dual action buffer contains a number of speed settings, to meet various needs. Also, dual action buffers come with multiple types of pads, which you can easily remove and replace, allowing you to complete a complex job or series of jobs easily with one machine. You can remove and replace pads on orbital polishers, as well, but it takes more time and proves more difficult.