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Power tool trends: Faster, lighter, better performance

Makita 18V LXT X2 Lithium-ion cordless 1-in. SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer

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Innovative new products engineered with the latest advancements in battery technology continue to fuel the power tools industry for the major brands — including DeWalt, Makita and Milwaukee Tool — as they introduce faster, lighter products that provide superior performance for users.

Construction professionals have access to power tools that not only improve efficiency but are as tough and reliable as they are, according to Bob Welsh, VP industrial design and brand marketing, DeWalt Industrial Tool Co. “When the job they do requires performance, they select for features, functionality and performance first,” Welsh said. “We strive to deliver appreciable value to the user, while over-delivering on performance and durability.”

Advanced battery technology, primarily Lithium ion, and brushless motors are the two major development areas shaping today’s power tools market, executives said. Rick Lamb, marketing manager, Frank’s Supply Co., Albuquerque, N.M., said the major power tool companies are pulling out all the marketing ploys to try and differentiate their Lithium ion-based products.

Mark Sense, group product manager, Milwaukee Tool, said his company’s objective is to deliver forward-leaning products to its core professional users, such as Milwaukee’s RedLithium battery, a technology designed to bring greater efficiency to the job site. “In a crowded marketplace, success requires innovation,” Sense said.

In 2012, Milwaukee introduced its new M12 Fuel line, a sub-compact battery system, and six new drilling and fastening tools that feature Milwaukee’s Powerstate brushless motor, RedLithium technology and what it calls its RedLink Plus intelligence, which is said to integrate full-circle communication among tool, battery and charger.

The M12 Fuel line of compact, lighter-weight tools includes the company’s RedLithium 2.0 and XC 4.0 batteries. The upgrade, Sense said, provides up to twice the run-time, 20% more power, two times more recharges than standard Lithium-ion batteries, and the ability to operate in climates below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The bottom line: “This next generation of Lithium ion will allow our users to focus more on getting jobs done and less on charging their batteries,” he said.

Following the addition of the M12 Fuel line, Milwaukee’s M12 sub-compact system will feature more than 50 tools.

Welsh identified brushless motor technology as the biggest trend in power tools in 2012. “Brushless motors have runtime and performance benefits that are proving highly beneficial in the professional power tool arena,” he said. “The brushless motors run cooler, last longer and deliver significantly more runtime. As the price points come down, we should see this new innovation become more common on professional power tools.”

Welsh said that for such power tool companies as DeWalt, delivering products that help users perform their work faster, easier and more productively is critical. “These are all characteristics users are interested in when money is tight, and serve as a growth catalyst even in down economies,” he noted.

For Makita, the biggest innovation in 2012 has been the 18V Rotary Hammer with a built-on HEPA vacuum. The BL brushless motor allowed Makita engineers to include two motors powered by one 18V (not 36V) battery in the LXRH011: one powering the rotary hammer and another for the vacuum. “This is an important point of difference that results in increased suction efficiency without sacrificing tool performance,” said Wayne Hart, communications manager. According to the company, the built-on HEPA vacuum captures 99.95% of dust particles (size .3 microns), meeting the demand for improved dust extraction on job sites.

ERGONOMICS TRENDS

Providing a tool that is comfortable both dynamically and statically is what best-in-class ergonomics is all about in premium power tools, Welsh said. “These are products that are easy and comfortable to handle and transport during extended use.”

Makita’s Hart said ergonomics is key for any contractor who uses a power tool for extended periods. “Metrics like torque and speed are clearly important for industrial applications, but to provide a total solution, the tool also has to be engineered with a good power-to-weight ratio, with proper balance and comfort,” he said.

“We developed the slide-style battery back in 2005. This allowed our engineers to build the handle of a cordless tool around the human hand — not the battery — for superior ergonomics and comfort. Another innovation is Anti-Vibration Technology. Not a spring-loaded or padded handle, AVT is an internal counterbalance system engineered inside the tool for reduced vibration. These features are clear points of difference and deliver increased comfort, from single applications to all-day job-site use.”

LOOKING AHEAD

With economic signs starting to brighten, power tools executives are cautiously optimistic that exciting new innovations will be the underpinning of growth for their business and the overall market. Some of the new products will be on display at this month’s STAFDA conference.

Makita, for example, will debut its 18V LXT X2 Lithium-ion cordless 1-in. SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer (model HRH01ZX2), a product designed to deliver convenience and performance. “Performance means three joules of impact energy, two-times faster drilling, and up to three-times longer runtime than other 18V rotary hammers,” Hart said. “The user also gets convenience because the HRH01ZX2 is powered by the same 18V Lithium-ion batteries that power more than 50 Makita 18V LXT tools.”

The company plans to introduce more than 60 18V LXT tools in 2013.

Despite the challenging economy, DeWalt has not significantly changed the way it goes to market, but has redoubled efforts on delivering the tools its core users demand. “We continue to speak to the customer in their language and seek them out in our traditional manner — where they work, learn and play,” Welsh said. “It’s hard to tell exactly what the overall market will be doing over the next year, or even just the power tool market. I believe with remodeling and housing starts both trending up, and innovative new products making their way onto the market, we will see share growth in our categories and ideally overall market growth as well.”

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