Unless you’re one of those wonky types who pays close attention to the ongoing R&D wars in power tool technology, you might have missed the fact that cordless power has taken yet another quantum leap in runtime, torque output and overall on-the-job capability.
Even old-school stalwarts are beginning to realize: It’s time to cut the cord on your portable power tools.
If you think this is due to advances in battery technology, you would be only partly right. What’s pushing the cordless power industry over the top is the advent of electronically controlled brushless motors.
Almost all of the major portable tool manufacturers have by now introduced brushless motors, but the value of this technology is only slowly catching on among tool users.
Power tool motors typically generate their direct electrical (DC) current by means of a copper armature that spins against solid carbon blocks, called brushes. These motors are compact and efficient, but they’re limited by the armature size, along with heat and friction caused by the brushes. The brushes also eventually wear down and have to be replaced.
Brushless motors are not new; they have been used in industrial applications since the 1960s, according to Milwaukee Electric Tool, which recently introduced brushless Powerstate motors into its M18 FUEL lineup. As electronic components have evolved to become smaller and more cost-efficient, the manufacturer said, they are now finding their way into consumer-grade products, such as power tools.
Makita USA introduced the first 18-volt battery-powered brushless impact driver for contractors in 2009. The company now offers more than 70 brushless motor tools that include impact- and drill-drivers, rotary hammers and even a benchtop compound miter saw. This fall, Makita will introduce a brushless battery-powered 18-volt string trimmer.
The increased capability of brushless motors — combined with high-output lithium-ion batteries — has led to other breakthrough portable tools, such as DeWalt’s 20V MAX brushless framing nailer. Construction framing nail guns require considerable power to deliver consistent nail penetration into soft and hard lumber, in addition to being lightweight and durable.
Despite their advantages, brushless motors may not find their way into all portable power tools. The components add cost and complexity, and many tools would not benefit from the upgrade. However, tools that demand greater runtime, sophisticated power management and maximum power are all potential candidates for the “brushless revolution.”
Download the “Residential Building Products and Technology” app for your iPad. Or visit ResBuildMag.com.
Looking ahead: Outdoor living in 2015
The national home centers made hay with outdoor living categories in the second quarter, with Lowe’s describing lawn and garden as its strongest seasonal category, and Home Depot describing outdoor garden as outperforming its company comp average.
The weather certainly helps, but so does planning ahead.
Next spring’s outdoor living lineup will no doubt promise small blooms of innovation, but it’s also a category that will forever make good on tried-and-true classics. Here’s a few products HCN editors wouldn’t mind seeing in their own hardware aisles next year.
1. AZEK Arbor Collection
Outdoor living doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, setting is paramount. AZEK honors this truism in the form of its Arbor collection, which is engineered to stand up to plenty of abuse but still mimic the look of lush, tropical hardwood. (azek.com)
2. Olympia RG850 Flashlight
Foremost among the new flashlights unveiled by Olympia at this year’s Outdoor Retailer Show is the RG850, the company’s top-of-the-line, high-performance export with Cree LED technology, five light settings and a built-in lithium-ion battery charger. (olympiaproducts.com)
3. Primos Hen Duck Call
Apart from its classic, attractive design, this double-reed duck call is designed to fit easily into the palm of one’s hand and can reproduce a range of sounds. (primos.com)
4. Igloo MaxCold Workman’s Meal To Go Cooler
Here’s a cooler with serious hardware appeal. The Igloo Workman’s Cooler is modeled after a toolbox, but it’s made for edibles — which doesn’t negate its hardy canvas construction and thick 10mm MaxCold performance insulation. (igloocoolers.com)
5. Coleman Roadtrip Grill LXE
Think beyond tailgating season — portable grills can be a hot-ticket item for a bevy of applications. The Coleman Roadtrip Grill can be easily folded up and rolled about, and it ignites quickly with just a push of a button. (coleman.com)
6. DeWalt Folding Retractable Auto-Load Knife
Versatility is a desired trait in the realm of outdoor tools — and the utility knife may never outlast its shelf value. DeWalt’s latest iteration of the classic implement is perfectly suited for outdoor activities, boasting a push-button blade change and one-handed folding capability. (dewalt.com)
7. RealComfort Adirondack Chair
Adams Manufacturing touts its best-selling Adirondack Chair as “the first significant Adirondack chair redesign since the Civil War.” It also boasts flex-cushion technology and comfortable support beams, with a SafetyGrip foot design. (adamsmfg.com)
8. Scotts SYNC System 20V Lithium-Ion String Trimmer
Outdoor living entails recreation, but there’s no fun and games without maintenance. The Scotts SYNC String Trimmer can muscle through any task with its 20V lithium-ion battery, which comes with a charging station that clips on to the tool and a fuel gauge. (scotts.com)
Before and after: A lumberyard shows design flair
Aloha, Ore., is the site of Parr Lumber Company’s new design center, serving up ideas through kitchen vignettes, appliance options and cabinet styles, among other things.
“It has always been about the customers’ buying experience,” said Nancy Cranston, Parr Lumber’s marketing manager. “Contractors and homeowners want a place where they can see the most innovative products, ask questions, get inspired, and not feel rushed or pressured.”
Hillsboro, Oregon-based Parr Lumber opened the center last month, showing off a new 8,500-sq.-ft. showroom.
Before the unveiling, Parr operated its Aloha location as a 20,000-sq.-ft. warehouse, which will continue to operate. Among other things, the warehouse will keep the design center in stock with more than 1,000 cabinets on-hand.
The heart of the showroom boasts eight fully assembled kitchen vignettes. Cabinet styles range from the competitively priced Kemper and Aristokraft to the ultra-custom Dynasty Series from Omega. The cabinets are complemented by granite, Cambria quartz countertops, stainless steel Frigidaire and Electrolux appliances.
“Seeing these products displayed together helps the customer pick complementary products and accurately envision how they will all look together in the home,” said Angela Zagorsky, Parr Lumber’s window and door sales manager. “It is inspirational for customers.”