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Cutting the hose

The technology behind cordless tools has advanced, allowing manufacturers to meet high production standards

Whether it’s a job shop or out in the field, the M12 and M18 right-angle die grinders are totally portable.

Welders are no strangers to working in tough spots. Whether it’s laying down a bead at an odd angle or fitting all their gear into a tight workspace, they’ve seen it all. It’s situations like these that call for subcompact power tools, including grinders, such as a new small, cordless right-angle die grinder.

When Milwaukee Tool developed its M12 system, which includes more than 100 tool types, the focus was on subcompact designs that could go anywhere and were lightweight. The company’s new die grinders, the M12 Fuel and M18 Fuel, definitely meet that standard.

“With our M12 Fuel 0.25-in. right-angle die grinder,” begins Mark Kelly, product manager for Milwaukee Tool, “we wanted to deliver a right-angle die grinder with the size and performance that users demand without the constraints of hoses or compressors. This means these users can utilize this tool almost anywhere they need it – providing unparalleled mobility and overall productivity.”

Milwaukee had already experienced success with the M12 and M18 cordless system, but with the release of its Fuel line, it has taken the technology a step further. The Fuel line is differentiated by the inclusion of an advanced battery, electronics and a brushless motor. The difference between the M12 and M18 is that the M18 has a higher voltage battery and is intended for more demanding jobs.

Leading technology

What makes the new right-angle die grinders so powerful? Kelly says it boils down to the innovations that are included, such as the Powerstate brushless motor, Redlithium

The Fuel line of tools combines advanced technologies that create a tool that was unthinkable just 10 years ago, allowing for more power and longer battery life.

battery packs and Redlink Plus Intelligence hardware and software, all of which are combined to “deliver unmatched performance durability and run time.”

  • The Powerstate brushless motor is engineered for the demands of each tool and is optimized for a combination of performance, portability and productivity. The motor is built with maximum copper content and top-grade rare earth magnets.
  • Redlink Plus Intelligence protects the tools with best-in-class thermal and overload monitoring. It also includes advanced electronic communication, which optimizes tool performance and enhances productivity with features like drive control and an on-board fuel gage.
  • Users of Redlithium battery packs  are familiar with this patented  lithium-ion battery technology that protects against drops, water and harsh environments. It also includes robust electronics that “optimize performance for every tool and battery combination.”

Overcoming challenges

Not surprisingly, creating a unique tool line came with some challenges. Kelly says one of the most significant obstacles, particularly with the smaller M12 Fuel unit, was to “deliver the power of a pneumatic tool in the most compact size possible.” Users were asking for power, but weren’t going to compromise much on the size of the tool. This pushed the engineers at Milwaukee to optimize the internal component layout of the tool.

Milwaukee Tool’s engineers were able to deliver more power while maintaining a compact profile in the new M12 and M18 Fuel right-angle die grinders.

“We had to do some innovative things to make it all happen,” Kelly says. “Our motor is located in the top of the tool at a right angle, which is something our competitors have not tried due to the difficulties of the design. We also have direct output from that motor with no gearing to conserve tool length. Those are just a few examples, but overall our engineering team did a great job optimizing power output, size, durability and vibration with many difficult design constraints.”

There is also the challenge of convincing users that a cordless tool is a viable choice in an industry where fabricators are used to grinding with pneumatic units. Kelly says that in the last 15 years, battery-powered tools have made significant leaps forward. Advancements in lithium-ion batteries have also helped to overcome limitations and have “pushed the industry to a point few would have considered possible 10 years ago.”

“Today’s cordless tools deliver massive amounts of power and performance in a more compact package

Whether it’s a job shop or out in the field, the M12 and M18 right-angle die grinders are totally portable.

and can even outperform their pneumatic predecessors,” Kelly says. “The run times are getting longer and the charge times are getting shorter.”

Despite these advancements, there continue to be users who resist the shift from pneumatic to cordless.

“For these users,” Kelly notes, “there’s just far too much work to be done to let productivity be hindered by potential battery run time and overall power and performance concerns. But while these may have been valid concerns even five years ago, the industry is now at a point where cordless is quickly taking over as the leading technology in numerous ways.”

Reasons to go cordless

Manufacturers are constantly thinking about safety, and, therefore, implementing new tools and techniques that keep workers free from injury. And work-related injuries are actually a top reason for going cordless. Slips and falls rank high as a cause of injury, and hoses can sometimes be the catalyst for a fall.

“One of the most common offenders of trips is cords or hoses from power tools,” Kelly claims. “Cordless tools have the benefit of freeing jobsites from the nuisances of having to sweep cords and hoses to the side, vastly improving the hazards associated with trips but also freeing up more space for equipment.”

Check out this video to see the grinding and cutting capabilities of the M12 Fuel right-angle die grinder.

But what about charge times? Won’t the need for constantly recharging batteries kill productivity? Kelly says it’s not as big an issue as many manufacturers think because batteries have been built to be more “energy dense,” which means workers aren’t spending undo time running to the charger.

“Professional users typically had six or eight batteries on-site for their nickel-cadmium tools and traded them out as needed throughout the day,” he says. “With the newer lithium-ion batteries now available, heavy-duty users need just one or two for the day, then recharge overnight.”

And it’s not just workers who use grinders that benefit from the extra power provided by Milwaukee’s approach to battery technology. Kelly mentions that for workers with limited access to power, particularly those who need to work vertically or overhead on 1/4-in. metal, tool makers have been unable to provide them with an alternative for years. However, by utilizing M18 Fuel technology, Milwaukee offers an 18-V cordless magnetic drill press that can be that alternative.

Milwaukee Tool

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