A few years ago, Mechanical Hub asked the major players in tool manufacturing what was going on as far as tool battery technology innovation. Recently, we caught up with Andrew Lentz, product manager, Milwaukee Tool to discuss Milwaukee’s battery tech.
What is the latest and greatest in Milwaukee battery technology?
LENTZ: Our technology is evolving at such a rapid pace, that soon we’ll enable another giant leap in the shift from corded to cordless through the launch of our High Demand™ 9.0Ah Pack that is built for high demand applications. With the new battery pack, Milwaukee will deliver up to 5X more run-time, 35% more power, and run 60% cooler than standard lithium-ion batteries. This is going to completely change users’ cordless expectations. Our lighting, as well as our high-draw solutions such as our jobsite lighting, M18 FUEL™ Sawzall, M18 FUEL™ Grinder, M18 FUEL™ Bandsaw and M18 FUEL™ Circular Saw, will experience immense benefits from this technology.
Talk about Milwaukee’s dedication to research and development, especially in terms of battery technology? Are you field-testing your tools?
LENTZ: Field testing is absolutely critical to our process. Our users are the experts, which is why we spend hundreds of hours on the jobsite working side-by-side with them to understand the demands of their changing workplace and how we can best deliver solutions that help them work faster and smarter. From the instant we start our research, to the moment the tool is developed and released (and well after), we’re constantly working with our users to ensure we’re paying attention to the small details that make a big difference. Our user focus not only leads to solutions for real jobsite challenges, but fuels the disruptive innovation seen across product lines.
Without giving too much away, if you could let us see the Milwaukee crystal ball, what are some things you could share with us regarding the future capabilities of battery technology?
LENTZ: We are unable to share details of our product road map for competitive reasons. However, what we can say is that, while we’re extremely excited about the launch of our High Demand™ 9.0Ah Pack, we don’t view it as the finish line. With all the power that is available in today’s battery packs, we will continue to challenge conventional wisdom about the types of tools that can be effective cordless solutions. Our leadership in lithium-ion has opened the doors for us to incorporate more advanced electronics and the latest technology into our tools … and we have no plans of slowing down.
Three years ago I asked about WiFi in the tools. Well, now it’s here! Can you talk about the advantages of ONE-KEY?
WENTZ: Cloud-based mobile technology has become a common part of our world, making everything in our lives, from homes to cars, ‘smart.’ By leveraging this innovation, we’re opening the doors to a virtual, interactive, and instantaneous experience for power tool users; ultimately creating a jobsite of endless possibilities through smarter tools.
The first digital platform for tools and equipment, ONE-KEY™ integrates industry-leading tool electronics with a custom-built cloud based program to provide a new level of control and access to information. With the ability to customize, track and manage, ONE-KEY™ will fundamentally change the way users interact with their tools. Here’s a glimpse of its current features and benefits:
- Inventory Management allows users to create a central place to manage all of their tools and equipment across their network of jobs and operators. This simplified tool and equipment management system lets companies keep detailed records of each tool, so they can easily build a budget, track receipts and manage their annual spend on equipment. As a cloud based solution, managers can easily access and share information in real-time throughout all levels of their organization.
- Tool Control allows users to use pre-determined set-ups for specific fasteners and materials, or completely customize their own profile with torque and speed settings for the application at hand. With a touch of the button on the tool, users will be able to easily go back and forth between these saved profiles so that each application is done with the most accurate and productive settings. If you think about the number of fasteners that require different speeds and torques, or the sheer amount of users who need to perform repetitive applications throughout their day, this functionality is a huge benefit, as it allows them to make small tweaks that make a huge difference.
- Integrated Tool Tracking allows users to identify where and when their ONE-KEY™ compatible tools were last seen. Tool records and locations are updated when any device with the ONE-KEY™ app comes within 100 feet of a ONE-KEY™ compatible tool, allowing the user to pinpoint missing tools quicker. Milwaukee® is the first to integrate Tool Tracking technology directly into tools, allowing them to be tracked with or without an M18™ battery attached.
- With Tool Reporting capabilities users can wirelessly synchronize with the web-based program and upload data and history to create custom reports that track the success and timing of electrical terminations, as well as keep up on service repairs.
Not only will these capabilities lead to more efficient work, better performance and consistently accurate results, but as the program’s capabilities evolve, Milwaukee Tool will be able to deliver more features to a product even after it’s purchased – translating to invaluable productivity gains.
Are run times improving and how about at lower/higher (extreme temps)?
WENTZ: Our leadership in lithium-ion and cordless has allowed us to provide incredible performance, but our big focus now is developing battery technology for the ‘power-hungry’ tools so they can deliver more runtime under heavier loads. This is where our new High Demand™ 9.0Ah pack comes in. This pack will double the runtime of our 5.0 batteries at a higher output and at a substantially cooler temperature. The ability for the 9.0 to run cooler was critical in our design and development process. In fact, all our REDLITHIUM™ batteries work below 0 degrees and up to 120 degrees – this has been and always will be a part of our overall approach to battery technology.
What about charge times?
WENTZ: Of course, as capacity continues to increase, charge times increase as well. This is very similar to filling up a larger tank at a gas station – it takes longer to fill up, but you ultimately have more to work with. This is much the same with battery technology.
To address the increased charge times, we’ve introduced two rapid chargers to the market. The M18™ & M12™ Rapid Charger charges packs up to 40% faster, and accepts all M18™ and M12™ batteries. Featuring REDLINK™ Intelligence, it communicates directly with the battery to monitor cell voltage, temperature, and charge status to optimize the performance and extend the life of the pack. As an added level of communication, the charger indicates when the battery reaches an 80% charge, providing confidence that a substantial amount of work can be completed without waiting for a full charge. For users who need to charge a larger amount of batteries at once, the M18™ and M12™ Rapid Charge Station is the fastest charging solution in the industry. With the ability to Charge 6 Packs 4X Faster, the station charges three batteries simultaneously while charging each pack up to 40% faster.
Are some of the batteries backward compatible?
WENTZ: In 2010, Milwaukee® launched REDLITHIUM battery packs. With REDLITHIUM technology, our compact batteries and XC High Capacity batteries work on all tools within their respective systems (M12 and M18). We know system compatibility is important to our end-users, so we make it a critical consideration every time we design and introduce a new battery.
Do you offer or intend to offer a hybrid corded/cordless tool?
WENTZ: We do not offer this type of tool, and are unable to share details of our future product road map.
It would seem that the bigger number on the battery means better. Is this always the case? (Why would I choose 12v over 18v?) Explain.
WENTZ: For cordless power tools, many users believe that power is measured in battery voltage. As new technologies have been introduced and evolved, this is far from the truth in today’s market. Milwaukee power tools have come a long way. Just because a voltage number may be higher, doesn’t mean it has more power. Because of the many technological advances we’ve made, we’ve been able to meet and surpass higher voltage performance with that of our M18 products. Our M18 FUEL™ line is a perfect example of this.
For instance, our M18 FUEL™ Sawzall cuts twice as fast as our M28 Sawzall. We’ve also led the way in the shift from corded to cordless. For instance, the standard power outlet in the U.S. is 120V. Our FUEL™ technology is helping us meet, and often surpass, the performance of corded. For instance, our M18 FUEL™ Band Saw cuts faster than our legendary Deep Cut Band Saw (120V), which was the benchmark for corded performance in the industry. As you can see, performance depends upon much more than just a voltage number.
A few years ago, everyone thought the bigger and more powerful the tool, the better it was. Over the last few years, however, the sub-compact LITHIUM-ION power tool market has more than doubled as professionals have seen the benefit in smaller, lower voltage tools that are lighter, run longer and are better designed for specific applications. This is where our M12 system comes in. Lithium-Ion technology has revolutionized the sub-compact market. The high power density nature of Lithium-Ion allows us to fit the same amount of energy in half of the space. The result is a more compact and more powerful tool. When users are looking to decide between M12 and M18, it really comes down to the applications and environments they’re going to be using the product in.
We always work with our users to help them understand that it’s not about voltage; rather, the solutions the tool provides. Many competitors will release higher voltage batteries, but deliver an ineffective motor or electronics. You can’t experience best-in-class performance and run-time by simply searching for the highest voltage. By tying brushless motors to the world’s most capable electronics packages and most advanced lithium-ion batteries, users can truly push the boundaries of cordless tool performance and experience the enhanced productivity it provides. This complex interworking of lithium-ion, motor technologies and electronics is what has made our top-performing M18 FUEL™ products more than just a voltage – they’re a holistic solution.
Where do I go for warranty info/customer service?
WENTZ: Visit our website, www.milwaukeetool.com or call 1-800-SAWDUST.
There are a lot of tool companies that boast that their tool & battery combo is the best. Why Milwaukee?
WENTZ: Our REDLITHIUM batteries last longer, think faster, and work harder than all other lithium-ion batteries. Working in conjunction with our advanced motor and electronics, it creates the ultimate synergy of professional grade power and extreme performance. This has led to the leadership our systems have in the industry. The perfect example is our M18 FUEL™ system, which is leading the way in cordless power tool technology. M18 FUEL™ integrates our new POWERSTATE™ brushless motor, REDLITHIUM batteries, and REDLINK PLUS™ Intelligence system to deliver up to 10X longer life, 25% more power and 50% more run-time than competitors.