When you hear the name Hilti, most people are familiar with the brand’s highly-regarded tools used widely in commercial construction, but with the company’s European heritage and mindset, they are actually a much broader provider of construction “solutions”. This means they make compatible systems of measuring equipment, gas-powered, corded and cordless power tools, all the abrasive wheels, bits, and blades needed for those tools, and a multitude of anchors and epoxies, fasteners, and structural hardware too. Added to that are commercial firestop and insulation products, design and analysis software, fleet services, and asset management systems for tracking maintenance and the tools themselves.
Trying to provide an improved version of everything needed on the commercial job site means they will never run out of products to develop and introduce to the market. And since Hilti deals with their customers through direct sales, they seem more closely connected to their customer base than many other brands. After all, dealing with the same rep to buy, accessorize, and service your tools and equipment could have its advantages, especially for construction companies of a certain scale. But for smaller businesses—wherever they may be, Hilti tools and other products are still very accessible from Hilti online, even if you don’t have a personal relationship with a local rep. Now that you have a better idea of Hilti’s construction solutions, systems, service, and software, check out the product highlights I got to experience firsthand at Hilti’s summer 2019 media event in Plano, Texas.
Concrete, Metal and Abrasives
To add versatility to cutting concrete with an electric-powered tool, Hilti’s new DCH 300-X 12” saw has the added feature of a water feed for wet cutting. In fact, according to OSHA’s Table 1 crystalline silica regulations, any tool used to cut concrete that is labeled a saw has to be used with water. The new “X” version is similar to the previous DCH 300 model as it also has a dust port for dry cutting (with a 300 cfm vac), but for such uses, don’t forget to categorize your tool as a “cutter” instead. Though these electric cutters/saws have 20 amp motors and can cut nearly 4 3/4″ deep, they are best suited for use with a thin diamond wheel optimized for the lower power of electric models vs. bigger gas saws.
The DGH 130 concrete grinder is a lightweight, variable speed grinder/polisher with a front grip designed for working on vertical surfaces. It fits up to 130mm (5 1/8”) grinding wheels and polishing disks which attach with a tool-free wheel nut. The grinder’s guard rotates easily to suit your changing work positions, and the dust skirt raises and lowers to match the height of the attached accessory. Besides allowing you to collect dust more effectively, setting the skirt flush with the level of your abrasive wheel also helps keep you from digging into the flat surface. Hilti makes abrasive cup wheels for grinding tasks as well as polishing disks with replaceable pads that attach with Velcro around the perimeter.
Hilti’s new 4 1/2” cordless angle grinder is the AG 4S-A22. This tool has a narrower body grip and a slide-lock switch to make it nimbler and more maneuverable than a grinder with a paddle switch. Variable speed operation from 3,500-8,500 rpm lets you dial in the brushless motor to the optimum speed for your abrasive and material, and vent screens keep whatever it is you’re grinding out of the motor.
For Hilti’s metal abrasives from 4 1/2″ to 9″, the brand has established a three-tier system with different names and a distinct color branding scheme. Regular workaday grinding disks and cutting wheels are part of the Standard P line in gray, upgraded versions in the Premium SP line are black, and the top-end abrasives in the Ultimate SPX tier are colored Hilti red. Ultimate SPX products feature ceramic grains that are said to provide 2.5X the life of standard abrasives, as well as being optimal for use in cordless grinders.
Hilti Construction Tools – Cordless
One of the most exciting new tools from Hilti we were introduced to was the SR 30-A36 36-volt reciprocating saw. It looks very similar to Hilti’s 22-volt recip model that launched last year, (the SR 6-A22), but this 36-volt model has two speed ranges, greater power, and more gas in the tank when fitted with a 5.2 amp-hour (Ah), 36-volt battery pack. With that battery powering the tool’s brushless motor, Hilti claims the saw is competitive with a 15-amp corded saw. Other features include an LED headlight, a large plastic hang hook, a lanyard slot, an adjustable shoe, and an external blade-change lever to keep your fingertips cool when changing blades. One feature NOT included is orbital action, which Hilti says is not missed by the majority of their users. And we didn’t see it at the new product rollout, but according to images provided by Hilti, the saw also fits a special dust collection boot up front to attach to a vac for reducing airborne material dust. It’s interesting to note that this saw is outfitted to address two of the growing trends in the construction industry: increased implementation of dust collection and dropped object prevention.
Another recip saw we got our hands on was the SR 2-A12, a one-handed 12-volt recip saw that came out earlier this year. Like the bigger saws, this compact model has a brushless motor and LED headlight, but unlike the bigger saws, the SR 2-A12 can be held in one hand for overhead cutting or while securing the workpiece with your other hand. One-handed or two, it’s pretty handy either way.
For driving bolts, nuts, and other large threaded fasteners, Hilti has a new impact wrench with a 3/4″ drive, the SIW 9-A22. Using a unique dual-impact mechanism, this tool cranks fasteners down to 590 ft-lbs, which is optimal for developing the proper tension in 1” structural bolts. For driving bolts and nuts, the tension developed by the fastener is the important value to note versus torque delivery. After all, the torque resistance encountered during driving could be attributable to friction, and not necessarily the work done to tighten the fastener.
Sweating copper fittings, especially large ones, is becoming a thing of the past. Hilti is ready with their new NPR 32-A22 cordless press tool and separate heads to handle diameters from 1/2” up to 4”. The tool works with a variety of materials and fittings, but is tested to crimp fittings from different manufacturers all within the ASTM standard. Hilti’s inline design, swiveling head, and LED headlight work together to provide better access and visibility in the tight places that plumbing fittings live in. While this tool is a big time-saver for water supply and boiler lines, it may not fit in the budget of occasional users. The press tool is $1,200 and the heads run from $350 to $750 each.
Hilti Battery Packs
With the rising availability (and affordability) of higher energy-density cells from battery manufacturers, the amp-hour ratings of battery packs used in power tools is constantly on the rise. Hilti’s newest battery packs in their 22-volt (technically 21.6-volt) line include compact 4.0 Ah and full-size 8.0 Ah models. Though it isn’t apparent in the math, Hilti says that the smaller but more efficient 4.0 Ah pack has an output equal to 95 percent of the previous 5.2 Ah pack, so the older pack is being discontinued. In Hilti’s 12-volt (technically 10.6-volt) line, there is a new 4.0 Ah pack. And according to Hilti, they are the only tool company using the latest 21-700 cells in their 12-volt battery pack construction. Like other manufacturers, Hilti calls their 10.6-volt system 12 volts in the US market, and they round up a little to call their 21.6-volt line 22 volts to avoid a fractional value. Interestingly, they used to round down their packs to 18 volts in the USA to adopt a more common voltage name. But now with other manufacturers rounding up their 18-volt systems to 20 volts, Hilti wisely admits to having more cells in their packs to claim the advantage.
Hilti Layout and Measurement
Green lasers are taking over for interior layout uses, and Hilti has another new one this year. The PM 30-MG multi-line laser projects three lines in a full 360-degree arc. One horizontal, and two vertical, situated at a right angle to each other. According to Hilti, the lasers have a visible range of 165 feet without needing a remote receiver, and the unit self-levels within three second as long as it is placed within 3 degrees of level. A magnetic base attaches the level to steel studs and posts, and the base also has one of the most useful features built in. How do you line up the end of your laser to trace a long layout line on the floor? Rap it with a knuckle? Nudge it with your foot and hope you didn’t kick too hard? Well no more, if you have this Hilti level that is. The base has a knob that pivots the unit in either direction when you turn it so you can carefully dial in your aim without any shock to the tool. And the PM 30-MG takes Hilti’s 12-volt battery packs so you don’t have to stock up on batteries at Costco or Sam’s every month.
Also new in Hilti construction solutions is the PD-I, a laser range meter designed for interior uses. It measures up to 300 feet, connects via Bluetooth to apps, and calculates area, painter’s area, volume, stake-out, Pythagorean, and dual Pythagorean.
Another new Hilti measuring device is the PS 300 Ferroscan which uses induction technology to locate rebar embedded in concrete. This analysis tool determines the position, size, and depth of coverage of rebar, and can transfer its findings via special software to a CAD file to compare the as-built reality to design specifications. It can also be used for verifying the makeup of precast components or for sleuthing into old structures for which no drawings can be found. Hilti’s says their Ferroscan technology is more accurate than ground penetrating radar, with an accuracy as fine as +/- 1mm at 2” deep. This unit can scan over concrete up to 90 feet per minute, features a convenient touchscreen, and as smart as it is, of course it uses Hilti’s 12-volt cordless tool batteries instead of disposable cells.
At the end of our informative day of tooling around the Hilti product displays, Hilti treated us to drinks, dinner, and… live ice sculpting out on the patio! The sculpting was set up as a timed competition of sorts, with an emcee egging on the two competitors while also providing some education to the audience. One thing he told us that one of the teams present had participated in a world-level competition recently in Alaska and had taken a silver medal. The other thing that he told us was that these guys would usually be relying on chain saws for most of their roughing-out work. We learned this because the emcee constantly, absentmindedly referred to what the carvers were doing with their chain saws, even though there were no such saws present (believe me, as a chain saw fanatic I’d know).
As part of the challenge, the competitors agreed to do all of their carving exclusively with Hilti cordless tools, so they did all of the heavy work with recip saws instead of chain saws. This might be like a drummer being handed two forks and asked to drum well. We’ll never know, but both guys did a great job making scale models of Hilti tools appear out of blocks of clear ice in the setting Texas sun. It was quite cool to experience, especially if you were standing in the spray zone when the giant ice routing bits were grinding away at high speed in Hilti drywall cutout tools. The artists shaped the ice with giant, super-coarse recip blades, angle grinders, the aforementioned router bits, hot metal plates and torches for smoothing, and dry ice for welding on anything they needed to add or repair. And there was also a mysterious foggy substance that seemed to make everyone nearby smile profusely – laughing gas perhaps???
In the closing minutes, amid the tense drama of the crowd-favorite sculpture breaking at a critical point, the sculptor was able to fix it in heroic fashion and pull ahead for the win. In fact, the added drama might have been what put him ahead as judged by the excited audience, applause-o-meter style. Good tools, good people, good times – thanks for having me Hilti!