Picture a job site with no extension cords to trip over, no noisy generators spewing fumes, and a roach coach offering fresh, tasty, healthy lunch fare. You’re probably out of luck as far as the food goes, but the folks at Milwaukee see every power cord as a challenge to be conquered. Their goal is a totally cordless work environment, from rough-in through finish work and maintenance, and they are investing a wheelbarrow full of time, talent and cash to make it happen ASAP. At this year’s Milwaukee New Product Symposium (NPS) we were treated to a look at the job site of the future. Spoiler alert – not an extension cord in sight at the Milwaukee NPS 2016!
On the day we arrived, Milwaukee treated us to a tour of their Rapid Innovation Center. Mindful of their heritage, there are displays of tools and accessories dating back to the 1930s. The early stuff couldn’t be described as compact or lightweight, but it sure could be described as beefy and durable. Those adjectives can be applied to most of the hundreds of new products we saw during the Milwaukee NPS. This is also where we first heard some key mantras that the Milwaukee reps would expand on during our visit: Focus on the user, Durability and Disruptive Innovation.
Focus on the user is exactly what it sounds like. Milwaukee is constantly sending their people out into the real world to see how workers in the various trades really use their tools. They watch them work, and talk to them about what improvements or new tools would make them more productive or ease their tasks. They also look to see how users have creatively modified their own tools to make them more functional.
Durability is also self-explanatory. Milwaukee knows users count on their tools to make a living, and they build their products with the best materials available. Then they stand behind them, even offering a lifetime warranty on many.
As for disruptive innovation, Milwaukee isn’t content to simply make a red version of someone else’s tool. They use the knowledge gained from studying users to make tools that work better and faster, last longer, and provide the most bang for the buck. Milwaukee is in it for the long run – they’re in the process of nearly doubling the size of their Rapid Innovation Center, and are investing millions of dollars in new equipment and personnel.
Enough yammering – let’s take a look at what’s new at the 2016 Milwaukee NPS! We got to see around 1,000 products, and we’re going to take an exhaustive look at each and every one! Give or take 960… Stay tuned and see.
M18 Sliding Compound Miter Saw
One of the many big draws at the Milwaukee NPS was the new 10” Milwaukee M18 sliding compound miter saw. The saw features very robust construction, and a slew of user-friendly features. Its 10” blade can crosscut a 2×12” laid flat, a 4×4” pressure-treated post, and can accommodate a 6” piece of base molding upright against the fence. The dual bevel is fast and easy to change via a lever on the top rear. Once set, the angle is solidly locked in, even outside the detents, thanks to a detent override. Here’s a quick sneak peek from our friends at A Concord Carpenter:
For accuracy, the Milwaukee M18 miter saw uses a shadow line indicator rather than a laser. The motor spins at 4,000 RPM, and an electric brake shuts ‘er down fast. Weighing in at 45 pounds, and equipped with integrated handles, the saw is way easier to schlep around than most corded models, which generally weigh 10 – 20 pounds more.
Equipped with the new 9 Ah Li-Ion battery, which should (finally!) be available in September, the saw can make up to 400 cuts on a single charge. The Milwaukee M18 miter saw will be available in October 2016. Want one? Start saving. The saw will be available as a bare tool for an estimated $549, or in a kit with a 9.0 Ah battery and charger for $699.
Let’s Take It Outside
If you’re always looking for where the grass is greener, Milwaukee is ready to step in and help you keep that grass looking good. Milwaukee is introducing a line of brushless outdoor power equipment, and we got some hands-on time with the first three products in the lineup, which should be available in January of 2017.
First up is a hand-held blower. Using an axial fan design, the Milwaukee M18 blower boasts best-in-class CFM and run time. Designed for job site cleanup and home use, the Milwaukee designers listened to user feedback, and put the air intake in the rear, rather than on the side, so it’s not constantly trying to inhale your pants.
Untamed hedges making your yard resemble the Forbidden Forest? The Milwaukee M18 hedge trimmer’s design incorporates a very robust slider crank mechanism, which allows it to tackle thick, scary branches. The 24” blade sports a tip guard to prevent damage to the blades – or anything they might come in contact with. Aimed at the pro landscaper, the hedge clipper definitely has some power. We were treated to a demo of the tool mowing quickly through a dowel bush, a rare species sporting dozens of wood dowels up to ¾” thick.
If your weeds are even more unruly than your bushes, the Milwaukee M18 string trimmer has you covered. Their largest brushless motor, coupled with a solid drive shaft, drives a full-sized head to shred those suckers. The motor is mounted on top, where it provides good balance, while keeping it free of the various crud that ends up all over the business end. A high/low range switch lets you dial back the power, to conserve the battery for lighter use, and the variable-speed trigger gets the head up to full speed almost instantly.
The string trimmer can handle .080 and .095 cutting line, and the guard is adjustable to cut either a 14” or 16” swath of devastation. The guard is also offset, to prevent vines and other green stuff from getting wrapped around the head.
The Milwaukee NPS Made For Some Happy Hangers
Moving back indoors, the Milwaukee NPS highlighted a treat for those hearty souls who hang drywall all day. They frequently get paid by the piece, so they’re always looking for ways to speed up the process. Lugging around a corded screw gun all day gets old. Schlepping an extension cord, searching for power, draping it over the shoulder and trying not to trip over it, frequently while trying to balance on stilts…what fun!
Screwing drywall all day, comfort and speed are key. I tried out the new Milwaukee screw gun; it was comfortable to hold, and lighter – and quieter – than my corded gun. To save time, drywall hangers often lock the unit on, so it doesn’t have to ramp up before each screw. To conserve power while providing instant full speed, the Milwaukee M18 screw gun offers Auto Start mode. This essentially locks the gun in the “on” position but doesn’t spin the motor until the screw contacts the drywall. In the meantime, the gun is totally quiet, which provides for a much more tranquil drywall hanging environment. When the screws make contact, though, they go in FAST. You won’t have to slow down to swap out batteries, either – the gun’s brushless motor will let you hang up to 64 sheets on a single 5.0 Ah battery.
The other thing that slows the pros is cutting in around switch boxes, can lights, and other pesky obstacles. A cutout tool is the fastest way to deal with those obstacles, but again there’s that %$#@*&% cord. The Milwaukee M18 cordless cutout tool is the lightest weight, shortest length tool in the industry. Speedy and powerful, it can zip around 50 outlet boxes on a single 2.0 Ah battery. Both drywall tools are scheduled for release in October 2016.
Milwaukee Nails It
If you’re a finish carpenter, you’re likely used to the smell of expensive gas cartridges, or to being tethered to a noisy compressor. Milwaukee’s first foray into cordless nailers provides a nice variety of the most commonly-used nail gauges. With a 15 ga. angled, 16 ga. straight and angled, and an 18 ga. straight nailer, you’ll be able to tackle pretty much any trimming task. We got to play with all the nailers, and they were able to consistently bury 2” nails into a 4” block of solid white oak, with no ramp-up time.
The angle nailers use standard 34° nails. All four nailers can easily switch between sequential and bump firing, and feature easy jam clearing. A single 2.0 Ah battery will give you a lot of firepower: Roughly 1,200 nails from the 18 ga., 800 from the 16 ga., and 700 from the 15 ga. gun. All four nailers are available now.
Polish Up Your Act
Auto detailers rejoice – no more ruined jobs from an errant extension cord or air hose. The new Milwaukee M18 7” variable speed polisher spins at speeds up to almost 2,200 RPM. It’s over a pound lighter than its corded competition, and it feels comfortable and well balanced. A 5.0 Ah M18 battery provides enough juice to detail a full-size car on a single battery charge.
Feel The (RedLithium) Power
As I mentioned, the new High Demand Milwaukee M18 9.0 Ah battery packs should be available in September 2016. These battery packs represent a huge leap in battery technology, and will enable many users to get through an entire workday on a single battery. The new battery packs will deliver up to 5X more run time and 35% more power than a standard lithium-ion battery. The fact that they also run 60% cooler will enable users to push their tools harder and longer than ever before. The battery will be compatible with all M18 tools.
Meanwhile, M12 users only have to wait until August to get a power boost. The new M12 3.0 Ah compact battery will provide superior run time without sacrificing the weight of the tool. For power users who hate swapping out batteries, the new XC6.0 Ah Extended Capacity battery should get you through the day.
Check Out The View
Got dark, scary places to peer into? The new M-Spector Flex (available June 2016) and M-Spector Flex with Pivotview (available July 2016) inspection cameras will show you the way. Both cameras utilize state-of-the-art LED technology to provide 15X greater brightness, and users can comfortably view images in any position via a 3.5” wireless display. The version with Pivotview allows users to pivot the camera head 270° simply by turning a dial – way easier than re-feeding the cable several times, searching for the right angle.
Light The Site – No Matter Where It Is
Having proper lighting on the job site, or in the shop, makes the workday a lot more productive – and a lot safer. Up until now, the go-to lighting for most of us has been halogen floodlights. They’re relatively cheap and very bright. They’re also hot as hell, and yep – they have a cord, making them fair game. Milwaukee has come up with several solutions to light up your world in a cordless fashion.
The first product offers the best of both worlds. The M18 Rocket LED Tower Light provides 3,000 lumens of multidirectional light via three adjustable light heads, allowing it to serve as both task and area lighting. It sets up in seconds, and here’s the kicker: It has integrated AC and a built-in M18 charger. This means when there’s no power available, it will run off an M18 battery. If there IS power available, you can run the lights AND charge your battery, meaning one less charger to schlep along. The Rocket should be available in September 2016.
If your goal is to light up the entire workspace, the M18 Radius LED Compact Site Light, due out in July 2016, can provide 360° of bright LED light (4,400 lumens, or up to 6,700 lumens by swapping in a clear lens). The light can be directed through the use of Bay Switches, and integrated hanging options offer the ability to hang the light upside down or horizontally. Coming in October 2016, a One-Key enabled version will be available. This will allow users to control the light remotely when it’s in an overhead or hard-to-reach location, optimize the brightness and runtime, and track and manage the light through the One-Key app.
Aimed at service techs and others who go from site to site throughout the day, the compact M12 Flood Light offers a bright, lightweight solution. Integrated hanging features, including two beefy magnets, allow the user to stick, clamp, or hang the light on almost anything, in almost any orientation. Capable of withstanding a 9’ drop, the M12 Flood can run 4 ½ hours on high, 9 hours on medium, or 19 hours on low, with a 5.0 Ah battery. The M12 Flood is due out in October 2016.
For those of us who need to light up the night in the great outdoors, the M18 Search Light will let you get the job done – even in the rain. Packing 1,200 lumens and four output modes, including spot and flood, this light has a 700-yard range, and is IP54 rated for dust and water resistance. It’s due out in October 2016.
On a smaller scale, the Milwaukee M12 LED metal flashlight is one of the beefiest flashlights I’ve come across. Using a standard M12 slide-in battery, the flashlight features a sliding flood/spot beam head. The flashlight’s 800 lumens can shoot a beam up to 325 yards. The robust housing is made of aircraft-grade aluminum, and the flashlight will be warranted for five years, with a lifetime warranty on the LEDs. After seeing the light undamaged after dropping 6’ or so onto concrete blocks, I doubt they’ll be getting many warranty claims. The M12 LED flashlight should be shipping by the end of June 2016.
Enough Illumination – Let’s Cut Something!
Sixty-five years ago, Milwaukee introduced the Sawzall reciprocating saw, making it the first reciprocating saw eligible for retirement! That scenario seems pretty unlikely, though; Milwaukee has continued to improve and innovate the product, and in 2013, Milwaukee introduced a cordless version of the Sawzall that actually outperformed its corded model – the M18 Fuel Sawzall. But hell, that was three years ago – time to raise the bar again!
Due out in October 2016, the M18 Fuel Sawzall with One-Key will enable users of the One-Key app the ability to optimize the tool’s performance. Users will be able to program up to four different cutting modes, to get the best performance in various materials. The programs will help the tool start cutting smoothly, and will optimize the cutting speed for the chosen material. Milwaukee claims the One-Key enabled Sawzall will provide over 40% more run time and 5X longer tool life.
We saw a demonstration of an optimized Sawzall vs. an unoptimized Sawzall cutting through stainless steel pipe. The optimized model cut cleanly and steadily through; the other one burned up the blade. The One-Key app also provides for an automatic brake, which keeps the blade from doing unintentional damage by stopping it immediately after the cut is complete.
Tough Cuts? Here Comes A Tougher AX
A tough saw without a tough blade isn’t tough enough. For over 20 years, Milwaukee’s line of beefy AX reciprocating saw blades have been the number one seller. They know that users want blades tough enough to cut through anything – roofing, embedded nails, metal brackets, etc. – without constantly having to swap out blades. The AX has been doing that for years. So how to improve it? Carbide tipped teeth.
Milwaukee’s exclusive Nail Guard profile allows them to use a five-tooth per inch setup, which is very resistant to getting nails or gunk trapped between the teeth. By adding carbide-tipped teeth, the new AX blades will provide 30 times the blade life of a standard bi-metal blade, 10 times the blade life of their closest competitor, and twice the cutting speed of other carbide blades. To demonstrate how many cuts could be made on a single carbide-tipped AX blade, Milwaukee reps made cuts through doubled-up 2X4s throughout the day. The final tally? 1,140 cuts! All made in the USA, the new Milwaukee AX carbide-tipped blades will be available in lengths of 6”, 9” and 12” in October 2016.
A Chill Drill
Lots of people in the trades need to make large holes. Hole saws are great for this, but with all that drilling comes a lot of heat. The heat melts the paint on the saw, sawdust sticks to it and turns into gunk, and even more friction and heat ensues. And if you happen to break a tooth along the way, your hole saw is garbage.
Milwaukee engineered their Hole Dozer bimetal hole saws to be the toughest on the market. They recently started adding a Thermoset Paint coating to all their Hole Dozer products. This anti-friction coating doesn’t melt, and greatly reduces friction between the wood and the hole saw. This improves the drilling speed by up to 2X, and provides 25% more cuts per battery charge. They also reinforced the teeth with more steel, to improve strength and durability.
The Hole Dozer is backed by the Rip Guard Limited Lifetime Tooth Break warranty – the only saw on the market to guarantee against tooth breakage. Made in the USA, the improved Hole Dozer line of hole saws is available today.
Tools To Make Plumbers Crack A Smile
Starting in October 2016, joining copper pipe is going to get a whole lot faster and easier. The Milwaukee M18 Force Logic Press Tool, with its brushless motor, weighs less than other press tools, and gets 20% more run time per charge. Its in-line design provides unrivaled access, and an auto-cycle feature ensures a complete press is made very time – even if the trigger is released. The tool can complete 50,000 presses before needing recalibration – that’s a lot of joints!
Pump It Up
Getting water away from where it shouldn’t oughta be can be a pain in the bucket. The new M18 Transfer Pump, available in October 2016, lets you get the water out of a toilet, water heater, flooded basement, or anywhere else, at a rate of up to 450 gallons per hour. To increase productivity, the pump is auto-priming, and will shut off automatically after one minute of dry pumping – leaving you free to multitask.
Snake It Out
Milwaukee’s M12 Drain Snake was designed to make it easier for plumbers, maintenance techs, and property owners to clean and drain fixtures and small drain lines. A first-of-its-kind design features a fixed shield around the drum, preventing the spinning drum from coming into contact with the fixture – or the user. The quick and easy setup lets you get in, get the crud out, and get out of there.
The Cheater – A Wrenching Tale
One of the basic tools in every plumber’s tool kit is the pipe wrench. They haven’t changed much in decades – until The Cheater came along. The 10” body has a longer grip surface, and dual coil springs for added strength and durability. The real beauty of The Cheater is that when you need more torque, you DON’T need a bigger wrench. The Cheater comes with two screw-on handles you can add as needed, to extend your leverage out to 18” or 24”.
Locking Pliers That LOCK
When Milwaukee introduced its first pair of locking pliers two years ago, they weren’t content to copy everyone else’s and then paint them red. They came up with a unique design, replacing the adjustment knob with an open loop that’s easy to turn by hand, and can be really torqued down with a screwdriver.
We were able to do dips on a couple of them locked onto a piece of pipe. I prefer not to reveal how many I was able to do, but in the biking world I belong to what is known as the Clydesdale class, and the pliers didn’t budge. Added to the original pliers are 22 new tools, including pliers and C-clamps, to offer solutions for users in various trades.
One-Key To Rule The Tools
Milwaukee continues to add features to the One-Key system, its app for totally integrated tool management. They are also expanding the number of One-Key enabled tools. These tools are equipped with an internal, independently-powered Bluetooth device, which provides the user with unprecedented ability to track, manage, and optimize the tool.
Not sure where your One-Key equipped Sawzall went? Pull out your phone and check your app. Integrated Tool Tracking allows users to see where and when their One-Key compatible tools were last seen. The location is updated any time any device with the One-Key app is within 100’ of the tool, and the feature works even if the M18 battery is removed. This feature already resulted in the arrest of a tool thief, who stole a trailer full of tools, two of which were One-Key enabled.
Businesses can also manage their tools, tracking what tools are at what jobsites, using Simplified Tool & Equipment Management. The information can be accessed through the app or on the web, and keeps detailed records of every tool, even other brands. This feature was recently updated to provide better organization of tool lists and to allow users to generate reports on tool spending and allocation and inventory audits.
An update scheduled for October 2016 will provide even more security features. Users will be able to limit access to their tools, customize security settings, and even remotely lock and unlock their tools. A locked tool will be worthless when stolen – a pretty good theft deterrent.
Level With Me
Milwaukee’s recent acquisition of Wisconsin-based Empire Level two years ago gave it a solid footing to expand its layout and measurement lineup – and to add a little BLUE to the mix. This year alone, the Empire line is launching over 100 new product SKUs – that’s more than in the past 50 years combined! Among them are the E95 UltraView LED Box Levels. Due out in July 2016, the UltraView levels feature dual ultraviolet LEDs, optical brightener, and high-contrast vials, making them easy to read in all conditions.
Empire’s e105 Digital Box Level is their top-of-the-line offering, built on their most advanced box level platform. Featuring dual screens, auto calibration, and an audible indicator confirming the desired level position, the e105 is IP65 rated, meaning it provides exceptional protection from dust and water. The levels will be available in lengths of 16”, 24″, and 48”, and should be available in October 2016.
On the smaller side, Empire, the inventor of the torpedo level, used all new tooling to produce five new Next Gen Torpedo levels. Due out in September 2016, the Next Gen Torpedo levels are all made in the USA.
Switching back to RED, seeing all those blue levels apparently got the Milwaukee level design team fired up. Their response? A line of Redstick box and compact levels, with vials made of high-impact polymer acrylic to make them extremely resistant to shattering. The box levels feature a Backbone core, that provides up to 30% increased core strength to resist warping. The levels will be available in October 2016, in lengths ranging from 16” to 96”, in both magnetic and non-magnetic models.
In the measuring department, Milwaukee has made their line of premium tape measures even beefier. We saw demonstrations of their tapes and competitors’ tapes being fired against a wall and undergoing a simulated two-story drop. The Milwaukee tapes survived and thrived; the other tapes were pretty much obliterated. The redesigned tapes are somewhat more compact and ergonomic, feature a beefy case, and have a nylon blade coating that helps extend blade life by up to 10X. (The Empire division has a pretty sweet lineup of tape measures, too, in case you prefer BLUE.)
There is also a line of longer, 100’ steel measuring tapes. These tapes feature a patent-pending debris wiper feature, to keep out the water, dirt and random crud that is the tape measure’s archenemy. If you have long distances to measure, measuring wheels in 6” and 12” sizes will speed up your task. The units feature beefy aluminum frames and reinforced frames and folding joints, and both feature ergonomic pistol-grip handles. The tapes and wheels will both be available in September 2016.
You Wear It Well
Milwaukee introduced its line of heated work gear seven years ago. For 2016, Milwaukee has all-new designs across the entire range of heated gear, from hoodies and jackets to heavy-duty work wear. Comfort, durability and performance will all be enhanced through the use of proprietary materials, combined with advanced heating technology, which will provide up to 8 hours of heat on low. Heeding user feedback, Milwaukee redesigned the hood to stay close to the ears and away from the eyes, moved the battery OUTSIDE the jacket, and reinforced the pockets. The new line will debut in August, but you may want to wait a couple of months to fire it up…
For those who’d rather layer up than use heated gear, Milwaukee has a new line of Work Gear clothing coming out in August 2016. The base layer is a WorkSkin long-sleeved shirt, designed to wick moisture away from those sweaty spots, and with no shoulder seams for comfort. The outer layer is a hooded jacket made of Toughshell polyester, which is very resistant to abrasion, as they demonstrated by sanding it with 60-grit sandpaper.
Keep That Red Stuff Organized!
Milwaukee offers several options to schlep your tools around, and to keep them handy and organized, both on the jobsite and in the shop. The Jobsite Tech Bag (Milwaukee is giving one away this month in our June 2016 Free Stuff Giveaway), gives pros a secure place to transport and store their tools – and their tech – while working on the jobsite. The new Parachute Organizer Bag was designed to stand up and stay open, offering easy access to everything within, with a zippered exterior pouch for small hand tools, bits and accessories. Both bags are available now.
Coming in November 2016, large and small rolling bags, designed to withstand even the harshest jobsite conditions, will be available. Both the 18” Jobsite Rolling Bag (capacity: 200 lbs.) and the 24” HardTop Rolling Bag (capacity: 250 lbs.) have 6” metal-rimmed all-terrain wheels, the industry’s strongest extendable handle, and reinforced metal skid plates.
Meanwhile, back at the shop, the 60” Mobile Work Station, which is available now, provides a robust cabinet to store your tools and accessories. It’s topped with a thick wooden work surface, which is reversible if it gets too dinged up. The work station sports 12 drawers with 100-lb. soft close slides, has a 22” multi-position metal peg wall for storing frequently used items, and has a weight capacity of 2,200 lbs.
Got more tools to stow? The 30” Steel Storage Chest & Cabinet offers 12 independently-locking drawers, all with 100-lb. soft close slides, to keep your goodies secure. It also sports a pull-out work surface, for reviewing documents, surfing the web, or enjoying a leisurely lunch.
We’ve Hit The Red Line Milwaukee NPS 2016
That’s just a small sampling of what’s new and improved from the folks in red. There are hundreds more redesigned and totally new products we could show you. In the interest of getting this out before Milwaukee introduces their NEXT round of upgrades and new tools, we’ll wrap it up here. We’ll be doing in-depth reviews on many of the products mentioned here in the coming months. Meanwhile, for more information on red gear aimed at fulfilling YOUR needs, check out the Milwaukee Tool website.