Combatting the Safety and Productivity Limitations of Light Equipment Through Advancements in Cordless Technology

The electrical process – from rough-in through service – has greatly evolved from where it was even just 10 years ago; and much of this is due to the continued advancements in cordless technology. The jobsite of today has been built upon the shoulders of electrical contractors holding cordless power tools.

Manufacturers continue to push the capabilities of cordless technology to new limits, allowing them the ability to provide new solutions that challenge existing perceptions of what can be powered by cordless technology, such as cut off saws. But while power tools have received considerable benefits from cordless technology, the same cannot be as readily said about light equipment.

Taking on Light Equipment – A Category Plagued by Frustrations

Milwaukee Tool has long been a world leader in the adoption of cordless technology on jobsites. In 2005, the company was the first to create the technology necessary to utilize lithium-ion in power tools and, ever since, it has continued to build on this leadership. For instance, the company’s M18 cordless system created a revolution in cordless power tools, leveraging proprietary battery, electronics, and motor technology to deliver a platform of cordless tool solutions designed from the ground up to exceed the demands of electrical contractors. Additionally, the company is invested in driving the development of new technologies within the industry to ensure that new levels of performance can be achieved without asking users to switch to a new platform.

With this cordless leadership at the helm, Milwaukee knew they had the technology to go places never gone before. They started to take a finer look at user frustrations beyond just power tools, which opened the door to a wide range of issues that continue to be simply accepted as ‘normal’ or ‘part of the job’ on jobsites across the nation: gas maintenance, emissions, noise, and vibration.

After spending more than 7,000 hours with users on over 2,400 jobsites globally, Milwaukee identified that there were massive amounts of opportunity to solve issues and frustrations within the current power sources, and products within the light equipment market.

MX FUEL™ Equipment System

The MX FUEL™ Equipment System is the output of years of tireless research and investment in new technology, ground-up development of new batteries, motors, and electronics – all simultaneously created under one roof. Designed to take on the very same gas equipment that electrical contractors have depended on for years, this system eliminates the emissions, and reduces the overall noise, vibration, and frustrations of gas maintenance that have been deemed acceptable on jobsites for decades – and additionally eliminates tripping breakers, voltage drops, and trip hazards. In order to achieve this level of cordless capability, they needed to simultaneously drive ground-up development of all three cordless technologies at once:

  • The largest and most powerful POWERSTATE Brushless Motor Milwaukee has delivered to-date
  • A new realm of REDLINK PLUS electronics design to achieve and manage extremely high power levels for long application durations
  • REDLITHIUM battery packs that utilize the best cells, electronics, and pack construction to support equipment of this size and capability

Much like the company’s M18™ System, which will continue to deliver power tool solutions for contractors, each of the solutions on the MX FUEL™ System are all tied together on a single, compatible platform that will grow with additional solutions over the years to come. For electrical contractors, the first set of solutions on the MX FUEL™ System are designed to take on some of their biggest challenges:

MX FUEL™ Handheld Core Drill –

Coring is, arguably, one of the least exciting applications electrical contractors face – and quite possibly among the most challenging. The sheer power of the machine and unpredictability can make for hazardous situations, particularly when coring handheld.  Milwaukee knew this was the first problem they needed to solve. By implementing a patented clutch design that engages sooner, the MX FUEL™ Hand Held Core Drill sends back less torque to the user which means they can maintain control even in the toughest bind-up situation. Additionally, Milwaukee engineered the drill with AUTOSTOP™ Technology that helps maintain control if the bit is bound.

“When you're running something horizontal into a wall, that's a lot to handle. So you need a lot of upper body strength and you don't want something that's going to punch you in the mouth and take you off the ladder,” said Bruce Seilhammer, Group Manager for SECCO Inc. “This clutch mechanism solves that.”

Through the advanced motors, electronics, and battery technology behind MX FUEL™, this drill also can deliver the same drill rates contractors have expected from AC corded products. While AC products are capable of outputting plenty of power, many contractors do not utilize the tools at full power for fear of tripping the breaker or generator. The MX FUEL™ battery outputs more power than a standard wall outlet so users can finally use the full capability of the tool.

MX FUEL™ 14” Cut-Off Saw –

When cutting through asphalt or concrete to expose a line or system for repair or install, contractors have long had to deal with controlling this loud, vibrating machine and dealing with the maintenance of gas or oil. MX FUEL™ technology eliminates the engine, and thus eliminates a lot of the noise and vibration. In addition, the lack of fumes means the saw can be used indoors and the 5” cut depth allows contractors to break open the area faster and easier than a smaller depth.

MX FUEL™ Breaker –

The weight, vibration, lack of portability, potential to trip breakers, and hassle of extension cords were immediate concerns during Milwaukee’s research, which led to it being one of the first light equipment frustrations they tried to address through cordless technology.  With no cords, the MX FUEL™ Breaker hits harder than most other breakers and delivers a faster BPM for the fastest demolition rate. At up to 10% lighter than any other breaker, and delivering 70% less vibration, it helps reduce fatigue and the risk of repetitive strain issues.

“The experience [of using a breaker] will change,” said Tom Alexander of Atkins & Stang. “With an air hammer, you’d have to [work] with the compressor, make sure the compressor is working, make sure fuel is in the compressor – and now you’ve got batteries. Get the battery, go, and you’re done.”

MX FUEL™ ROCKET™ Tower Light/Charger –

During shutdown operations or in any remote application, electrical contractors have long had to turn to AC powered indoor lighting products that take significant time to setup and tear down and require tethering to a cord despite safety risks. Unfortunately, outdoor lighting is limited too, as large tower lights and balloon lights predominantly rely on generator power. By leveraging the highest capacity batteries available on MX FUEL™ and deepening investments in LED technology and progressive optics, the MX FUEL™ Tower Light/Charger fills a gap in the light equipment market by providing light in areas where it’s difficult to get tower lights due to their massive size. Delivering up to 27,000 lumens and standing 10 ft tall, the light can be set up in seconds and has outriggers for leveling – eliminating the need find a flat space for AC power lighting outside. 

MX FUEL™ CARRY-ON™ 3600W/1800W Power Supply

5000W+ generators are loud and heavy, and while 2000W suitcase inverter generators certainly address the size issue, they still have the same problems as any gas generator. This includes noise, fumes, and long extension cords strewn out to the work area (which can likely cause voltage drop and trip hazards). Milwaukee identified they could not only deliver 1800W continuous power through a cordless solution, but that the inherent benefits of cordless would mean less noise, the ability for users to operate the generator safely practically anywhere, and do it all without the 6 steps of a starting a gas engine.

The Future of Light Equipment

Whereas the new age for cordless power tools began in 2005 with the introduction of lithium-ion technology, the revolution is just beginning for the light equipment market. The continued investments in cordless technology, as seen in MX FUEL™, are now unlocking capabilities in product categories that were once never thought of as viable cordless options.  The ability for cordless technology to now eliminate the emissions, noise, vibration, gas maintenance, and overall safety risks associated with current gas and corded light equipment will undoubtedly have a profound ongoing impact on the safety and productivity of electrical contractors over the next 10 years.

“[MX FUEL] is really going to bring about a lot of safety. It’ll mute a lot of safety issues that were happening with other solutions,” said Spencer Villwock, CEO of IEC. “The tools are lightweight, portable, and this is  going to allow electrical and systems contractors to compete in the areas of projects that they used to outsource or shy away from. It’ll keep them competitive in the marketplace all around.”