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STIHL choose CSL for spiral and sortation system

World leading manufacturer and distributer of power tools, STIHL, recently appointed Conveyor Systems Ltd (CSL) to streamline their order picking operation, which was previously carried out manually over a two tier mezzanine floor area. The process involved using pallet gates in conjunction with a fork lift truck to deliver palletised picked goods to the ground floor and was then done in reverse, to replenish stock to the relevant floors. 

STIHL approached CSL with a brief to provide a semi-automated system to accommodate order picking and stock replenishment over two floors, with a fully reversible capability. They also required the ability to stop product between floors for consolidation. The challenge for CSL was to deliver a system that was both space efficient and featured a ‘bolt-on approach’ for future integration to the new WMS that would include Bar code reading, moving this forward to a fully automated system.

Due to the range of small items and spare parts being handled within this order picking application, all goods are transported in conventional totes. This provides uniformity and is a perfect fit for CSL’s range of standard tote conveyor systems and spiral elevator/lowerator. 

CSL took a unique approach to combine a space efficient product that required no additional guarding or complicated controls – incorporating two spirals, one stacked upon the other.  In essence they are two machines, operating as one solution, providing an infeed and outfeed from the first floor and delivering to either the ground or second floor using the same common conveyors.

From the second floor, totes are loaded onto a conveyor and transported down to the first floor via the top spiral lowerator. Here, a manual sort determines whether the tote requires removal for order consolidation or placing onto the next conveyor and spiral lowerator to be taken to ground level, where another manual sort takes place.  On completion of orders, the finished totes are presented to a transit conveyor to be transferred to the end of line packing operation.  Stock replenishment operates in reverse.

CSL provided the full turnkey conveyor project including control, installation and commissioning of the wide range of packages.

STIHL Group

The STIHL Group develops, manufactures and distributes power tools for professional forestry and agriculture as well as for garden and landscape maintenance, the construction sector and the demanding private user. STIHL distributes its products through its network of 40,000 Approved Dealers in over 160 countries.   The Group has 34 sales and marketing subsidiaries of its own as well as more than 120 importers. STIHL has consistently been the world's top-selling chainsaw brand since 1971

For more information:

Jim Farquhar - Sales Director

Conveyor Systems Ltd. Tel: 01283 552255 / email: [email protected], or vist: www.conveyorsystemsltd.co.uk

Flex 18v Recip Saw – A Welcome Addition to the Flex Cordless Range

Aimed at: Pro users who need cordless flexibility to demolish and cut. 

Pros: A powerful and flexible cutting friend- just chose the right blades for success. 

Too many years ago than I care to remember, I reviewed a recip saw newly arrived from the US. After using it a bit I showed it to some tradesmen, who almost universally dismissed it. They told me it was too heavy and clumsy (no 18v Li ion cordless then!) but look around now on sites and recip saws have been wholeheartedly adopted – especially by window fitters and first and second fix carpenters. This is just because they are VERY useful tools – doing things that others can’t. And now with a variety of blades that will cut timber, steel etc etc they are assured a place in the van.

Many things have changed in the intervening years, like SDS blade fitting, lighter weight and compact versions for use in tight corners. But the real revolution in the last few years are the cordless recip saws with enough punch to do the job. Enter the Flex RS 29 18.0!

This tool is part of the new 18v range from Flex of Germany. It too, takes advantage of the advanced 18v battery system that Flex has launched a few months ago. The system is designed to prevent battery packs from overheating during use and safe from deep discharge, thus ensuring longer battery life and reliability. The diagnostic charger is unique too – the only one I have seen that uses an LED screen to count down the minutes to “fully charged” so that workers can keep track of the battery power available.

 

Flex tools are aimed at professionals and are generally sold through trade outlets, and it seems that, these days, professional power tools need to be presented in stackable boxes. Accordingly, the saw arrived in a smart black L-Boxx with discreet Flex logo. A custom insert held the tool securely in transit and included in the box were two battery packs, a smart charger and a pack of blades.

I had lined up several jobs to do with the Flex RS 29 – namely cutting up some old uPVC window frames, removing another frame and then a bit of not-so-gentle pruning of a quince tree that is slowly taking over a corner of the garden and annoying the neighbours. These jobs are perfect for a recip saw, especially a cordless one, because they demonstrate how the saw can jump from one job to another by simply changing to a suitable blade.

For some reason recip saws are always heavy. Maybe something to do with the recip mechanism hidden in the nose of the saw, and at around 3.6 Kgs with battery pack, the Flex feels quite chunky. However, because of the nature of recip cutting, you don’t really want something too light because you need the weight to keep the saw stable and in the cut.

The rear part of the saw is in familiar Flex red with a black and red battery pack (2.5 or 5Ah) slotted onto the end of the main handle. A comfortable and well-designed rear handle has enough grippy rubber to be comfortable, and the trigger and interlock are well placed for average hands. Speed is controlled via the trigger and is especially controllable at low and high speeds. (0-3100 rpm)  Of course, there is some vibration, as you would expect from a recip saw because of its cutting action. In my view, this vibration is about the same as I have experienced on other recip saws I have used. But it is not the kind of tool that I would use all day so you probably need not worry too much about vibration levels.

 At the “business end” we have very robust housing covered with a slightly rubberised black plastic coating. Some tradespeople who tried it liked the bulkiness as it gave them something to hang on to. In truth, I found it pretty much the same as any other recip saw I have used and the design allowed my left hand to guide and aim the saw accurately where I wanted it to cut.  Also on the “nose” of the saw, are the tool holder lever, the front shoe adjuster and the orbital stroke switch. I also liked the inclusion of a bright LED light right on the front end where it does a good job of illuminating the workpiece should you need it.

A good blade is worth the money on a recip saw and I started with a fairly fine-toothed metal cutting blade to cut up the couple of old uPVC window frames that needed dumping. I had set aside about twenty minutes for the job because they were large frames and I have a small car. The Flex was so efficient that I finished in fifteen minutes. Both plastic outer frames and internal steel strengtheners of the windows were cleanly cut without drama.

On another day with a bigger toothed and longer blade I tackled the quince tree – again I was very happy with the rate of progress. In the end, most of the tree was taken down to ground level simple because it was easier and I had a few encouragements from my neighbour to get rid of it completely.

I also ended up using the Flex on site to cut through the rusted screws holding the ply roof of a brick built shed and then cutting up the ply into sizes small enough to fit in my car. Demolition is truly the forte of recip saws and this tool has no reason to feel ashamed of its performance.

Some specs might help put all of the above into a real context. The retail price is around £110, so it is very competitive for a “real” trade rated tool. The RS 29 will cut 18mm thick metal, 100mm metal pipes, 200mm plastic pipes and 180mm thickness of wood – basically pretty well the sort of things that the average worksite will throw up.

In my view, the Flex RS 29 18 covers all the bases and the Flex 18v cordless system is as well thought out as most of the competition – so for a competitive price you will get a capable tool with a future. 

 

Fein, Starlock and Me - The Future of Oscillating Tools?

The new Starlock Technology from Fein, is set to change the way Oscillationg Tool users go about their work.

The Fein Company, based at Bargau, near Stuttgart, in Germany, is most famous for its MultiMaster range of oscillating tools. I use my Fein MultiMaster regularly and in my view it is the best “get out of trouble” tool around. So when talk of a new “Starlock” system gathered pace, I was intrigued – how could the development of the famous Fein “Multi” Machines be moved even further on?

Jointly developed by Fein and Bosch, the Starlock system will be fitted onto all Fein oscillating power tools in the coming months. Current Fein and other brand oscillating tool users need not fear - the new Starlock system is backwards compatible with older tools.

There are several areas in which the Starlock range is different. Engineering logic tells us that in order to achieve the most efficient cutting, scraping etc, the connection between the tool and the blade has to be made as tight as possible, so that any oscillating movement is translated straight to the edge of the cutting blade and not lost in slackness or free movement. The Starlock system has introduced a “dish” into the blade fitting that has corners similar to a socket or ring spanner. These engage with the head of the tool and enable the blade to be held securely without any play. Fein has put some figures on it: - in their tests the new system has proved to be up to 45% quicker for the new Supercut and 35% quicker with the new MultiTalent and MultiMaster.

Making a revolutionary new blade fitting system is not easy if you want to ensure full backwards compatibility with your own machines, as well as ensuring that the new system will fit other brands of oscillating machines. Accordingly, Fein has introduced three new classes of cutters, Starlock, StarlockPlus and StarlockMax.

Through the new coding into performance classes, FEIN ensures that only the accessory that matches the performance of the machine can be clamped on, thus preventing overloads. The Starlock covers the lower performance range and is compatible with all FEIN oscillators and common multi-function tools on the market. StarlockPlus works perfectly with all oscillating power tools from FEIN and all multi-function tools with a StarlockPlus mounting. StarlockMax is the right choice for very powerful oscillating power tools, such as the FEIN SuperCut Construction, and all multi-function tools with a StarlockMax mounting. Accessories for lower performance classes can also be used on tools with more power. Current SuperCut users will require an adaptor to fit Starlock blades, a minor compromise to allow access to larger, more readily available accessories.

Revolutionary Blade Mounting

For me, the technologies highlight  definitely the new blade mounting system on the new range of Fein oscillating machines. Instead of using a mushroom-head pin that was pushed through the blade fitting and held securely by the QuickIN system, the user simply pulls a lever on top of the machine and a pair of spring-loaded clamps grab hold of the cutter and when the lever is returned these grip the Starlock cutter securely, without any play, onto the machine. The spanner-like recess helps guide the cutter into place and the whole thing works so smoothly that blade changes are possible in about three seconds. For a bit of fun I placed a row of blades on the demo bench and there is now a video of me out there somewhere, changing 3 blades in less than 10 seconds. I am definitely looking forward to giving this system a thorough testing when I get my hands on one of the new machines.

Innovation – The Key to the Future?

I am sure that many UK users will be just as impressed with the Starlock system and furthermore, how Fein operate as a company.  

I am always pleased when I witness a way of doing business other than the inevitable “bottom-line” thinking of margin cutters and cheap and cheerful manufacturing that seems to be the most common way nowadays. Above all else, it is a sustainable method – and who wouldn’t want a quality, sustainable set of tools to work with?

To see my review on the Fein Cordless Multimaster, click here. For more information on Fein, please visit fein.com

Flex CHE 18 EC SDS Hammer-Prepare to be Surprised

Aimed at: Small trades and those who need a compact and capable machine. 

Pros: Very good, even in very hard materials, and the battery lasts well too. 

Why Join the Cordless Party?

With so much competition in the cordless power tool market, it would seem that anyone wanting to join the party is either foolhardy or determined to prove that they can offer a really good alternative to other brands. Flex falls into the latter category, although the company has a long history of power tool manufacturing in Germany and, indeed, bringing many innovations to market. Its world-leading “Giraffe” wall sanders are a classic example.

Cordless tools also bring another big factor into play since the choice of battery platform is the biggest decider in what tools may be bought in the future. So, anyone wanting to join the cordless competition has to be sure that they have something different or extra to add to their tools in order to persuade buyers to make the initial purchase of a brand.

Flex has done a lot of homework and research, and in my view, has come up with a genuinely unique system for its cordless battery cells that will not only help the tools to perform better, but will add significantly to the range of cordless battery technologies out there.

The enemies of Li Ion

In an article I read recently, it was pointed out that the real enemies of cordless batteries are deep discharge and heat build up during operation. An overheated battery pack will deliver much less than its stated capacity and forced “overheating” breaks can cost tradespeople valuable time. The answer to these issues is to build in electronic controls to tools, battery packs and chargers so that they all work together to prevent them. How manufacturers program these into their tools will always vary and of course how end users treat the tools is always an unknowable…?

Solutions

Flex has joined the cordless competition with solutions on all three fronts. Firstly, a patented system of “Keep Cool” technology that helps to keep batteries cooler in order to deliver maximum power for longer. Secondly, a unique diagnostic charging system uses an LED display to inform users exactly how long the battery charge will take amongst other things. Thirdly, the smallish, but growing, range of German-designed and developed cordless power tools have electronic controls built-in. These controls are unique to each type of tool to take account of the way in which each tool uses power. For example a cordless drill/driver does not have the same power usage profile as a reciprocating saw and therefore the electronic controls will respond to maximize power delivery and battery life.   

The above may be a long introduction for a power tool review – but the question in my mind when I tested the 18V CHE SDS Hammer was whether the new Flex cordless technology would make a difference.

I will immediately confess that my answer is yes – this little Flex tool is a great tool to use and it seemed to have much longer legs than some other cordless SDS hammers that I have used – but that is just the bare bones of the story.

And Now to Work ..

First impressions of the 18EC SDS are very favourable. Mine came in a stackable custom-fitted Sortimo box with charger and battery pack. On first charge, the charger told me that I needed to top up the battery for 25 minutes, and so it proved. The LED display on the neatly designed charger tells you what you want to know without the usual confusion of a series of flashing lights. By pushing a small button on the front of the battery pack users can get an up to date display of the state of battery charge – four bars is full, one bar is 25% or less.

A bright LED light on the handle base aimed at the chuck end is also a very useful addition for me – I need light when I work nowadays!

Handling – It Feels Good

When I first lifted up the hammer I immediately felt at home with it because the balance is spot-on. The handle is well covered with grippy, vibration absorbing rubber overmould and it slims down towards the bottom for a real ergonomic feel. Forward/reverse is chosen by the trusted method of the push through switch.

Since this tool is going to be driven into hard concrete amongst other things, there is a substantial thumb and forefinger groove right behind the axis of the drill point in order to apply maximum control and performance. There is also a big removable auxiliary handle attached to the front collar. This is covered with grippy rubber too and can be moved to any suitable position by unscrewing the handle a bit. An adjustable bar-type depth control is also part of the handle.

A rotatable switch on the left side of the hammer is used to choose either drilling, hammer drilling, neutral or chiseling mode. This system is easy to use and very positive as each position has a click stop to show that it is engaged.

The battery pack is attached via a substantial slide and is easy to attach and detach. The whole tool can be stood on the battery base because it is flat and right in the middle so it provides a stable position.

Brushless is the Way to Go

Flex’s new range of tools all use brushless motors, and this machine uses all their advantages to do a great job. With a 10mm SDS bit and a hard concrete paving stone I drilled hole after hole without a lot of effort on my part. I would go so far as to say that I was quite astonished by how easy it was to use and how willing the tool felt as I used it – it really seemed to want to get on with the job. Other people I showed it to had a similar reaction – surprised that a drill so compact could feel so capable.

With a maximum capacity of 18mm diameter in concrete, this SDS drill will, I am sure find a number of happy users amongst building and plumbing trades etc. At the moment, it shares a battery platform with a few more commonly used Flex tools like drill drivers, impact driver and a recip saw, but Flex, as we speak, is developing and launching further tools into the range, some of which will be reviewed in these pages.

I am always happy when there is competition in a market, and in my view I think this SDS drill/hammer in particular, and the new Flex range of cordless tools in general, certainly add to the choices we can make. My experiences with Flex tools so far have been very positive and make them definitely worth a closer look. 

To see further FLEX Reviews, click here.

For more information FLEX, please visit www.flex-tools.com

 

 

 

 

 

Husqvarna K3000 - Wet Dampening Dust, but Not Performance

Amied at: Pro Users who need quieter mchines and good dust dampening.

Pros: Powerful and more compact than a two stroke machine, but just as capable.

The Husqvarna K3000 fits into my category of interesting and useful machines since it is a big, powerful disc cutter with an electric motor. The advantages of electric power are many. The K3000 is quieter, lighter than its two stroke equivalents, unpolluting and fume free. Singlehandedly, it banishes loud two stroke motors and their accompanying hassle. No need to pack fuel or a spare spark plug and there is not the hassle of struggling with a starter cord on a cold morning. All I needed to get the K3000 started was a 110V site transformer and an electrical power source.

Electric power makes the K3000 an ideal machine to use in semi enclosed spaces where there might not be enough ventilation to prevent a build up of petrol fumes and it is also useful where irritating engine noise could be a problem. Worksites near schools and hospitals for example, should aim to keep noise pollution to a minimum.

For “dry” dust collection an optional special dust collection shoe can be purchased that fits under the disc, dust is then sucked from there into a powerful industrial vacuum extractor. For this review I had the “wet” version that uses water to dampen the dust, and it also has the side effect of cooling the cutter. Some of the readers might now be scratching their heads and saying that a “wet” dust dampening system and an electric machine really shouldn’t be paired. Husqvarna, of course, has got there before us. The all-plastic body is fully earthed and very well sealed against splashes from the dust damping water. In the UK the K3000 is mostly used with a safety site 110V transformer but in other places there is an earth fault circuit breaker built into the power cord that will cut the current immediately if there is a problem.

Reassuringly, the power cables are heavy and covered with insulating rubber so could withstand both wear and water. Just don’t clean the machine after use with a hose or pressure washer, because that would be pushing your luck and the boundaries of good insulation.   

The K3000 can be used with different types of cutting discs and I was sent a large 350 mm diameter diamond disc for my testing. Mounting it is pretty easy because the socket spanner is included in the kit and there is a handy spindle lock for quick and easy tightening and loosening.

Once the disc is mounted you can definitely feel that the weight of the machine has increased from a dry 8.5 Kgs to over 10kgs. Nevertheless this is still a bit lighter than some of the petrol powered disc cutters on the market and my back certainly noticed the difference after a few periods of working with the machine.

The “wet” option for dust control is quite a clever solution because it is flexible. The K3000 uses a standard Gardena hose connector for the wet system so it is quite possible to connect the machine to a hosepipe with suitably adjusted water pressure and flow to control the dust output. However, not all situations have a handy hosepipe around, so Husqvarna have delivered the WT 15 water reservoir. This tank is a large-ish, translucent 15 litre water tank with a big screw type filler cap that makes it easy to fill via hose or jerry can. Some systems that deliver water for controlling dust use air pressure created by the user having to vigorously pump to create the air pressure needed to drive the water to the machine and the disc. The trouble with this system is that if the air pressure runs out unexpectedly, the user can be left with no water to control the dust. Or else one has to have an assistant to ensure that some quick work on the pump can be done to start the water flow again.

Husqvarna’s system is ingenious and makes use of the ubiquitous rechargeable Li ion battery pack. Concealed in a robust casing on top of the water tank is a place where a small water pump, powered by the battery, is used to pump water down the 12mm diameter hose to the Gardena connector on the disc cutter.

The charger and battery are stored together in this casing so they should be difficult to lose, and a clever system of winding the hose round the base of the tank makes for easy storage and portability.

Although it is a small diameter, the 12mm diameter hose delivers enough water to the disc cutting edge to ensure that dust is effectively controlled without wasting water. The reinforced hose is about three metres long so the tank can be positioned safely away from the machine and the operator.

A simple push switch on the top of the tank is used to start the water pump. About 40cm away from the rear handle the water hose and power cable are yoked together so that the operator knows exactly where both of them are. Included in this arrangement is a flip switch that is used to control the flow of water. Thus the operator has all the controls near to hand and has no need to return to the water tank to switch off the water, for example.

I tried out the K3000 in both delicate and demanding cutting. The delicate was cutting up a piece of 20mm thick marble into fairly accurately squared pieces. Of course I needed full PPE gear of goggles, ear defenders, appropriately rated breathing mask, hard toed boots and workwear.

Harder work was cutting up some 50mm thick paving slabs that needed adequate support so that the blade could not be trapped or pinched.

I can’t say that I noticed that the K3000 had any different levels of power than a two stroke machine, but levels of vibration and noise were definitely more comfortable and therefore seemed to make using it safer and more manageable and for the marble cutting, more accurate. The dust management system worked a treat because the water is delivered very close to the point where it is created, so not a lot of it escapes. Given the choice, I think I prefer electric power to two-stroke power, and with the bonus of excellent dust control, the K3000 is a winner.

For more information on Husqvarna, why not check out Peter's review of the Husqvarna K760 Cut-n-Break or alternatively, you can visit www.husqvarnacp.co.uk

State of the art! SWA’s battery-operated crimp tool launched

SWA’s new advanced Hydraulic Crimp Tool is packed with all the features needed to ensure a perfect job every time.

It’s a product designed with ease of use firmly in mind, offering auto cut-off when optimum crimping pressure is reached, a 180-degree rotatable head and an ergonomic grip. Weighing in at only 3.3kg, the cordless tool comes with a pair of high-capacity 18v Bosch lithium batteries. There is even a built-in LED torch light and a useful battery level indicator.

Designed to complement SWA’s extensive current range of crimping tools, the new hydraulic tool is suitable for copper tube terminals from 10mm2–240mm2 and is supplied with a box of 11 hex crimp die sets spanning that range of sizes.

The tool, which is supplied in a sturdy plastic carry case, also has its own battery charger. The SWA order code is BCT10240.

For more information, please visit www.swaonline.co.uk

Hitachi DV18DBXL Combi-The Torque of the Town

Amied at: Professionals in all trades who need a drill with really serious levels of torque for BIG drilling.

Pros: Excellent ergonomics and loads of torque and a 6Ah battery too, for longer working times.

This torquey Combi drill from Hitachi is a brand new, “from the ground up” development, although it would be hard to tell that from just its external appearance. The two key developments on it are the use of a “biggest ever” 6Ah lithium ion battery pack, which is actually the same size and weight as the 5.0ah pack, and a competition-busting 136Nm of “torques”, as Jeremy Clarkson would say.

I have already had a comment from a tradesperson who sniffily told me that trades didn’t need that amount of torque, but I disagree. I seem to have had a few situations recently where I could have done with quite a lot more torque from my drill! For example, using a 75mm hole saw through a bit of 20mm thick hardwood. You may not need the torque often, but when you do, its nice to know its there. Also, with all that torque on tap, the drill seems to work more quietly and responsively – but maybe I am getting ahead of myself.

A quick run down of the Hitachi DV18DBXL proves that the innovations are largely internal – its functions and controls follow a very familiar pattern. The speed sensitive trigger is large enough for a gloved finger and the forward/reverse function is via the push through switch above it.

Behind the quality metal- bodied 13mm chuck, the large collar for changing torque settings is large and easy to grasp and therefore easier to adjust. It has 22 torque settings as well as drill and hammer modes. A slider switch on top of the ABS body casing selects slow or fast motor speeds.

But I think that what users will notice is the very ergonomic handle that the drill boasts. I think it is genuinely comfortable to hold and provides very good grip, especially at higher torques. My feeling was that the designers have made the grip a bit smaller and slightly more hand-shaped to give the level of comfort needed.

Below the handle there are several important features. Not least of these is the 6Ah battery pack, which has a flat base so the drill can be stood on it.

The rails for sliding the battery packs are robust and the battery slides easily on them. The spring-loaded buttons for releasing the battery pack operate positively as well.

On the base of the handle is a bright LED light aimed at the chuck. This switches on and off automatically, and is definitely not a gimmick or “me too” as anyone working in the semi dark or in enclosed spaces will tell you.

Just behind the light is a battery charge indicator so that users can know when to charge up.

There is the customary reversible belt hook too, probably only usable if you have a proper weight-bearing belt round your waist.

The small RFC logo on both sides of the motor housing stands for Reactive Force Control – a posh name for a sophisticated safety clutch. Basically, should the drill bit or whatever, become stuck in the material, the RFC electronics will cut in and stop the motor before the operator breaks a wrist or fingers (with 136Nm of torque on tap it is best to be wary)

The electronics will also cut in to protect the combi from heat build up, battery overloading and deep discharge, as well as maximizing the torque usage, speeds etc of the new brushless motor.

What was a big surprise for me was that this Hitachi combi comes with a 37cm long auxiliary handle. This handle screws into either left or right hand side of the alloy gearbox housing on the front of the tool. The “hand” end has an ergonomic handle with big flanges to prevent hands from coming off it.

I confess that I thought that the length of the auxiliary handle was a bit over the top when I saw it, but when I started testing the torque available from the combi, I realized that there would be times when I would need it.

Unfortunately, because of the demand for sample tools to test, I had a relatively brief window in which to try it out, but I did my best. In the past I have found that some drills I regularly use are unable to drill holes in hardwood when using the three-fluted spiral “speed” drills on the market. In fact, I have often managed to stall a drill bit into the material just past the pilot screw. No such trouble with the Hitachi DV18DBXL – it eats such stuff for breakfast. I drilled 25mm diameter hole after 25mm diameter hole, through 30mm thick, dry and hard oak with the drill not even breaking into a metaphoric sweat. It really has so many guts that you will like having the long auxiliary handle to help control the torque effect.

While it might not look like it because it retains the current Hitachi look and livery, the DV18DXBL is in fact a deliberate move into a new era of drilling by Hitachi.  Using a new and powerful brushless motor and a 6Ah battery pack, there is a focus on compact power that uses the latest electronics to deliver maximum performance for the end user while reducing energy sapping heat from both the motor and battery packs.

The pairing of the 6Ah battery packs and brushless motors maximizes power and run times without the expected extra weight – the new battery packs weigh the same as the “old” ones. Hitachi also assures us that there will be full compatibility with every “slide battery” from 1.5 to 6Ah, and that chargers will be similarly compatible. Charge times will of course vary from old to new, with the new battery packs expected to charge in about 35 minutes.

But even better is that Hitachi intends pricing for the new drill to be VERY competitive. We users will not know the exact pricing details until the launch of the drill in February – but I am sure it will be a pleasant surprise.

For more information on Hitachi Power Tools, please visit www.hitachi-powertools.co.uk

Fein Cordless Multi Master + Video Review - All the Capability of Mains with the Portability of Cordless

 

Aimed at:- Pros and Canny Amateurs who need the cordless convience of a good multitool.

Pros:- The Cordless verision does what the corded one does alongside a good control of vibration and noise. 

I know that there is a lot of brand loyalty out there when it comes to power tools, and manufacturers now have a big advantage because the major brands of cordless tools mostly have a battery platform that fits all the other cordless tools in their ranges.  But, in my chats to people in the trade, there seems to be common consent that Fein still has the advantage when it comes to making oscillating Multi Tools. There is still something in the “Original and Best” slogan that apparently makes sense to end-users.

With Fein’s launch of a new version of the corded MultiMaster a while ago, that had noticeably much less noise and vibration, the goalposts moved significantly. And now that the cordless AFMM18 is on the market Fein MultiMaster users have a significant choice. Perhaps a difficult choice to make?? Corded or Cordless?

Left to myself I would have both versions, but then I am greedy and could be accused of being fussy too. In truth, there is a fraction of difference in the weight, handling and size of the corded and cordless models – the Fein Engineers have done a great job ensuring that the balance and ergonomics of both tools suit their power sources. In my view, either tool is a good choice, but if you have any other cordless Fein tool, then perhaps the cordless AFMM18 would be a good choice to take advantage of the battery platform.

The “working” end of the AFMM18 is almost identical to the corded Multi Master and therefore includes Fein’s rather good system of isolating the oscillating movement, and its accompanying vibration, from the body and the hand of the operator. My own experience of the vibration and noise levels from this tool are very positive. I have no official measures, but I did feel comfortable doing several hours worth of sanding of exterior window frames. The stop/start nature of the work means that your hands don’t ever really feel uncomfortable.

I am always a little chary of the “Quick-in” lever on the top of the machine. The “Quick-in” idea is a good one, because the old system of hex keys was very slow, but some users have complained to me that it can trap an unwary finger as you snap it down to hold the working cutter in place. This is no longer the case. Although it still sounds very snappy, in fact the composite lever has lost its spring loading as it reaches towards being at right angles to the body, so fingers are not really in danger as the system snaps firmly onto the cutter.

On the body, the black rubber overmould that provides good grip and some protection from vibration is sparing but well placed so that the palm of the hand is where the grip is. There is a simple thumb operated slider switch for off/on that is perfect to use, and a few centimetres behind that is the 6-position knurled wheel switch for selecting oscillating speeds. Again, simple and efficient. With an oscillating speed range of 11,000 to 18,500 /min there is enough of a range to sand and cut effectively, as well as work carefully at low speeds on sensitive operations. I would say that in my experience of the tool, this speed control was one of the key features of the tool that added to its usefulness.

Placed carefully for balance on the rear of the machine, is the battery pack. The kit I was sent for review had two 2.5 Ah packs with it, and frankly I found that they lasted long enough for me not to hanker after a bigger 5Ah battery that would last longer, but also be heavier. Fein has one of the simplest and most robust battery pack mounting systems on the market which I like a lot, as I hate fiddling with buttons that you have to squeeze in on each side to release the battery. The new battery packs are very slick looking with a black base colour and Fein Orange stripe, but more importantly the right side of the battery pack houses a system of four lights that indicate the state of battery charge. Also important in avoiding deep discharge, the enemy of Lithium Ion, a continuous red light will show when the battery needs a charge urgently and a flashing red light says “charge me NOW! although the electronics will not allow the tool to operate on a dangerously uncharged battery.

The charger is compact and the series of lights indicate very clearly the state of the battery. A fan will cool the pack if it is too hot to charge and it usually takes about 40 minutes or so for a full charge.

As is recognized by oscillating tool users, they can do jobs that other tools can’t, and although I do use the delta sanders sometimes, the things I have found that they are best at is blind cuts through surfaces, slicing the bottoms of door frames when fitting flooring, cutting out old grout from between tiles and scraping off old adhesives. This cordless Multi master does not disgrace itself performing any of these functions. For some reason, maybe because I am developing a steadier hand, I found the tool easier to control especially when plunge cutting.  The correct choice of cutters is vital and there is now a huge range of accessories available. Included in the kit is a scraper, a delta sander and sanding sheets, a semi-circular wood blade, a straight wood blade and a straight wood and metal blade, but in my view the carbide coated cutters are also a must for me.  

A quick word about the box – like all Fein boxes they are well laid out, have ample space for bits and pieces and the moulded polystyrene inner will hold the tool safely and firmly while in transit – easy to pack too and carry too.  

When I compared noise and vibration levels between mains and cordless they were so similar that I am sure that a blindfold test would not be able to tell which is which. Suffice to say, working up a ladder for example or on mains-free worksites, the AFMM18 is a perfect solution.

For more information on the Fein Multimaster, please visit www.fein-uk.co.uk

New Panasonic Brushless - Ultra Compact and Very Good

It’s not a coincidence that Panasonic cordless tools have a very dedicated group of followers. In my experience, Panasonic tools are not only advanced, they are also very good with a number of features that set them outside the ordinary – like the TOUGH TOOL IP system that protects tools and batteries both mechanically and electronically. Having seen a few very well used examples on worksites, I think they are up to the job.

However, life and cordless tools move on, and the launch of two new compact brushless drills from Panasonic now catches my attention. Having got just about everything else, it seems that end users are demanding compact size as well, and the new Cordless Impact Driver EY75A7 and Cordless Drill Driver EY74A2 are about as compact as currently possible. I can almost see the Panasonic fans queuing up to get a look at them at the next trade show!

I started with the impact driver – and first impressions really do underline just how compact it is - just 120 mm from rubberized rear end to compact hex chuck and a shade over 240 mm tall, standing on the new 18v 5Ah battery pack. With the optional 18v 3Ah pack it is only 230mm tall and also correspondingly lighter. An option that will definitely appeal to kitchen fitters. 

But it does not feel like a tiny tool – Panasonic has made the handling exemplary with a good balance and a textured grippy rubber overmoulding that covers the main handle and the base. Elsewhere on the tools, subtle patches of the new black “carbon fibre look” make it look ultra professional and modern, and with a few rubber “bumpers” on key parts of the housing, the whole should be able to take a few knocks.

The compact size is largely made possible by the all-new brushless motor developed by Pansonic. It is clearly powerful and smooth and raises the bar for other machines.

Panasonic likes to keep users informed about the state of the battery charge and to provide info there is a panel at the bottom of the main handle that indicates charge levels as well as impact speeds, a switch for the bright LED light under the chuck, and finally, a temperature warning for battery and electronics. 

Some changes are under the skin, so to speak, and Panasonic has improved the hammer, bearings, switches and anvil in order to ensure that the driver is up to heavy and sustained use. I can’t test the long term, but I had no difficulty driving the longest and thickest screws in my toolbox (85 mm) into dense Indonesian hardwood like it was butter using the EY75A7.

A new “self-drilling screw mode” automatically switches the rotation speed from high to low when smaller screws are used (15mm or less) so that they do not get overdriven or broken by the sheer power available from this motor.

Rather belatedly it seems to me, some end users have come round to the notion that bigger Ah battery packs aren’t always better. On smaller jobs, having a lighter and more compact battery pack makes sense because the tool can fit into smaller spaces and the effort of lifting the extra weight of a bigger battery saves muscle power and helps prevent fatigue.

Not only will this and most other Panasonic cordless tools take the new 3 Ah lithium ion battery pack, but they are also dual voltage - 18v and 14.4v. Clearly, there is no excuse for older battery packs to be abandoned and at a stroke Panasonic has ensured that users get the best use out of their battery packs – old and new. However, the advantages of the newer battery packs are considerable, with a working life of up to 250% more than the original Li Ion ones.

I feel as though I can almost guarantee a positive response from end users after they have tried this little machine. I liked it a lot and it would easily become one of my favourite tools – one of the ones that you reach for first.

Cordless drill drivers are expected to be workhorses on site and in the workshop and I do see them being stretched beyond their capacity sometimes…..???  Hence the importance of Panasonic’s IP system for the users with less sensitive hands and ears. With smart electronics and other tweaks, Panasonic has enabled the motor in the EY 74A2 Drill Driver to deliver more consistent and higher power (more than 70% up compared with previous similar Panasonic models) and I definitely noticed the difference - up to 50Nm of torque can be noticed at the wrists! 

Like the impact driver above, the new compact body has been redesigned for ergonomic handling and it also boasts the carefully designed rubber overmoulding and modern-looking carbon fibre patches on the body. At just short of 190mm long from motor end to chuck and 240mm tall with the 18v 5Ah battery pack it is very compact but feels impressive in the hand- it weighs a not inconsiderable 2Kgs with the battery.

Again, some of the new features are internal or would go unnoticed, but they nevertheless count as improvements. I particularly liked the new Hybrid Switch that has been designed to give increased switch durability as well as a more sensitive touch for users. Starting screws and drilling small holes need a sure but slow speed from the motor and this new trigger design allows users to select with ease by a simple progressive squeeze on the trigger.

The new electronic speed selection allows users to choose speeds when drilling sensitive materials like plastics and metals to prevent melting and scorching. Most will, I am sure, simply use the highest speed most of the time because it matches the jobs that need doing, but occasionally it is handy to have speed options.

Like the impact driver, users will be able to use older and newer 14.4v and 18v Li ion battery packs as well as the more compact 3Ah ones.

It is also comforting to note that features like the belt hook (L and R options), LED worklight and quality chucks are also used on these newer models. So you get the feeling that the new machines still retain a connection with the older ones, but are nevertheless more advanced. Users will be happy to note that these dual voltage machines are compatible with li ion battery packs dating back to 2007. Great that there is no built-in redundancy. I liked this pair of Panasonic machines a lot, and even if you aren’t a Panasonic groupie, they would definitely be worth consideration. 

Aimed at:- Pro users who need compact and powerful (and very well designed) tools with a varients of battery options available. 

Pros:- Little gems, will do the job nicely! 

For more information, please visit https://panasonic-powertools.eu/

 

Metabo KGS 305 Mitre Saw- Accurate, Adjustable and Powerful.

Metabo makes a wide range of mitre saws – from the excellent cordless KGS 18LTX cordless reviewed a few months ago to the powerful mains powered KGS 305 M in this review.

Mitre saws are now an absolute staple tool for both first and second fix carpenters and shop fitters for example. And I, and many other woodworkers, wouldn’t be without one in our workshops either!

The KGS 305 M is BIG – the box it was delivered in filled up most of the boot of my medium hatchback. It is easy to unpack and there is actually nothing needing doing to it other than setting the saw head to right angles and preparing the hold down in order to start work. It weighs a tad under 20 Kgs so it is still possible to carry around reasonably easily via the carry handle or base. The sliding arm needs to be locked tight and it also helps to make the saw more compact if the saw table is locked at a 45-degree angle.

To show how big the capacity of the saw here are some specs that will help readers: - at 90 degrees the cutting capacity is 305mm by 105mm and even at 45 degrees bevel it will still cut a healthy 215mm by 105mm. Add a 45 degree angled cut to the bevel cut and the capacity is still 215mm by 62mm, so it is clear that the Metabo will handle a good range of jobs. There are mitre saws with bigger capacities out there, but they do not necessarily have the portability and simplicity of the KGS 305.

My ideal mitre saw combines accuracy as well as capacity. Accuracy also means that it has to be easily adjusted because the angle readings can slip out of true during transit in the back of the van or if it takes a knock. This is normal.

When I checked it straight out of the box, both cross and vertical cuts were spot on. Adjustment of both bevel and mitre functions is easy using an engineers’ square and the hex key provided.

Consistent accuracy also depends on the quality of the sliding arm and the slide rails. I found that there was no play in either the saw head or the sliding rails (which, by the way, slid very smoothly on their smooth chrome). It helps that the saw head, upper blade guard and sawhead hinge is made from a meaty alloy casting. The lower blade guard is of transparent plastic with a roller on the bottom to help it run smoothly as it retracts over the cut – definitely a good safety feature.

Another thing I liked was that the power cord is fed through one of the slider rails so it is kept out of the way of the blade and workpieces. Plastic cleats are supplied on each end of the slider so that the cord can be wound around them for transit.

Fixing the sliding head is via a sprung screw knob on the left side of the rails. A pin on the right side locks the saw head down. They are both easy to find, because they follow the Metabo pattern of controls picked out in red. A horizontal pull handle with motor trigger and safety paddle switch is nicely placed for easy working. On the handle too, are the laser and worklight switches. Both of these lights are improvements on previous models because they are placed where they are less likely to pick up excess dust and are much easier to clean. Both lights are bright enough to be useful in indoor working conditions and I particularly liked the light spread of the worklight – it helped my aging eyes!

Dust collection on mitre saws tends to be an imperfect science because of the way they work, but this function has also been improved on by directing the dust via a flexible rubber port. The smallish dust bag fills up very quickly, so it shows that much dust is being collected, but for better performance the saw needs to be connected to a vacuum extractor pipe that is fitted onto the top of the sawhead. This will prevent clouds of dust in the workshop or worksite, but there will still be dust in the air – so a dust mask is definitely needed.

Standard movements like mitre and angle cutting are quick and easy to achieve using the required adjustment levers. I recommend that the bevel adjustment is always double checked for tightness because the saw head can be dangerous if it slips sideways during use.

There are two table extensions – one on each side of the saw blade. The right hand side one has a built-in stop for repeat cuts. They are easy to slide into place by simply undoing the tightening knobs on the base. They do provide a greater level of support for the workpiece, but for users consistently handling pieces longer than a metre or so I would suggest a solid mitre saw stand, or, at the least, a couple of robust trestles and a thick piece of ply to make a table on which to secure the saw.

The KGS 305 M comes equipped with a 56 tooth TCT blade that is good for general purpose use – it leaves a very smooth, almost planed finish when used with care on both hard and soft wood. Plastics and non-ferrous metals will need specialist blades fitted.

Although the motor has a goodly 1.6kW output of power, it runs smoothly once started. The motor advertises its power by starting with a bit of a roar and a jolt. If I could suggest one improvement it would be a soft start option.  

In the past I have cut big softwood beams up to 220mm wide and 100mm thick on the KGS 305 M and I couldn’t help but be impressed by the ease with which the job was done. Many buildings on the continent use big laminated beams on their roofing structures, so there is no need to guess why Metabo has the KGS 305 M in its saw line up.

In my workshop all I could find that would even vaguely test the cutting power and accuracy was a 150mm wide 70mm thick lump of hard Indonesian hardwood. The blade powered through with ease and accuracy and left a pretty smooth planed finish, despite some sparks from some silica trapped in the grain of the timber.

Aimed at pro users, this saw will deliver in spades. It is, perhaps, not as sophisticated as some on the market, and the price tag reflects that, but it sure delivers on capacity, accuracy and power. 

Aimed at: Pro site chippies, would be useful in a workshop too.

Pros: - Powerful and practical with good specs for cutting big workpieces.

 

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