Milwaukee’s New Tool Symposium is their annual media event where they show off their latest and greatest tools.
ToolGuyd attended the show this year, and we will be talking a lot about their different tool announcements and hands-on demos inupcoming posts. In the meantime, I wanted to kick things off with a post about the event itself.
This post is an introduction to Milwaukee’ 2016 New Tool Symposium, and will also serve as an index that links to our coverage of all of the new tools as we post about them. Check back here periodically for links to new content.
You can also find all of our Milwaukee NPS16 coverage here, or by searching for NPS16.
Here, I wanted to talk a little bit about the event itself. Since you have probably not been to a media event before – like myself just a few days ago – hopefully you’ll find this part interesting. If you just want to get to the tools already, skip down to the section labeled “New Tool Rotations.”
This year Stuart was unable to attend the Milwaukee New Tool Symposium, so he asked me if I would go in his place. This was the first media event that I’ve attended as a journalist. Back when I was an engineer, I attended trade shows and helped create smaller training programs for users of our products, but we never put on something of this scale!
The actual symposium was last week (June 7-9), but I had set up my reservations with the Milwaukee event organizers way back in March. Stuart had several months to prep me for what to expect.
Before we get into the events of the Symposium, I just want to be transparent about what Milwaukee Tool paid for. Maybe it goes without saying, but I think it bears reminding our readers that Stuart and I try really hard to give you our honest opinions of the Milwaukee and Empire tools we test and write about. Still, you should also be aware that Milwaukee Tool paid the expenses for all of the media people to attend their Symposium.
This means they paid for all the transportation to and from the Symposium (whether it was flying or driving) and between events. They paid for a two night stay in a hotel in downtown Milwaukee, and several meals, from lunch on Tuesday to breakfast on Thursday. The only thing I had to pay for the whole time was my lunch on Thursday, and ibuprofen to ease the headache I had on Thursday morning.
Starting on Tuesday, the first real event was the tour of Milwaukee’s Tool Campus. We were not permitted to take photos past the lobby and museum areas, but Milwaukee shared a few photos for media use, with prototypes and secrets hidden from sight.
I’m not going to bore you with all of the details of the tour, but I just wanted to show you my two favorite areas of the company. My first was the Rapid Prototyping room, shown above. Milwaukee Tool has all the necessary equipment in-house to go from concept to prototype in one week.
They have 5-axis milling machines, EDMs (Electrical Discharge Machining), high-end 3D printers, and other specialized equipment. They can even create their own plastic injection molds, for prototyping tools out of the same type of plastic they use in finished products. Just to name a few other processes, they can hob their own gears, and heat treat shafts.
The second area I really enjoyed was the Rapid Innovation Center, where they prototype new tool accessories. Just some of the specialized equipment they showed us was a tooth grinder, tooth setter, lasers for heat treating, cutting, and etching, heat treating and tempering cylinders, a 160 ton servo press, and roll former. They said they could perform up to 30 different operations at the center.
For instance, if they are prototyping a new type of hole saw, they can machine it right there, cutting out a strip of metal, grinding and setting the teeth, rolling the flat stock into a circle and welding it together and to a base, and then heat treat it.
Milwaukee NPS16 Kickoff Event
After the tour of Milwaukee Tool’s HQ, and few hours to relax back at the hotel, they brought us to the Turner Hall Ballroom for the Kickoff Event. There was a cocktail hour where we were able to chat with other people from the media, and also opportunities to talk with Empire and Milwaukee Tool engineers and product managers that were attending.
I was amazed that many of the guests weren’t talking to Milwaukee and Empire Tool people, so I made the most of my time and picked Rick Gray’s brain (President of Empire) for about 20 minutes, and then I talked to some product managers from the hole saw and Sawzall blade lines until dinner was served.
During dinner I was able to talk to one of the lighting VPs, and after dinner Steve Richman, President of Milwaukee Tool, gave his opening speech. Then it was pretty much time to leave. Having only slept about 5 hours the night before so I could catch my flight, I was ready to go to bed.
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Brushless Tools Expansion
The real meat of the Symposium was the event on Wednesday. It was at the old National Hardware store in downtown Milwaukee. The building has 88,000 square feet of floor space, of which Milwaukee Tool was using 40,000 for their displays.
They broke us into 5 different groups and brought us though five different rotations over the day. The areas were:
- M18 Fuel Expansion 1
- M18 Fuel Expansion 2
- Plumbing & Hand Tool
- Layout, Storage, and Work Gear
The first M18 Fuel Expansion involved a primer about battery technologies, and an introduction to the new tracking and security features of their One-Key tools. Here we were also introduced to the new One-Key version of the M18 Fuel Sawzall reciprocating saw.
In this impressive demo they pitted two One-Key Sawzalls against each other in a contest to see which one would cut through a stainless steel pipe. The first Sawzall was programmed to behave like a regular Fuel Sawzall, while the second was optimized to cut through stainless steel. The Sawzall with customized settings cut through the pipe in almost half the time as the non-optimized tool.
Sorry, I don’t have any video of the demo. I was shooting video of the showdown, but another press member jumped right in front of me as I was filming.
In the second rotation they jumped right into the new tools. First up was the M18 Fuel nailers and miter saw. Stuart has covered the nailers several times, and you’ll see more review coverage soon. The miter saw isn’t out yet, but you can count on us posting a detailed look at it really soon.
Then they herded us right into the new drywall tools – a screwgun and a cutout tool, and from there we were introduced to the new automotive polisher. At each station we were able to get our hands on the tools and try them.
Milwaukee Outdoor Power Tools
The last tools in this section were the M18 Fuel String Trimmer, Hedge Trimmer, and Blower. My favorite was the blower. I use my Stihl gas blower every week to clean up the sidewalk, driveway, and street after I mow the grass and I could easily see myself using the M18 Fuel Blower. It’s almost as powerful, and quiet enough to where I don’t think I would need to wear hearing protection.
Lighting and Accessories
After a short break they threw us right back into the mix with lighting. They brought us into a dark room so filled with fog I was almost choking. I tried taking some photos, but gave up and just took notes instead.
This is the new Radius site light, a 360° area-lighting worklight. Besides having omni-directional and spot modes, it can be run off of either battery power or AC. It even has a receptacle built in so you can chain these lights together in a long string.
And this is one of the few new M12 products, the Rover. It has a spring-loaded clip on the bottom to grab onto studs, pipes, or whatever you can get its jaws around. The spring is surprisingly strong, so it’ll easily hold the Rover where ever you clip it. Milwaukee claims the light is as bright as a 250W halogen lamp, but without the heat.
Power Tool Accessories
After the lighting room, I was on to power tool accessories. They showed many products that were already on the market, such as the Ax Sawzall blades and new Hole Dozer hole saws with thermoset paint, but there was one product I hadn’t seen before – a conduit reamer and screwdriver bit holder combo. The longer bit holder is designed to reach into conduit clips, so you don’t need to keep switching accessories when you are hanging conduit.
In the plumbing tool rotation, the one tool that surprised me was the fluid transfer pump. With this 7.5 gal/min cordless pump you don’t have to worry about dragging an electrical cord around with you in potentially wet situations. This M18 pump is self priming and will automatically shutoff one minute after it starts running dry.
The ForceLogic press tool is used for making crimped copper plumbing connections. It’s 25% lighter than the previous generation and is auto cycle — it’ll finish the crimp once you press the button. It also monitors the battery so that it won’t start a crimp it can’t finish.
The 4-roller design of these new tubing cutters is designed to keep cut from wandering. They also have a pop-out deburring tool.
Layout, Storage, and Work Gear
Empire is coming out with new tape measures, levels and digital levels. The one technology that they showed off was their high contrast E-band vial. It ships in their new e95 Ultraview LED box level. The lighted vials are visible in all lighting conditions, and are water and dust resistant to IP54 standards. The light takes AA batteries, which will last for 32 hours, but with a 2 minute auto shutoff you hopefully won’t have to worry about replacing the batteries often.
With their RedStick premium levels, Milwaukee is going after the high end market. They also have a new vial technology called SharpSite. These high impact polymer acrylic vials are designed to withstand multiple drops.
New Milwaukee fiberglass tapes have steel reinforced fiberglass blades to withstand stretching. They also feature a debris wiper that cleans the tape before it’s rolled up. They had a demo where they were dragging the tape though mud while reeling it in, and the tape didn’t jam up once.
Milwaukee has redesigned most of their workwear to be more durable, and we’ll tell you much more about it in a later post.
One of their brand new product lines caught my attention: rolling tool bags.
You can throw 250 lbs on top of the 24″ hardtop rolling hardtop bag. Skid plates on the back of the bag protect it and the handles when you are dragging it up stairs or a rocky incline. I was really impressed with the pullout handle. This is a bag that’s designed to be abused.
One Key Breakout
The last official event was the One Key Breakout event the next day on the first floor of the National Hardware building. This event was more low key, there was no official Milwaukee employee assigned to herding you around, and you were able to spend as much or as little time at each display as you wanted.
I didn’t waste much time taking pictures, but I did have many questions about One Key I wanted answered. My first major concern was the lack of modes for the drills. Milwaukee says they have been working on this, and will update the One-key software in July to include profiles for twist bits and different materials.
They had a hands on demo where you could try drilling through a stainless steel plate with a 1/4″ TiN drill bit. First, they let you drill full speed and really heat up the bit to the point where it was smoking. Then, they activated the program for 1/4″ TiN in SS, and the bit seemed to be spinning way too slowly, but the bit made it though the plate in the same amount of time and was almost cool enough to touch.
I asked many more questions, and will include them in a future One-Key update post. In the meantime, is there anything that you have been wondering about the One-Key tools and app?
They also still had many of the displays still up from the day before, so I took the opportunity to play with the M12 M-Spector Flex Inspection camera.