We have learned that Milwaukee has decided to discontinue their new Shockwave Matrix Carbide screwdriver bits. They will continue to honor the lifetime tip warranties for the immediate future.
Shockwave 3.0 impact-rated screwdrivers bits and other impact accessories are NOT affected by this.
In my opinion, this is unfortunate but not very surprising. Milwaukee’s Matrix Carbide fastening bits faced some difficulties from the start. When I first learned about the product line, I anticipated that there could be some breakage incidents with the Matrix Carbide bit holder, which is designed to only be used with screwdriver bits and not nut drivers or socket adapters. Would it be clear to users that there could be an increased chance of breakage if the Matrix Carbide bit holder was used with larger accessories?
What I didn’t realize was that most users would want to treat Matrix Carbide bits as general purpose do-everything impact-rated screwdriver bits. It seems that Milwaukee also didn’t anticipate this.
There are different types of drill bits for use in different materials, and the same is true for saw blades. So the same could be true about impact-rated screwdriver bits, right?
But here’s the problem. Milwaukee Matrix Carbide screwdriver bits are designed for superior wear resistance. Even though they’re supposed to be tougher than non-impact-rated bits, their high hardness doesn’t make them immune to breakage. Even though they’re rated for use in an impact driver, there’s increased chance of breakage when used in other applications, evidently hard joint-type fastening applications.
I’ve been arguing with an industry friend of mine about these bits for a couple of months now, and ended up seeing their side of things. Users are accustomed to being able to reach for a Phillips bit when they need to drive in Phillips head screws. Stray from that, and you’ll only disappoint users.
These bits have higher wear resistance and are said to last far longer in applications where bit wear is the failure mode. In other words, if you drive hundreds and thousands of fasteners in drywall, decking, and certain framing work and wear out your bits, these might be a good choice for you.
But how does a tool brand inform all other users that these bits are not well suited for general purpose use which might see hard-joint applications?
Some early testers experienced tip breakage. Okay, the bits were used in applications other than what Matrix Carbide accessories were designed for. So it’s then the user’s fault? To counter this, the burden would be on Milwaukee to better educate end users or potential buyers. But then how can they do that, with an asterisk on product packaging where it cautions against metal-on-hardwood or metal-on-metal fastening tasks where users could experience a higher chance of breakage?
After Milwaukee sent out added information, I posted about the matter, saying:
Milwaukee designed their Shockwave Matrix Carbide accessories for specific applications. Just like certain fasteners are appropriate for specific applications, Matrix Carbide is specifically designed for applications where bit wear is the common failure mode.
The same is also true for the Matrix Carbide bit holder. Using it with other accessories, such as a 1/2″ nut driver bit, is not advised.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a “one bit fits all” type of product line. For that, look to Shockwave 3.0, the next generation of Shockwave screwdriver bits and accessories.
I also said:
They’re going to have to contend with established user expectations. Users are accustomed to screwdriver bits being one-style-fits-all.
This isn’t the first time that a good-in-theory product experienced market difficulties. Craftsman’s AXS tool box system comes to mind as a good example. I think that tool storage system would sell and thrive far better today than it did more than a decade ago when it first launched.
Everyone, even tool brands, sometimes get things wrong. In this case, I think what happened is that Milwaukee’s expectations for how their Matrix Carbide bits would be used were too different from how end users believed the Matrix Carbide screwdrivers bits and accessories could be used.
Discontinuing the Matrix Carbide accessories lineup seems to be the safest move. Milwaukee could potentially adjust the metal alloy to reduce breakage, but that would diminish the benefits compared to standard Shockwave 3.0 screwdriver bits and accessories. Or, they could seek to adjust end users’ habits and expectations about how the bits could or should be used, but that seems like quite the challenge, maybe even an impossible one.
Or they could not do anything and risk growing dissatisfaction that might negatively influence public opinion about Shockwave accessories in general.
Knowing what I know about Matrix Carbide bits and their development, I would say that the technology and metallurgy are innovative. But, sometimes that’s not enough for a successful product.
Milwaukee has said:
As a solutions provider it is our job to continue developing new, innovative products that make you more productive. It is clear from the feedback we’ve received from users that our approach fell short of what was expected – both in performance and market positioning.
We are going to discontinue Shockwave™ Matrix Carbide and refocus our efforts on developing a solution that better satisfies the needs of users and lives up to our ‘Nothing but Heavy Duty’ promise. All other Shockwave™ Impact Duty driver bits in the market will be unaffected – this decision is only for Shockwave™ Matrix Carbide. We will continue to meet all Lifetime Tip Warranties on Shockwave™ Matrix Carbide for the immediate future.
Here’s some additional Q&A that you might find helpful:
Do you think you’ll rethink carbide in future bit products?
As we pursue new and innovative projects in the driving category we will look at all options.
Should we assume there will be a different version of this product in the future?
We are continuing to evaluate users’ needs and all potential product designs to determine our future product lineup.
What about 3rd Generation Shockwave Impact Duty Driver Bits? Are they still on the market?
Yes. We will continue to provide a full line of Shockwave Impact Duty driver bits.
What are Shockwave Driver Bits (in particular the new 3rd generation ones) good for?
Our Shockwave Impact Duty Driver Bits are designed to offer impact durability and improved wear resistance across a wide range of driving applications.
Can I return my Matrix Carbide Driver bits in for 3rd Generation Shockwave Impact Duty Driver Bits?
If a user breaks or wears out the Matrix Carbide Driver Bits and submits a warranty claim, we will happily fulfill the warranty with Shockwave Impact Duty driver bits if that is what they’d prefer.
Can I get my money back if I recently purchased these?
We will not be issuing refunds but will warranty the product if the user breaks or wears out any driver bits.
Is there another driver bit I can purchase?
We will continue to offer a full line of Shockwave Impact Duty Driver Bits.
How does this impact the lifetime warranty?
We will continue to honor the Lifetime Tip warranty