Tom Hammel 2017-12-09 03:36:40
CENTER STAGE IN THE LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL OF THE WORLD By virtually every metric, STAFDA’s 2017 Convention & Trade Show in Austin, Texas, was one for the record books. It was the first time the event sold out existing exhibit space in less than a week; had to enlarge the show floor three times (eventually needing two exhibit halls to hold all 650-plus booths), offered 50 by 50- foot island booths, needed room blocks in seven hotels to hold all 4,500-plus attendees; heard more great music and ate more brisket than you could herd into a cattle car. It was also perhaps the fastest STAFDA convention ever. From Sunday’s educational sessions and music-filled Opening Party at Austin City Limits on Sunday, Nov. 12 to the star-studded General Session, first day of trade show and manufacturer hospitality events on Monday, and on to the final day of the trade show and Closing Party on Tuesday evening, time flew by and spirits flew high. There was nowhere near enough time to see all the new products or talk to everyone you had hoped, even with track shoes and an iron will. We had good shoes anyway and here are a few of the new things we saw. One clear trend is toward the Internet of Things and interconnectivity between tools. Makita launched its new Auto-Start Wireless System (AWS) which uses Bluetooth technology to allow specific cordless power tools to control a cordless vacuum system just by “thinking” about it. “Dust extraction today is very top of mind today among dealers and users alike and the AWS system makes that process a little easier,” explained Wayne Hart, Makita’s communications manager. “It uses Bluetooth technology to allow our cordless AWS-equipped model XCV08Z 18V X2 LXT (36V) brushless HEPA filter dry dust extractor to communicate with an AWS-equipped cordless tool.” Initial cordless tools in the AWS-equipped line-up include a brushless 10-inch dual-bevel sliding compound miter saw (XSL04ZU), a 1 9/16-inch 18V X2 LXT (36V) Advanced AVT rotary hammer (XRH07PTU), a brushless 6 1/2-inch plunge circular saw and two 4.5- to 5-inch grinders, one with a slide switch (XAG17ZU) and one with a paddle switch (XAG17ZU). Naturally, more AWS-equipped tools are in the works. “In addition to saving a lot of time going back and forth to turn a vacuum on and off, AWS eliminates cords and reduces noise since the vacuum is trigger-activated,” Hart said. “The response here has been very positive.” Ridgid’s latest take on connectivity enables its new model 240 and 241 24-kN compact press tools to essentially take their own “vital signs” and inform the user. “With a Ridgid Link app that you can get on your android or IOS device, you can connect to the tool to see how many cycles you have made, how close you are to service intervals and the last known location of where the tool was connected,” explained Jim Madden, North American sales manager for Ridge Tool. “These tools both have 1/2- to 1 1/4-inch capacities for ProPress connecting copper and stainless steel and we also now have 1/2- and 3/4-inch MegaPress jaws for steel pipe that are compatible with these compact tools.” DeWalt’s newest techno-tools are its Jobsite Wifi-Access Points (DCT100), which are basically mobile hotspots for the job site. They utilize the user’s existing ISP to provide job site wireless internet coverage. They operate from -4 to 122 degrees and are IP67 rated to protect against dust and water. These units will enhance job site productivity by providing access to 3D models, construction software, RFIs, change orders, punch lists, collaboration tools and photo documentation. Each Access Point runs on 120- volt AC power and has WPA2 encryption for security. Just inside the entrance of the Hilton’s exhibit hall, Jim Hahn, Brighton Best product manager, had a busy show keeping distributors informed of his company’s recent acquisitions. “The big news is our Ironclad glove acquisition, which took place the first week of November,” Hahn told us. “They are officially on board with us here at the booth. It’s a great acquisition and addition to our Proferred product line, which is our brand for everything other than fasteners —power tools, anchors, drywall screws and carbide bits. We are expanding our base of products to really focus on the construction side of the market.” “We just received the cracked concrete approval for our wedge anchors, which puts us on a level with the major anchor companies,” he added. “We are launching those products with the new approval on January 1, 2018. And we have also added a new line of abrasives and an expanded line of drywall and tek screws.” Hahn also informed us that Brighton Best recently acquired two Australian firms. One is a major construction supply company and the other is a pneumatic nailing tool manufacturer with a presence in the Asian market. “The nailer acquisition is so fresh that we haven’t even decided what its name will be when we bring it here to the U.S., but we will be bringing it here shortly. Our company is expanding rapidly and there will be more acquisitions coming, so we are really excited.” Speaking of nailers, bright green fan favorite Grex Tools is also introducing new fastening tools to the U.S. market. “Here at STAFDA we are introducing our new 21-gauge brad nailer, the H850LX,” said Raymond Wong, vice president of Grex Tools. “It shoots from 3/8- to 2-inch brads. Most contractors will have an 18-gauge tool, a 23-gauge tool or both. Ours is a happy medium between them.” Both 23- and 18-gauge tools have their benefits. A 23-gauge tool creates very small entry holes in wood but sacrifices holding power, while an 18-gauge tool provides more holding power but produces larger holes to fill later. Wong is excited about his new 21-gauge tool because it offers an excellent compromise of both small hole size and good holding power with the ability to drive up to two-inch nails. The H850LX also has standard Grex features such as all-metal construction including an extruded aluminum magazine and machined aluminum cylinder and piston and a manually-defeatable lockout mechanism that tells the user when he has 10 nails left in the magazine. Another feature Wong is proud of is the new integrated Edge Guide and track which is designed directly onto the magazine. It allows the user to set a reference point and slide the tool along an edge for precise, blow-out-free placement every time. We hate blow-outs. Reshoring is another trend that is growing in popularity with tool manufacturers. While some companies are justifiably proud of the fact that they have never stopped manufacturing in the USA, others are bringing manufacturing “home” to the U.S. as part of new product categories that had to be outsourced before. “Its always been a strategic initiative for us to bring tool production back on-shore,” said Tyler Brimson, Southwire product manager for hand tools. “We have always made our extension cords and our Seatek clamping line here in the states and now we are stepping into the plier and wire stripper arena and making them here too. These products are 100 percent made in the USA — from the metal forgings to the grips — they aren’t just assembled here, they are made here.” STAFDA perennial Chuck Hotze, vice president of U.S. market development for Omer USA was happily showing off Omer’s premium Italian-made fastening systems and its new Airbox vacuum-in-a-box. “The Airbox air compressor is literally a box on casters,” Hotze explained. “It rolls quietly into a building or home and will not bother the occupants because it is almost silent compared to most air compressors. European safety standards require that tools run at certain decibel levels and since these are made in Italy — as are all Omer tools and fasteners — they meet all standards.” One of the show’s biggest new tool announcements, quite literally, was Skilsaw’s new Super Sawsquatch. This 16 5/16-inch worm drive behemoth weighs nearly 24 pounds and comes with its own stand. What a beast! “This circular saw is designed for timber framing people,” explained Katie White, Skilsaw brand manager. “The trend lately is toward big header beams and this saw will cut 6x materials in one pass with a 6 1/4-inch depth of cut. This saw has a 15-amp motor, a blade-left design and a magnesium foot plate. It is coming in March 2018 and we expect that it will be really well received.” NEXT YEAR: THE VALLEY OF THE SUN STAFDA’s 42nd annual Convention & Trade Show returns to Phoenix, October 28-30, 2018. The valley of the sun was a very popular venue for the 2015 event and members will welcome the chance to enjoy the region’s wild beauty again in 2018. Learn more at www.stafda.org.
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