New products

Pierlite Colour Select range

The usefulness of trolleys in a DIY move and Nylex has made gardening twice as easy

Three colour temperatures in one luminaire from Gerard Lighting; Kelso small or medium folding trolleys; and the Nylex Sprayer Twin Pack for a simpler gardening experience.

Flexible lighting options

Gerard Lighting's Pierlite Colour Select range offers installers the ability to customise lighting to suit certain environments while carrying less stock, saving valuable space. Each luminaire in this range is designed with three popular temperatures.

The application of the luminaire determines the colour temperatures choice. For residential areas, colour temperature of 3000K and 4000K are the most common, while in commercial applications 4000K, 5000K and 6500K help to replicate natural light and promote work efficiency.

The Pierlite Colour Select range includes:

  • ECO LED Colour Select Batten
  • ECO Colour Select LED Panel
  • Pierlux Colour Select LED Downlight
  • Litelux Colour Select LED Downlight
  • Litelux Colour Select GENII LED Downlight
  • Orion ECO Colour Select LED Oyster
  • Slimline Colour Select LED Oyster
  • Equipment for moving day

    Trolleys are a useful in a DIY move because they enable users to easily move heavy loads safely. The Kelso small or medium folding trolleys have 125kg and 150kg load capacities respectively, and can be folded and stored in small storage spaces in the car or home.

    They feature a lightweight, durable steel frame and flat-free poly-rim wheels.

    The Kelso large folding hand truck is specifically built for moving large furniture and white goods over staircases in a safe and reliable manner. It has a 250kg load capacity, 8-inch flat-free wheels, folding ergonomic handles and a lightweight aluminium frame for extra strength - and can still be folded for easy storage.

    Kill pests with twin pack

    Nylex has launched a 1.5L Heavy Duty Sprayer Twin Pack, giving professionals and garden enthusiasts a convenient solution to maintaining their gardens. "The Nylex Sprayer Twin Pack offers two separate bottles, one for herbicides and one for pesticides, minimising cross-contamination whilst still being compact enough for an effortless gardening experience," explains product manager Alyce Rigby.

    It is the first time the brand has released a dual pack. "To mitigate any confusion for consumers who work with gardening chemicals, the bottles and nozzles are also colour coded and clearly labelled," adds Ms Rigby.

    They have also been fitted with Viton Seals for enhanced durability. "They have a high chemical resistance making them tough and durable, so they can handle a wider variety of chemicals than standard garden sprayers which are fitted with normal seals that can degrade when used with harsh chemicals," she said.


    To read more in New Products, download the latest issue by clicking on the following link:

    New Products - HI News Vol. 4 No.8

    New products

    Boots for professionals

    Improved levels with exact measuring and garden tools with an assisted gearing system

    Crafting an ideal work boot; garden tool set for the sharpest cuts; setting standards for accurate measuring; and creating a pollinator friendly garden.

    Reinventing the work boot

    Boasting an oil and slip-resistant non-marking rubber outsole, the Detroit Boot by Keen Footwear is geared to ensure safety on site in the event of spillage or when faced with wet working conditions.

    For further resistance against the elements, the boots feature a waterproof Nubuck leather upper for comfort and dryness. Coupled with Keen's waterproof breathable membrane, this boot ensures a dry foot and prevents undue sweating.

    The Detroit Boot's durable contoured heel lock will also support and protect. The asymmetrical steel toes minimise the harm done by falling objects or sudden compression.

    There is a dual density compression moulded EVA midsole for better support of the arch, and torsional stability ESS shank for reduced fatigue in a user's calf and foot.

    Digital level technology

    Imex has released the new improved 2018 model of Storm professional digital spirit levels. These highly accurate units in 600 and 1200mm include a 9-measurement recall, shockproof ends, magnetic bases and a 30-year vial guarantee.

    These levels have been built with advanced electronics for precise measuring and are combined with a robust aluminium section. Specific features include:

  • 0.5mm/m accuracy
  • 180° Readout-readable when level is inverted
  • Hold function to transfer measurements
  • Large backlit LCD
  • Measure in degrees, percentages or m/mm
  • Buzzer at 0°, 45°, and 90°
  • Milled edges + magnets
  • Padded canvas bag
  • Pruning pack stays sharp

    Fiskars' PowerGear2 UltraBlade Ultimate Pruning Pack is a four-piece set that includes a pruner, lopper, hedge shear and saw. The PowerGear technology makes yard and gardening easier with an assisted gearing system, designed to greatly reduce tension on a gardener's muscles.

    Providing up to three times more power on each cut, the pruner, lopper or hedge shear will help slice through branches effortlessly and efficiently, even during heavy use.

    The pruner, lopper and hedge shear feature an UltraBlade coating which gives an edge that stays sharp five times longer than non-treated blades. This eliminates friction for a smoother cutting motion and excellent rust resistance for lasting value.

    Shake and rake seeds

    Mr Fothergill's Bee and Butterfly Seed Shaker Boxes contains100g of Shake & Rake mix - enough to cover 20sqm. The seed mixes are specifically selected varieties of flowers combined with vermiculite to aid germination.

    The varieties in both mixes have been selected to attract bees and butterflies to gardens, and provide them with the nectar they need to thrive.

    The bee friendly flower mix contains Calendula, Cornflower, Californian Poppy, Fineflower, Toadflax, Alyssum, Wallflower, Nemophila, Poppy, Marigold African, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Borage, Evening Primrose, Lavender, Native Violet, Swan River Daisy and Sage.


    New products

    Brushless, ergonomic sander

    Environmentally-friendly garden sprayers and fixing tangled trimmer lines for pros

    The Mirka Leros sander is going to change the way that tradesmen work, according to its Australian distributor Tenaru; Nylex sprayers can help reduce single-use plastic in outdoor spaces; a trimmer head and line system can provide contractors with precision and speed; and safety gloves have an added level of cut protection.

    Sanding reaches new heights

    Abrasives specialist, Mirka said its LEROS product is the world's first and only electric random orbital ceiling and wall sander. Weighing less than 3.5 kg, this tool is the lightest wall and ceiling sander on the market.

    Awarded the Red Dot Best of the Best Award 2018 for design, the LEROS features a 180-degree flexible 225mm sanding head and 5mm random orbital movement, which enables it to respond precisely to the operator's movement.

    The dual suction points in the sanding head and full force system allows the complete force to be transferred to the sanding head. This means that there is no need to press the tool against the sanding surface, removing the weight from the user's hands and reducing tiredness.

    The LEROS also has an optional 50cm-long extension shaft, specially designed for sanding high walls and ceilings.

    Sustainable garden sprayers

    Watering products supplier, Nylex, want homeowners to switch to re-usable products when fertilising, and managing pests and weeds. The Nylex 16L Heavy Duty Sprayer can be worn like a backpack so garden enthusiasts can easily cover large areas of tough vegetation in a single session.

    Alternatively, the Nylex 500ml Trigger Sprayer is ideal for spot maintenance of blooms and maintaining indoor plants. Product manager, Alyce Rigby, said:

    Ready-to-use weed and pest sprayers are notorious for being thrown in the bin after mere minutes of use, yet one bottle of concentrate lasts the equivalent of 32 on average single-use spray bottles -significantly decreasing the amount of plastic you throw away.
    These single-use sprayers also cost on average 76% more than buying a good quality sprayer and concentrate, so in choosing an environmentally friendly option you also get more bang for your buck.

    Simple reloading system

    The Gator(r) SpeedLoad[tm] trimmer head and line system is the solution for homeowners fed up with a tangled trimmer line. It eliminates the common frustration associated with reloading trimmer line, and reduces reloading time to 20 seconds or less.

    Designed for petrol-powered line trimmers, the system is made of a self-contained disk of double-ended line. With only two parts, the pocket-sized disk cartridges and the trimmer head, the Gator SpeedLoad is designed for ease of use. The innovative tongue-and-groove disk allows for a quick load double the durability.

    The Gator SpeedLoad Cutting System fits most straight and bent shaft products, including Victa, Echo, Shindaiwa, and other popular trimmers.

    Oregon is now available exclusively through Briggs & Stratton.

    Cut resistant gloves

    The Honeywell Rig Dog[tm] CR gloves feature moulded TPR (Thermoplastic Rubber) pads that are ergonomically placed to provide protection in impact situations along with an ANSI A7 enhanced cut-resistant palm to guard against cuts and slashes.

    The polyurethane (PU) slip-resistant palm features EVA foam pads for added comfort and some vibration relief. Hi-Viz Spandex(r) fabric stretches for flexing to help reduce hand fatigue.

    Hook and loop tab closure allows the wearer to tighten or loosen cuffs for a more comfortable and secure fit. The gloves are fully washable which helps to limit bacterial growth.

    Applications include rigging, warehouse, mining, mechanical, parts handling fabrication, heavy machinery and construction, automotive, oil industry and railway.


    New products

    Portable solar power

    Perforated plasterboard and Stegbar believes black will feature strongly in bathroom trends

    The Lithium Yeti is a range of portable power stations released by Goal Zero; CSR Gyprock launches Gyptone Flexible Plasterboard; black finishes are available in Stegbar's Grange showerscreens; and Husqvarna promises efficiency and increased performance with its new power cutter.

    Power anywhere, anytime

    Goal Zero has created a new category of portable power in motion, one that provides a safe, clean alternative, to traditional gas generators. The Lithium Yeti range includes the 400, 1400 and 3000 series.

    The Lithium Yeti 400 has real-time usage data via an upgraded display, two AC outputs, three USB ports, and a 12V output for devices designed for car cigarette lighters.

    The 1400 has 1400Wh of power with high-quality, replaceable lithium packs that yield long run times and feature additional monitoring electronics for safety.

    With over ten ports to pick from and 3000Wh capacity, the 3000 is ideal for using multiple devices, and comes with preinstalled wheels and a telescoping handle.

    Curves and contours

    CSR Gyprock has extended its perforated plasterboard range with two new profiles for curved ceilings - Gyptone Flexible 12mm Square and Gyptone Flexible Slotted Minigrid.

    Gyptone Flexible 12mm Square plasterboard consists of eight large square groupings per sheet, each with 400mm x 12mm square perforations at 25mm centres. Gyptone Flexible Slotted Minigrid plasterboard has eight large square groupings per sheet, each with 16 mini grids of six 6mm x 80mm slot perforations.

    Both plasterboard profiles have a black acoustic fabric backing that improves the acoustics of the ceiling.

    Activ'Air is also part of the Gyptone Flexible range. It is a patented technology that converts formaldehyde into non-harmful inert compounds that are permanently locked in the board and cannot be released back into the air.

    Monochrome bathrooms

    Stegbar's Grange Inline Showerscreen and Overlap Showerscreen comes in a new black finish. The sleek lines of the black slim perimeter frame act like the frame of an artwork - allowing the shower fixtures and splashback to take centre stage. Also practical in design, the slim perimeter frame has no hidden corners, making it easy to clean and maintain.

    Expertly engineered, the black Grange showerscreens are available in a range of configurations to suit any bathroom layout. Sleek in design and look, the Inline Showerscreen is a pivot door system developed to withstand everyday use. While the Grange Overlap Showerscreen is a semi-frameless structure with a functional difference - an overlapping pivot door to minimise water leakage.

    The big cut

    The K 770 power cutter from Husqvarna features a 5-horsepower 74cc engine, a 5-inch cutting depth, and may be used with a choice of blades with diameters from 12 to 14 inches.

    It has a vibration-damped chassis, and spring-loaded semi-automatic SmartTension technology that is designed to keep the drive belt at the correct tension. This allows for optimal power transmission, minimum wear and maximum belt life.

    The light weight, effective power-to-weight ratio, reliable start and low vibrations mean less strain and maximised productivity. Suitable for road work and easy to cut in a straight or curved track or close to sidewalk when used with the KV7 Husqvarna cutting trolley.


    New products

    Durable, lightweight axes

    Worx releases a circular saw and a new line of PowerPivot bolt cutters from Crescent

    DeWalt expands into sledge hammers and axes; Worx said its latest circular saw simplifies accurate rip cutting; the PowerPivot bolt cutters boast a double compound action system; and the Wiha e-screwdriver handles time-consuming screw-fastening.

    Axes and hammers from DeWalt

    DeWalt has a new line of seven ExoCore sledge hammers and three ExoCore axes, marking the company's first foray into this category.

    The sledge hammer range is designed to meet a variety of applications, from metal to drywall to driving a punch or chisel. The hammers are available in 6lbs (2.7kgs), 8lbs (3.6kgs), and 12lbs (5.4kgs) models with a 32" handle, and a 4lbs (1.8kgs) model with a 12" handle. A Blacksmith sledge hammer with a triangular head is also available. Each hammer features an efficient strike face and a carbon fibre composite overlay to mitigate damage to the tool.

    The ExoCore Axe range includes a camper's hatchet with a 12" handle, a 3.5 single bit splitter with a 32" handle, and a log splitter with a 32" axes. All of the axes feature a scalloped cutting edge, designed to ensure a deep cut and improved separation.

    Simple, accurate circular saw

    The Worx 20V 6-1/2 in. Circular Saw with ExacTrack can take the guess work out of straight line cutting by incorporating a tracking guide that enables accurate rip cuts.

    Weighing 6lbs (2.7kgs), the new Worx circular saw is compact and lightweight. It is powered by a 20V 2.0 Ah Power Share Max lithium battery and 3600 rpm (no-load) motor.

    It features a rubber overmould comfort grip and a spindle lock for fast and convenient blade changes. As part of the Worx Power Share program, the 20V 2.0 Ah battery is compatible with more than two dozen Worx DIY and lawn and garden tools.

    In addition to the saw, the kit includes a 20V 2.0 Ah battery, a 3-5 hour charger and a 24-tooth, carbide-tipped saw blade.

    More cutting power, less effort

    Crescent (H.K. Porter) has introduced its new line of PowerPivot bolt cutters. Featuring a compound action design, they can provide more cutting power, but require 30% less force to cut than traditionally designed bolt cutters.

    Blades are precisely ground then induction hardened for extended edge life and added ability to cut hard materials. Handles are made of tubular steel for extra strength and have durable rubber grips for added comfort and control.

    PowerPivot Bolt Cutters are available in five sizes with handle lengths of 14, 18, 24, 30, and 36 inches. All have been designed for high performance cutting capacity, both in diameter and hardness of materials.

    E-screwdriver promises fast work

    A new motor assisted screwdriver called the speedE from Wiha promises to halve the time users take to complete their work.

    An electric motor assists with fastening screws up to 0.4 Nm before disengaging to ensure that material is protected. The screw can then be fixed by hand with a deft touch, similar to a conventional screwdriver. An electric ratchet function assists users as they complete fastening.

    Thanks to its electric drive, the Wiha e-screwdriver handles screw-fastening at a rapid rate. This power transmission and torque control in electric mode brings a particular benefit to users for delicate screw-fastenings. An integrated LED light also ensures users are not left in the dark as they fasten screws.

    When fully charged, speedE can fasten electrically up to 800 times without re-charging the batteries.


    New products

    Hitachi cuts the cord on its pin nailer

    A family of Bosch lasers has been released and diamond tip screwdrivers from Crescent

    Hitachi said its cordless pin nailer is set to take carpentry to the next level; the latest lasers from Bosch feature exclusive VisiMax technology which monitors the laser's temperature to ensure maximum diode performance; Crescent screwdrivers allows users to apply greater torque and get jobs done faster; and Lufkin Self-Centering tape has improved comfort and control.

    Battery-powered pin nailer

    The Hitachi NP18DSAL 23 gauge cordless pin nailer is 100% battery-powered. With the lightweight BSL1830C 3.0 Ah Li-Ion battery, this sequential-firing pin nailer can drive 2 to 3 pins per second, shooting approximately 3,000 pins total per battery charge.

    Brand new to market, it is Hitachi's first tool to feature the brand's newly patented "No-Push" safety nose tip. Designed to reduce work related fatigue, users simply place the tool nose against their work surface and pull the trigger. This nose design also helps to prevent surface marring.

    Hitachi added a built-in counterweight to virtually eliminate tool recoil. Other user-friendly features on this cordless pinner include a slim nose (for serious accuracy between tight trim grooves), an ergonomic comfort grip handle, and tool body bumpers.

    Three-plane levelling lasers

    Bosch has introduced the GLL3-330CG, GLL3-330C and GLL3-300 three-plane levelling and alignment line lasers for the US market, beginning March 2018. The self-levelling lasers provide one 360-degree horizontal plane and two 360-degree vertical planes with references that cover the floor, wall and ceiling to serve all levelling needs. The two vertical lines cross at 90-degree angles so the user can quickly arrange and square the layout of the room from one mark.

    The GLL3-330C (red beam) and GLL3-330CG (green beam) are Bluetooth connected. With upgraded diodes and brighter beams, these plane lasers offer a visible range up to 200 ft. diameter, increasing to 330 ft. diameter when paired with an optional Bosch LR8 or LR 6 receiver for full jobsite coverage.

    Better grip for turning screws

    Crescent has revealed its new Diamond Tip Screwdrivers that are initially available in Phillips and slotted styles.

    A diamond-infused powder coating gives the tips up to four times the grip of non-coated tips, reducing slippage and cam-out. The handle design features thermoplastic rubber moulded over a tri-lobe shaped acetate core. The grip and comfort provided by the tri-lobe design allows users to apply up to 20% more torque than with more traditional handle styles. The translucent acetate used on the handles is specially formulated to provide superior impact and UV resistance.

    Slotted styles feature square shanks and red acetate handle bases. Phillips styles have round shanks with blue handles. All styles have black oxide blades with laser-etched markings.

    Tape engineered for longer life

    Lufkin has introduced a redesigned version of its self-centring tape measure, which makes finding the midpoint of measurements quick and easy. Improvements include a new ergonomic case and a quad-rivet end hook.

    The Lufkin Self-Centering Tape Measure features unique blade markings, resulting in a tape that takes the maths out of finding the midpoint of any measured distance. A black upper scale shows the actual measurement; a lower scale directly beneath it shows the midpoint in red. For example, if the upper scale reads 2-1/4", the lower scale will show 1-1/8".


    Quality, comfort and precision

    Fiskars PowerGear Aviation Snips

    The extended blade tang of these products improves cutting leverage and strength of the design

    Fiskars' range of PowerGear[tm] Aviation Snips is ideal for cutting assorted heavy-duty materials such as sheet metal, metal studs, siding and gutters. They are engineered to increase the efficiency of each cut with less energy from the user.

    PowerGear technology from Fiskars gardening tools has been introduced into the design of the Aviation Snips to provide tradies and weekend warriors with less fatigue, exhaustion, and muscle pain in the long term. It also means the users' hands will remain steadier while cutting, increasing the accuracy of cuts. Enhanced cutting force is also achieved while initiating the cut, reducing the amount of force required compared to traditional snips.

    With the micro-serrated blade edge, sheet metal is better gripped in the cutting area, providing better control of the cutting edge without damaging materials. The forged and heat treated steel construction from blade to handle improves the strength and power by 40%.

    A limited handle opening design prevents over-extension of the handle, maintaining optimal grip strength for smooth and effortless cutting, without sacrificing the length of each cut. The easy action handle opens automatically at the completion of each cut. The ambidextrous locking system also enables snips to be locked from above or to the side.

    SoftGrip[tm] handles with strategic texturing offer an ergonomic and comfortable grip. Knurled pins are also inserted during the manufacturing process to ensure the hand grips will not twist or slide off over time.

    The PowerGear Aviation Snips are available in the five standard declinations: straight cut, left cut, right cut and offset cut versions.


    Pliers built for tough jobs

    Knipex Tools introduces new gripping pliers

    Designed to deliver powerful results, no matter the angle or workpiece, according to the company

    Knipex Tools has released its series of gripping pliers. The 10" universal gripping pliers feature a pivoting bottom jaw that automatically adjusts to any workpiece in the field, including square, round, hex and flat materials. The pliers have toggle lever action for a high clamping pressure grip, making the pliers ideal for secure, one-handed operation.

    The 8" long-nose gripping pliers are bright zinc-plated and feature narrow, long jaws at a slim width of 1/4". The pliers are specially designed for areas difficult to reach. These pliers also have a non-serrated gripping area for pinching off hoses.

    The Knipex 11" welding gripping pliers have moveable jaws with clamps for cumbersome workpieces and sections with high ridges up to 1 1/2". The maximum gripping capacity of the pliers is 3 17/32".

    All Knipex Gripping Pliers have a heavy-duty design with an adjustment screw and release lever for ease of use. They feature one-hand operation and a toggle lever action for high clamping pressure. The body of the gripping pliers is made from high-strength rolled steel and the gripping jaws are forged out of chrome vanadium electric steel.


    Cabot's makes coating faster

    Eliminates the lengthy weathering process

    With half the recoat time, the Aquadeck product promises a durable, lightly pigmented finish

    Cabot's has introduced its fastest deck coating system ever - Finish in 1 Day - to speed up deck prep.

    With data from Pollinate Decking Consumer Research 2016 revealing 52% of deck owners take more than a day to complete the coating process, and one in five have never coated their deck, Cabot's three step Finish in 1 Day system responds to a demand for more time-efficient coating.

    As the name suggests, the Cabot's Finish in 1 Day system turns what is usually a six-week process into a one-day job, thanks to a series of new product developments.

    Designed to enhance and protect the natural look of exterior timber, Cabot's Aquadeck decking oil now has a new formula, cutting down the recoat time from two hours to just one hour.

    Cabot's recommends teaming Cabot's Aquadeck with Cabot's Deck Clean and Cabot's New Timber Prep, a new product that allows deck owners to skip the four to six weeks of weathering typically recommended for new timber. James Fisher, senior brand manager for Cabot's, said:

    We know that many deck owners struggle to dedicate time to maintaining their deck, despite it often becoming the hub of the home during the warmer months. With this in mind, the Cabot's Finish in 1 Day system has been developed to make sure deck owners are able to spend more time enjoying their deck than they do caring for it.

    In three simple steps for new bare timber, or two for pre-weathered/grey timber, deck owners can achieve a finish that can be easily touched up as required throughout the year.


    GoPak power tool battery

    It can charge phones too

    The GoPak System is designed to tackle household tasks, creative and refurbishment projects

    Black + Decker has launched the GoPak System, a four tool combo kit powered by the new 12V Max GoPak battery. Available as a four-tool combo kit, the system includes a drill/driver, jigsaw, detail sander, pivot-head LED work light and GoPak battery - the latter doubles as a power source to charge mobile devices on-the-go via a USB port.

    The drill/driver features an 11-position clutch to help prevent stripping of screws and the jigsaw blade can be changed without the need for another tool.

    The slim, compact design of the GoPak battery makes it easy to handle and take on-the-go. The integrated USB port, with 2.4A output, quickly charges devices such as phones and tablets, allowing users to charge devices when there is no traditional power outlet in sight.

    Rubber corner bumpers increase the battery's durability and the onboard LED state-of-charge feature shows the percentage of the battery's remaining charge.

    Targeting the DIY market, the GoPak System has been available in the US in October 2017. The GoPak battery will be available separately.


    Alt-toolboxes for tradies

    Solutions to modern problems

    The old rigid or metal toolbox is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, with backpacks and other soft-side storage taking over

    It's no secret that, for most trades, the number of tools each tradie needs to tote around increases every year. Whether its hand tools, power tools, or measuring and inspection tools, designers and manufacturers keep coming up with better ways to accomplish construction and maintenance tasks.

    With great power comes ... well, the need to tote around a lot of gear, actually.

    While for many the traditional style of toolbox continues to work well (pull up in ute/van, put tools in box, go to work), for many, especially those who find themselves working on multi-unit dwelling construction, tool transportation has become a bigger issue.

    Depending on the task at hand, there are two potential paths for this need breed of tradies to follow: they can go for the big, pull-along toolchest, which means they can take everything with them, or they can go for more easily transportable solutions, such as backpacks.

    Backpacks have been growing in popularity in part because they've become so much a part of our culture - it's what you carry your sporting kit in, your groceries, photography equipment, and so forth - and because they are a great solution when your workday begins with a kilometre walk, followed by a long climb up scaffolding and ladders to reach your worksite.

    What HNN is presenting here might be called the "alt-toolboxes", some well thought out solutions to new ways for tradies to keep their tools about on the different sorts of work environments they encounter.

    Veto Pro Pac's Tech Pac

    One of the best made and best designed (and more expensive) solutions, this backpack is specifically designed for use by tradies who need to walk a fair distance to the jobsite, or who need to work doing tasks such as servicing equipment on a ladder or elevated platform. The backpack has 56 pockets for tools in total, and is designed for quick and easy access to all of those pockets.

    The design was tested in the field, and resulted from a great deal of research.

    According to the designer of the pack, Roger Brouard:

    We wanted to see first hand how tradesmen in the field deal with those conditions, so I spent weeks with them on the job observing them - from looking at OSHA standards of three points of contact on ladders, hauling tools up with a rope, to the need for a backpack that would fit through cages and stand up when being used, to a backpack that is comfortable and won't get wet when placed down in wet or muddy conditions.

    Like better hiking packs, the pack features a thermo-formed EVA padded back panel that helps cushion the load, and also provides structural stability. A padded load displacing shoulder strap system with multiple adjustment strap points makes it easy to wear the pack for long periods. It's designed to not tip over when stood upright on the ground, and is the right size to fit through safety cages on construction sites.

    >}Veto Pro Pac's Tech Pac}

    Milwaukee Jobsite Backpack

    While this is a smaller pack, with just 35 pockets, its designed to suit most builders and construction workers. It features a total of 35 pockets, and six elastic straps to hold tools. On the inside it has a large pocket in the centre, two medium pockets to either side of that, a further 10 small pockets, and three zippered storage pockets. On the exterior, there are two side pockets, and another zippered pocket on the back, as well as four straps. Finally there is one very large pocket on the back, which could hold a hard hat.

    >}Milwaukee Jobsite Backpack}

    Stanley Fatmax 4-in-1 Mobile Work Station

    This is a unique product from Stanley. Packed up for transport, it's the usual tall and wide toolbox we're all used to. Deployed for use, however, it transforms into a four-area tool access stand, including a toolbox, parts bin, portable flat tray, and an oversized lower bin for items such as power tools. It comes with its own built-in wheels, and includes a telescoping handle. The designers even thought to include a V-groove in the top of the work station, making it easy to hold materials such as lumber and pipes steady for cutting. The whole box of tools can be locked at a single point.

    >}Stanley 4-in-1 toolbox}

    Stanley Fatmax Tool Back Pack

    With 50 pockets, the Stanley offering provides extensive flexibility for storage. It also features an internal sleeve for tool storage that can be lifted out of the backpack to provide ease of access to a wide selection of the tools. The backpack has a separate pocket for the storage of a laptop, or power tool.

    >}Stanley Fatmax Tool Back Pack}

    Irwin Centre Tote Tool Bag

    Something like a combination of a backpack and a more traditional toolbox, This tote bag offers 42 pockets for storage, along with a separate power tool holder. It features an open design that makes it easy to find and access tools. Comes with a padded shoulder strap, making it easier to carry tools and leave hands free.

    >}Irwin tote bag}

    Milwaukee Bucket Organiser Bag

    A great idea from Milwaukee, this is a like a tool belt for a bucket. It's a nylon belt that wraps around a standard bucket, and provides storage via 30 exterior pockets, plus two large zippered pockets.

    >}Milwaukee Bucket Organiser Bag}

    Milwaukee Bucketless Organiser Bag

    Like the above, but without the need for a bucket. Provides an additional 20 storage pockets, bringing the total to 50. Includes a hammer holder that keeps the hammer upright, and easy to grab a hold of.

    >}Milwaukee Tool's bucket bag}


    Equipped for adventure

    Spade has strength and rust protection

    Rhino-Rack's spade is made with solid dual core construction and enforced with hi-carbon steel

    When off-roading, overlanding or adventuring with mates, the quality of tools is an important consideration. Quality that ensures they are in working condition every time that they needed, and minimises maintenance.

    The new spade from Rhino-Rack wants to be one such tool. It is crafted using heavy duty, heat treated hi-carbon steel, and finished with zinc plating and a powder-coating.

    It is detailed with slip resistant grip that provides optimum handling. The spade is designed for comfort, ease of use and convenience.

    It is a compact 42-inch in length for increased manoeuvrability under vehicles. The size also aids in storage, whether it is stored inside the vehicle or utilising a mounting bracket.

    The versatile spade can dig out the vehicle when it gets stuck in the mud, or assist with other outdoor adventure related events.


    Manufactured stone cladding

    Inspiration for the modern landscape

    Striking exteriors and interiors are can be created with Cultured Stone products

    Pro-Fit(r) ModeraTM Ledgestone from Cultured Stone is the first of its kind in Australia, according to PGH Bricks & Pavers. Capturing the beauty of natural stone while being easier, cleaner and faster to install, it is a practical way for architects to achieve unique ledgestone looks inside and out.

    Saving installation time and effort, the primary building blocks of Pro-Fit Modera feature groups of small stones bundled together to form modular components of equal height.

    Available in three modern colours, including dark grey Carbon, sandy Vellum and chocolate Intaglio, Pro-Fit Modera provides a contemporary neutral palette for homeowners to decorate with colour using furnishings and accessories, or when landscaping.

    Cultured Stone is distributed by PGH Bricks & Pavers.


    Consumer laser levels

    Can you get a good one under $99?

    The consumer market is opening up, as laser levels become more commodified

    If you spend any time at all working on construction, whether professionally or as a DIY project, you eventually will become haunted by that one, single question: Is it level? Just about everything begins and ends with that question, because it establishes a key part of structural integrity, as well as a primary aesthetic requirement.

    As a result, not that long ago, if you stopped to watch tradies working on a construction project, you would see them taking up their bubble levels and consulting them with a frequency pretty close to that of teenagers checking their phones for text messages. All that started to change about 20 years ago, when laser-based levels began to become more affordable, a trend that has accelerated over the past ten years. Over the past two to three years, the laser level has passed an inflection point in its development, and has become truly affordable for even occasional DIY use around the home.


    Lasers were themselves initially developed in 1960. It didn't take too long for inventors to see how useful they could be in construction, and the first construction laser was launched in 1968 by Spectra Physics. This consisted of a simple laser that had to be levelled by the use of the traditional bubble level. The plasma tube, which contained the helium and neon gasses which were "lased" to produce the laser would last for up to 300 hours of operation. The rig cost USD8,000 - equivalent in today's US dollars to over USD56,000.

    The first development Spectra made was to add a motor to rotate the laser beam, which meant the level standard could be available to multiple workers building the interior fittings to a room. Next, the first self-levelling laser was developed, again by Spectra, in 1973. By the late 1970s there was general acknowledgement of just how useful the lasers were, with some sources stating they increased productivity by 30% to 40%.

    The next big thing to happen to the industry was the commercial development of the diode laser in the mid-1990s. These used semiconductor materials similar to those used in light emitting diodes (the familiar LED lights). Much less expensive to produce than gas-based lasers, and offering a much longer operating period, these began to fundamentally change the laser level industry. The effect was to produce lasers that lasted for 30,000 hours of operation instead of 300, and cost half the price of gas-based lasers.

    Over the past 10 years, as production in China and other low-cost labour countries has taken off, the prices of laser levels have plunged even further. Once used only on high-value construction sites, then by professional tradies, laser levels are today easily within reach of DIY consumers, as a convenience around the home.

    Types of consumer levels

    There are basically two types of laser levels for consumer use, with a third, in-between type emerging as well. The simplest type is basically a bubble level with a laser attached. These are typically fixed to a wall or other surface, levelled-up with the bubble level, and then project a reliable level laser line across the surface. These can be purchased for less than $45.

    The second, more complex type is the self-levelling laser level. These can sit on the floor, or, more commonly, be placed in a more elevated position, either by fixing to a tripod, to a special attachment fixed to a wall, or, using a universal attachment, to some other "holder" such as a ladder, plumbing, or even a chair back, bed frame - anything. Most consumer levels use a pendulum system to provide levelling.

    The third, emerging type is something of a hybrid of the other two. This makes use of a smartphone with an accelerometer. Connected to the phone via the headphone or connectivity port (Apple's Lightning port, micro-USB or USB-C), the connected device mainly produces the required laser line, while the phone provides the technology to sense when it is level.

    Market development

    Pioneered by companies such as Bosch, laser levels are becoming a more common consumer purchase. At the moment, there are not that many levels in the consumer price range produced by the major manufacturers.

    However, if we accept that these consumer products need a price point under $120, there are already a range of reliable trade offerings between $180 and $240. It won't be long before we see more of these these reach down to the $80 to $130 market, and begin to become attractive to consumers.

    Of course, what will cause that to happen will be a higher adoption rate of laser levels among consumers, driving better volume, and leading to manufacturing and distribution cost reductions. The question then becomes, how big is the potential market? Which leads us to an underlying question, just how useful is a laser level to the average DIYer?

    The answer, HNN believes, is "very useful". That is in part because we need to remember that the average DIYer today probably has fewer skills than the DIYer of 20 years ago. It might seem like a bit of a joke to suggest that using the traditional beam bubble level is difficult, but if you only ever put it to use a couple of times a year, it is tricky. Many DIYers confidently get out the level, draw a pencil line, put up a shelf or cabinet - only to find that things have drifted out, and the bubble in the level is now distinctly out of the middle-zone.

    In contrast, the laser level is a constant reminder to check the level, and offers an easy way to check and correct the seemingly inevitable drift. Spending $80 for what might amount to two hours of use over a three year period might seem excessive.

    However, while cost-saving is great motivator for DIY, once undertaken the main motivator is making sure that you don't make mistakes. The shelf that is out of level by enough that it needs to be shifted 2mm or 3mm creates all kinds of problems. How do you drill mounting holes for the brackets that are so close to the existing holes, for example. Correcting mistakes is particularly difficult if you are inexperienced, and don't know some of the tricks professionals can use.

    The levels

    Bubble/laser levels

    There are surprisingly few tools offered in this area by major manufacturers. This is likely due to increasing commodification. Doing a search for this type of tool on Alibaba, for example, returns a wide range of tools.

    Bosch PLL 1 P Laser spirit level

    With a length of 270mm and a width of 120mm, this is a simple, portable Bosch green tool that effectively boosts the functionality of a standard, small bubble level. One end of the level can emit a laser line, which has an effective range of around five metres. The other end can emit a single laser dot, which has a claimed range of 20 metres.

    >}Bosch PLL 1 P Laser spirit level}

    The level is attached to the wall using a mounting bracket. The bracket itself is attached to the wall using nails, pins, screws, or adhesive tape. The level then attaches to the bracket magnetically. The same mount can also be used to attach the level to a tripod with a 1/4 inch mounting thread. Once mounted, the level can be adjusted to an angle, for use in construction of items such as stairs.

    The laser is a class II, and accuracy is stated as around 0.5mm per metre.

    >}IKEA Fixa Level}

    Ryobi AirGrip Laser Level

    The AirGrip dates back to the time when Ryobi tools were darker blue/green and not their current colour, though a revised model in the current colour has been released. It's a device based on a unique idea. One of the main difficulties in using this kind of laser level is how to position it safely on a wall or other vertical surface. The AirGrip solves this problem by incorporating a small, battery powered suction pump in the design, which maintains enough of a vacuum, even when faced with some slightly porous surface, to keep the device in place.

    >}Ryobi AirGrip Laser Level}

    IKEA Fixa Laser spirit level

    We're including this to give some idea of the market. This is a very simple device, which provides means of attaching to surfaces magnetically, but in no other way, unless the user drives in a couple of nails to hold it in place. The laser has a limited range of three metres, and accuracy, at 1.4mm per metre, is not great.

    >}IKEA Fixa Level}

    On the other hand, it retails for $20, and is designed for light tasks, such as hanging pictures.

    Ryobi Phone Works Laser Level Device & App

    This is one of eight Phone Works products that Ryobi produces, including an inspection scope, an infrared thermometer, and active noise suppression earphones.

    Rather than relying on a bubble level to adjust the system, it instead relies on the inbuilt accelerometer in many smartphones. The advantage of the system is that it offers additional features, such as photos of the level line which can be shared. The disadvantage is that the accelerometers in many smartphones are notoriously unreliable.

    Often it is necessary to first calibrate the phone using a standard bubble level. Additionally, as smartphone design is quite variable, getting the laser attachment to line up with the phone display can be difficult.

    >}Ryobi Phone Works Laser Level Device & App}

    Considering that this approach costs more than many self-levelling laser levels, it's best to regard this as a developing area for special uses.

    Self-levelling laser levels

    Stanley Cubix

    The Cubix is perhaps the most interesting of all the self-levellers that would be suitable for consumers. While it is at the very top of the consumer price range, with an average price of around $105 on eBay and other places, it has a good range of features, and, importantly for smaller retailers who might only stock one item of this type, it is certified for trade use as well. About the only issue is that its accuracy is rated at 0.8mm per metre, with the laser line visible for up to eight metres.

    >}Stanley Cubix}

    It has most of the features needed, including the generation of cross-line for alignment, and the inclusion of a handy grip that slots into the body of the tool, making it easy to attach it to anything from a ladder to a vertical stud. It also includes a 1/4 inch socket for a tripod.

    Stanley Cross90 Self Levelling Laser Level

    The Cross90 is really pushing the upper end of the consumer price range, but it does deliver for the extra cost. It features a class I laser, and provides accuracy of 0.5mm per metre. Like the Cubix, it uses Stanley's mounting system.

    >}Stanley Cross90}

    Its unique feature in a device at this price point, is that it offers a second laser at an angle of 90 degrees to the main laser, making it easy to set up the Cross90 in reference to a secondary point.

    Bosch Quigo

    When you think self-levelling laser levels for consumers, the Quigo is one of the first devices that comes to mind. Bosch virtually pioneered the category with the Quigo, and now into its third generation, it remains a strong performer. It is a very compact design, which comes with a handy mounting grip included (the MM2 universal clamp), making it easy to set up on ladders, chairs and so forth.

    >}Bosch Quigo}

    Accuracy is rated at 0.8mm per metre, and the line is visible on surfaces up to 10 metres away.

    It is a Bosch "green" tool, but it does come with a two-year warranty, which is automatically extended to three years when the tool is registered.


    What HNN hasn't mentioned so far is that, outside of these major manufacturers, there is actually a very wide range of laser levels of all kinds available from a range of manufacturers in China.

    In fact, it's possible that the laser level market of today presages what much of the power tool market in general may eventually look like, in another 10 years or so. Log onto the Chinese online wholesale marketplace Alibaba and search for laser levels, and you will see over a hundred variations on every kind of laser level imaginable, ranging from $20 up to $1000. Even if you go to a website such as Chinese online retailer Banggood - which, in electronics, largely gives you an idea of what are the more reliable offerings on Alibaba, for an additional cost - there are still dozens of choices.

    This leaves Australian retailers in something of a tricky (and very interesting) situation. Some of those unfamiliar brands coming out of China will prove to be reliable, and offer customers a good deal - but which ones? While there are several Australian brands that have taken on the task of getting reliable laser levels manufactured in China - Imex, Redback and Spot-on, to name a few - these companies concentrate on trade-level devices. Except for the simplest levels, those used for tile-laying, they don't really cater to the consumer market.

    One way through that morass is, of course, for retailers to establish a relationship with a reliable Chinese supplier, and effectively "own brand" the product. That is what Sydney Tools has done, for example, with its CPI line of self-levelling laser levels. The CPI X-Line sells currently for $49, and the CPI Cube sells for $99.


    Trim routers

    Increasingly popular tool

    Makita pretty much rules the roost in routers in Australia

    As recently as six or seven years ago, just about any kind of router was deemed to be the sort of tool only a carpenter or dedicated woodworker would own. However, as prices have decreased, and quality at the lower end of the price range has increased, routers have become a more common tool.

    In particular, the smallest kind of router, usually called a "laminate trimmer", has grown in popularity over the past several years. That is in part because it is small - typically less than 250mm tall, and around 2kg at most - which makes it easy to use, as it can be operated one-handed.

    Most importantly, the laminate trimmer (or trim router as it sometimes called) solves the kind of basic problems that any tradesperson, and quite few DIYers, are likely to encounter. In fact, far from being an "expert only" tool, it's the kind of gadget that can help the less expert look a lot more expert.

    If you are not familiar with the laminate trimmer, the best place to start in understanding them is with the trimming bit itself. Image 1 is an enlarged photograph of such a bit. The laminate trimmer attaches to the top, smooth shaft. Below that is the cutting part of the bit itself, and at the base is the guide, which is a ring of smooth metal that runs on ball-bearings.

    Imagine that you are facing the fairly typical woodworking task of doing something like fitting a new top to a bedside cabinet. It might be plywood that will be painted, or a piece of 12mm pine wood you intend to stain. To make the job look really good, you are going to have to get all four edges of the top flush with the supporting frame underneath.

    If you are (like the editors of HNN) a bit of a duffer with a saw, it can seem like there is almost no way of doing this easily. Measure as you will, even with a good mitre saw it just seems inevitable that the end result will be a one or two millimetres out, spoiling the whole look. You end up filing, sanding, and so forth - and then you have to worry about keeping the edge perpendicular, and not rounding it out.

    With the laminate trimmer, you don't worry about cutting the wooden top precisely. Instead you cut it oversize by 10 to 15mm or so, then fix it to the cabinet frame, making sure there is overlap on all four edges. Using the laminate trimmer, using the flush trimming bit, you then simply run around the edges of the frame. The ball bearing runs on the frame itself, and the cutting portion of the bit removes all the excess wood. The end result is the the most perfectly flush finish you can imagine.

    There are only two "gotchas" to worry about. The first is to remember to move the trimmer in a counter-clockwise direction (push in and forward with your right hand), as, with the trimmer turning clockwise, this enables the bit to do its work. (If you are trimming inside out, such as when making the hole for a sink or tap in a counter, you move clockwise instead, for the same reason.) The second "gotcha" is to always start trimming wood on an endgrain edge. About half the time, at the end of the endgrain you will push off a chip from the grain edge - but it won't matter, because that's the very edge you will be trimming next.

    Once you've done this a few times, you will be tempted to move to the next stage, which is using a slightly different bit to produce a fancier edge. It's very easy, for example to put a nice 30-degree bevel on the edge (though you do have to think through how you want the corners to look).

    Beyond this specific task of trimming, it's also possible to use the the laminate trimmer as a kind of "light" router as well. A typical task where they are very useful is when installing a new door. With a proper router bit, they make mortising the space for hinges very simple (though you do have to dig out the corners with a chisel still).

    Even better they handle the surprisingly tricky task of cutting the recess for the latch plate on the lock, which goes on the edge of the door. These can be surprisingly tricky to do well, especially if the chisel is anything but your friend. Both of these tasks are best accomplished by using templates, which make it a matter of just guiding the laminate trimmer.

    As a trade sale, it really comes down to the choice of brand and size, as most professionals are well-acquainted with how useful the laminate trimmer can be.

    As a DIY sale, however, it can be one of the more difficult items to sell outside of people with some real interest in woodworking. The problem is that the laminate trimmer is, indeed, a specialised tool, and does not get used nearly as often as a hammer drill, or even an impact driver.

    The selling point is that it takes a task that can really consume a surprising amount of time, or end with a compromised result, and makes it easy to produce something that looks great. It's actually an ideal tool to sell through a short demonstration course - as long as the course sticks to the basics outlined above: doors and tops/bottoms to things. Most DIY courses that feature any kind of router seemingly cannot resist deep into the world of complex routing, and simple DIYers, who are seeking to solve problems more than to experience a craft, are simply not interested.

    The role of Makita: RT0770C trimmer

    While HNN does not have any statistical proof for this, only some anecdotal evidence, we do think it is likely the real spark to the growing popularity of the laminate trimmer was Makita's RT0770C trim router.

    Introduced in 2012, and revised since, the 770 was one of those classic tools that managed to combine two things: it hit an exact sweet spot in terms of size and capabilities, and it was very thoughtfully designed. Plus, as we often have said, it just had that Makita quality of having things in balance.

    In terms of the sweet spot, the 770 is a corded tool with a rated power of 710 watts. With most laminate trimmers ranging from 300 watts to 600 watts, that gives it just that little bit of extra power. At the same time the motor is small enough, when combined with an aluminium chassis, to keep the weight down to just 1.9kg - easy enough to handle one-handed.

    The great design mainly expresses itself in the set of three accessories available with the tool. It comes standard with a trimmer base, which is all you need if you are going to do the kind of trimming jobs described above. An option set of accessories includes two other bases, a plunge base and a tilt base. The plunge base converts the 770 into a lightweight plunge router, complete with soft-grip handles, and a rotating turntable of three depth stops, for different stages of a complex job.

    The tilt base is quite a unique accessory. It enables the trimmer to be rotated from plus 30 degrees out to minus 45 degrees. This has an interesting effect on custom router bits. For example, the flush trim bit can be used to make a bevel.

    >}The Makita RT0770C trimmer features a tilt base}

    In addition to these three bases, there is another, fourth base, sold individually, which converts the 770 into an offset router. Daughter gears transfer the drive to the edge of the base, meaning it can work as close as 18mm to a wall or other barrier.

    Where the excellence of design really shows itself is that the parts of the various bases are interchangeable.

    For example, the trimmer base has a round base plate, and the tilt base has a square base plate. Undo a few screws, and you can put the square plate on the trimmer base, which means you can use a straight edge clamped to the work piece to guide the trimmer for special uses. The soft-grip handles from the plunge base can be fitted to the offset base, for better control in tight situations. And so on.

    Then there are the other typical Makita touches. There is an integral shaft lock, so it takes just one wrench to change bits. The motor base is flat, and the power cord comes out from the side of the motor, so the unit sits flat when upside down. It has soft-start, making it easy to pause and begin again in the middle of trim. Just a great tool.

    Makita DRT50Z

    This new, cordless trimmer launched in Australia in early 2017. It is, basically, the 770 in cordless form. It even uses the exact same accessories. Without battery, it weighs just 1.4kg.

    The really exciting news about this trim router is the price. It retails for $249, just $60 or so more than the corded version. That doesn't include the battery or the range of accessories, but for tradies who already have Makita batteries and the 770, it's a great buy.

    >}The Makita DRT50Z uses same accessories as RT0770C}

    Makita 3709X and 3710

    Makita does also offer a simpler laminate trimmer, the 3709X. This is a corded tool, with a 530 watt motor, weighing 1.5kg, just 199mm tall. It is generally sold with an aluminium carry case. The Makita 3710 is basically the same trimmer with a tilt base.

    Makita MT Series M3700G

    In terms of sheer value, next to the RT0770C is this recent offering from Makita's MT Series, which replaced its previous value brand Maktec. This is essentially a slightly older version of the 3709X, but it sells for close to half the price of the pure Makita version. It features a 550 watt motor, and weighs 1.4kg.

    >}The MT Series Makita routers offer great value for money}

    Other brands

    To be frank, most of the other brands available in Australia really do not match up to Makita, with the exception of Festool, which makes very high end router products. In fact, these are such a speciality item (and typically cost over $700) that HNN simply does not have the technical knowledge to effectively provide a guide or review of them.

    DeWalt, for example, sells just one, corded model in Australia, the DWE6005, which typically costs more than the Makita RT0770C, and has specs that are not quite as good.

    Bosch sells a blue router, the GMR 1, with, again, similar specs to the RT0770C, but for, typically, a higher cost.


    Ryobi offers two laminate trimmer. The corded version has a 400 watt motor, weighs 1.67kg, and retails for a price close to that of the Makita MT Series M3700G. It's not a very impressive offering.

    The other laminate trimmer from Ryobi, however, is a real competitor. Newly designed, this One+ cordless trimmer (R18TR-0) is styled as a "palm" tool, with special attention paid in its design to permit easy one-handed use.

    Finally, there is the Ozito laminate trimmer. While this is the least powerful of all those covered here at just 350 watt, and it lacks basic features such as a spindle lock (which means changing bits requires two spanners), it really should not be dismissed. At $65 it will attract consumers who have very infrequent need for the tool, or even just one main period of use, when installing a new kitchen, for example.

    Other products

    While Makita seems to be the outstanding brand in this sector for Australia, that is much less the case overseas. In the US, for example, a Bosch router typically wins this category, with offerings from Techtronic Industries Home Depot-only brand Ridgid and Hitachi highly ranked as well.


    Drill uses advanced intelligence

    Developed by Worx

    The driver has combined features including the BitLock, SafeDrive and PulseAssist

    Worx senior product manager, Jeanne White, said advanced intelligence can be defined as the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. This is just what the company's engineers had in mind when they created the Ai Drill. She said:

    The Ai drill is almost intuitive. It's so easy to use that first time users and do-it-yourselfers will breeze through home and craft projects.

    The Ai Drill has three drive modes including drill, SafeDrive and PulseAssist, which are activated by touch sensitive keypads on the top of the drill.

    BitLock is another key feature of the Ai Drill. Load a drill or driver bit into the tool's chuck, and its motorised jaws tightens and self-centres the bit, and does it with 30% more torque than hand tightening, according to Worx. The motorised jaws also run in reverse to release the bit when it's time to swap bits or for storage. To engage BitLock, users simply turn and hold the collar ring until the chuck's jaws have tightened or loosened the bit.

    The Ai Drill has no clutch settings. It relies entirely on the tool's internal electronics to safely drill holes, drive and remove screws, regardless of the work material.

    When SafeDrive is selected, it delivers just the right amount of torque necessary to drive the screw and then backs off once the screw head is flush with the surface.

    With PulseAssist, the Ai Drill applies enough bit rotation to drive the screw snug to the surface without over-tightening or stripping the screw head. This feature also works in reverse to back out stubborn screws without damaging the screw head. The drill moves at a slow, optimal speed so it doesn't strip screws.

    The 3.1lb or 1.4kg (with battery) Ai Drill is powered by a 20V MAX 1.5 Ah battery. The battery is compatible with other Worx 20V MAX batteries used in WORX DIY and lawn and garden tools. It is also part of Worx 20V PowerShare program.

    The MAX battery recharges to full capacity in approximately five hours. The drill has a low battery capacity indicator. When the battery's power runs low, the drill's LED light flashes.

    The single-speed (0-800, no-load) drill has a 3/8 inch chuck. It is capable of handling a variety of drilling and driving jobs with 180 in./lbs. of torque. An integrated LED light illuminates the work area and is activated by pressing the trigger. The tool's drilling capacity is 1-inch in wood and 3/8 inch in mild steel.


    Meeting weeding needs

    Fiskars Xact Weed Puller

    Gardeners can avoid herbicides by using the weed puller, according to the manufacturer

    The Fiskars Xact Weed Puller means it could be time to ditch the potentially harmful chemicals in herbicides to eradicate weeds. The tool can help alleviate the effects of digging, bending, and backaches.

    Engineered to facilitate easy removal of root weeds, the Xact Weed Puller is ergonomically designed, and allows users to tackle weeding jobs of any size. A 1m reach means users don't need to be on their hands and knees in the garden, while the stainless steel prongs will penetrate the earth, grip the root firmly, and remove the weed.

    An innovative weed ejection system means end-users never have to bend over to remove the weed from the tool. Specifications include:

  • Dimensions - Height 1000mm
  • Weight - 950g
  • Material - Aluminium shaft/stainless steel
  • Warranty - 25 years
  • products

    Cub Cadet expands Z-Force range

    SX 54 and LX 48 models added

    The lawn mowers are high performance machines and easy to operate, according to the company

    Cub Cadet's Z-Force SX 54 is equipped with a 24 HP professional grade Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin engine. A 54" triple blade cutting system provides a wide cut, while its heavy duty welded steel frame gives the SX 54 a long life.

    The SX 54 features a steering wheel with patented Synchro Steer technology, providing 4-wheel control to create genuine zero-turn manoeuvrability and a PTO clutch, utilising electronic fingertip engagement. It also has a high-back elasticity vibration control suspension seat with armrests, which minimises fatigue and reduces the likelihood of back pain after sustained use.

    Similar to the SX 54, the LX 48 operates on a 24 HP professional grade Kawasaki FR Series V-Twin engine. A slightly smaller 48" deck allows users to navigate narrower terrain, while zero-turn capabilities maintain the same level of agility as the SX 54.

    Operated via a lap bar, the LX 48 is constructed from the same heavy duty steel frame as the SX 54.


    Shovel mounting bracket

    Making room for a shovel

    Manufacturer says it is suitable for long road trips or weekend warriors looking to escape the city

    The Shovel Mounting Bracket is the ideal accessory to keep a shovel at the ready when needed to dig snow, sand, mud or any other type of terrain, according to its maker Rhino-Rack.

    It mounts directly onto the Rhino-Rack Vortex crossbars or Rhino-Rack Pioneer systems. Rhino-Rack's Pioneer systems are designed to maximise load capability while freeing up space inside a vehicle.

    With easy installation and removal, users will be able to mount a shovel onto a vehicle with multiple configuration options. The brackets can be inverted to position the shovel above or below the tray and the hinged design allows mounting of a wide variety of handles as well. The safe and secure roof system holds tools to prevent any cabin damage from occurring.

    Constructed from steel with a high quality powder coated finish, this mount bracket is built to last and to hold a shovel in place for rough roads. It is backed by a 3-year warranty.


    Lightweight benchtop saw

    A mobile unit for light duty projects

    Manufacturer said it is suitable for home workshops, or easily carried right to the jobsite

    The Worx BladeRunner(r) X2 is a portable benchtop saw that does the work of multiple saws by making fast and accurate rip, crosscut, scroll, inside and mitre cuts using standard T-shank jigsaw blades. Sharon Blackwell, Worx product manager, said:

    What's nice about this benchtop saw is that it's not limited to only cutting wood. Oftentimes, homeowners need to cut aluminium, PVC, copper pipe or ceramic tile, and BladeRunner X2 handles all those materials by simply changing blades.

    BladeRunner X2's compact size makes a small footprint of 17 inches wide by 15 3/4 inches deep. The saw weighs 14.7 pounds (6.67kgs) and is 6 3/4 nches high, which makes for a comfortable work height when mounted to a workbench.

    An advantage of BladeRunnerX2 versus conventional benchtop saws is the ease of changing blades. There's no need for wrenches; just slide the blade release lever on the left of the tabletop to seat or release the blade. Once the blade is in position, guide rollers ensure accurate 90 degree cutting at all times.

    BladeRunner X2's adjustable hold-down arm matches the thickness of the work piece, and incorporates a splitter to help keep straight cuts on track. It holds the work piece against the table to minimise vibration, and flips out of the way when making interior cuts.

    The BladeRunner X2 fence has two adjustment knobs to align work pieces for straight and accurate rip cutting. Fence channels at both the front and rear of the tabletop have measurement scales for precise alignment. A mitre gauge also is provided for making angle cuts.

    This benchtop saw is powered by a 5.5-amp motor that delivers 3,000 strokes per minute. Its cutting capacity is 1 1/2 inch in wood, 1 1/4 inch in PVC, 3/8 inch in aluminium and ceramic tile, and 1/8 inch in mild steel. The blade stroke is 3/4 inch.

    The durable base is impact resistant and supported by four, non-marring rubber feet. Built-in storage is provided for the fence and mitre gauge. Other features include an on/off paddle switch with safety key to prevent unauthorised use, 6-foot power cord and built-in carrying handle.


    Secure your load

    Pioneer rooftop trays

    The Rhino-Rack range can maximise carrying potential, and free up space inside a vehicle

    Since developing the first of its kind lightweight aluminium rooftop carrier in 2010, Rhino-Rack has confirmed its reputation for durable and user friendly off road vehicle products.

    Constructed from aluminium and fibreglass reinforced nylon, the Pioneer range of rooftop accessories are suitable for both off-road enthusiasts and highway commuters.

    With a sleek and low profile design, the Pioneer Platform offers minimal wind drag and noise on the road. With a flat design and no side rails, the Pioneer Platform provides easy access to gear from all four sides. Simply slide goods on and off the roof and secure them to the bars or utilise the C-channel rail design and additional eyebolts.

    The Pioneer Tradie is a solution for the transportation of ladders, construction equipment and long loads that extend beyond the base of the platform. Fully welded rails on two sides provide a rigid tie down point, with hand grips built into the design.

    The versatile Pioneer Tray has been built to maximise load capability and provide added security against shifting loads while driving, and has a front wind fairing to facilitate a quieter drive. It also has a fully welded, closed rail sidewall.

    As a result of built in C channels running along the bars of the Pioneer range, many accessory options are available including jerry can holders, spare tyre mounts, bicycle carriers, fishing rod holders and more.

    The Rhino-Rack Pioneer Trays will fit an existing roof rack system as well as the Rhino-Rack low profile Backbone System. Finished with high quality powder coating, the racks will not rust or fade, and is backed by a 5-year warranty.


    More power, less effort

    Fiskars PowerGear X range

    The company continues to focus on enhancing the consumer experience of its products

    Fiskars' PowerGear[tm] technology has evolved to improve on the pruners, tree loppers and shears.

    With three times more power than traditional pruners, the PowerGear X range can help tackle tough jobs with ease. The mix of lightweight yet durable materials as well as innovative design have trimmed the weight of the PowerGear X range, providing an easy, more comfortable user experience.

    3D SoftGrip[tm] contour moulding will prevent slipping and reduce fatigue for the avid gardener. It is designed for a splinter-free grip and has anti-shock surface structures.

    The PowerGear X bypass pruners are simple to disassemble and reassemble for maintenance. They are available in two sizes with cutting capacities of 20mm and 26mm.

    The PowerGear X loppers come into their own when faced with young and tough green branches. Thanks to the patented PowerGear X mechanism, users will be able to effortlessly carve through branches of up to 55mm in diameter because cutting is up to three and a half times easier compared to standard loppers, according to Fiskars.

    Its PowerGear X shears have optimised tool balance, control, and improved weight distribution. They are a powerful tool when shaping, cutting and trimming bushes and hedges.


    Vanities blend form and function

    Latest range from Highgrove Bathrooms

    Designed to infuse warmth into spaces that result in a relaxed yet luxurious vibe

    The inclusion of natural timber accents and elements helps to break up the swathes of cool, hard surfaces that have typically dominated bathroom design. The new Lily Vanity Collection from Highgrove Bathrooms reflects this trend by combining modern sleek design with a timber accent.

    The range is crafted using a seamless white gloss polymarble inset basin and a moisture resistant, medium-tone timber veneer face. The deep drawer offers generous storage and is accompanied by push-to-open technology.

    Wall-mount vanity designs have recently been welcomed into bathroom design as an alternative to the heavy, weighed down vanities of the past. The Lily Vanity Collection brings the focus up off the ground and allows the flow of energy throughout the space, adding a light airy feeling to the room. It also features metal drawer runners and door hinges.

    With two available vanity sizes, there is an option for most bathroom layouts - a longer vanity which is ideal for a family or master bathroom centrepiece, or a smaller vanity that can be doubled up to create a "his and her" vanity solution.


    Z-Wave enabled locks

    Kwikset has five new residential locks

    They offer more security and convenience, and emphasise the company's commitment to style and design

    Kwikset showcased five of its latest residential lock products at ISC West, a trade show for the security industry, held each year in Las Vegas. They are expected to be released in the second half of 2017.

    The locks are said to be among the first to market with the Z-Wave 500 Series chipset, which offers extended wireless range and security.

    Among the latest offerings, the Obsidian is a smart lock that eliminates the need for traditional keys. It will be available with standalone and connected options, allowing users to lock and unlock their front doors using the touchscreen exterior or their smartphones.

    The sleek touchpad of the Obsidian - just like the volcanic glass - is black and makes up nearly all of the deadbolt's exterior. The lock's all-metal interior has advanced mechanical and electronic security features. Eliminating the keyway takes away the threat of "lock picking" and "lock bumping" attacks using specially cut keys to defeat conventional pin and tumbler locks.

    Kwikset's other offerings include the following:

    SmartCode 888 Touchpad Electronic Deadbolt - A contemporary version of Kwikset's SmartCode five-button deadbolt, designed to integrate with select smart home systems. The device can hold up to 30 different user codes and delivers convenience to homeowners with remote locking/unlocking via smartphones and tablets, as well as total home control.

    Kwikset Convert (Z-Wave Smart Lock Conversion Kit) - Replaces the interior half of an existing lock, and brings keyless entry and home automation to consumers. The new kit will appeal to design-driven homeowners who want a smarter lock but want to maintain the style of the front door or match the current handleset, and don't want to change the existing deadbolt. Available in brass, Venetian bronze and satin nickel. The kit can be used on Kwikset, Baldwin, Weiser and Schlage products.

    Contemporary SmartCode 914 & 916 - These locks address the needs of style-conscious consumers with contemporary versions of the company's traditional deadbolts. The locks integrate with home security and automation systems with remote locking/unlocking via smartphones and tablets.


    Dust-free sanding revolution

    For construction and decorating professionals

    Distributed by Tenaru as part of its portfolio of brands, adding Mirka to its offering

    Mirka provides dust-free sanding systems. Based in Finland, the brand develops and manufactures advanced sanding and polishing machines.

    Mirka's dust-free solutions are achievable through its innovative Abranet, a plastic-like net with thousands of holes providing effective dust extraction. Constructed with a dense network of polyamide fabric threads onto which the abrasive grit is bonded, this open weave net structure means no dust particle is more than 0.5mm away from a dust extraction hole.

    The use of Abranet also eliminates any clogging or dust build-up between the sanding disc and surface, providing a smoother finish more quickly and long-lasting sanding capacity.

    Designed to be connected to a commercial vacuum cleaner such as the Mirka Dust Extractor, sanding with Abranet produces 6900 times less dust compared to sanding with traditional paper abrasives, and it can last up to five times longer.


    Mobile tool storage

    GearWrench trolley and workstation

    The unit allows easy access to tools and has a tough, stainless steel work surface

    The GearWrench XL Series 11 Drawer Heavy Duty Cart Trolley & WorkStation, topped by a sturdy stainless steel sheet and underlying MDF top-board, is made to withstand rough use across all manner of tasks, including tearing down heavy components such as transmissions and differentials.

    At 1.2 metres wide, 79cm deep and weighing in at 143kg, this unit is suitable as both storage and workspace.

    Each drawer features auto-return, which snaps the drawers closed within the final inches of operation. Lined with a liquid and grease resistant EVA 2.5mm liner, this will ensure easy compartment cleaning and product longevity. The open side space is capped with an 8mm anti-slip EVA mat, to ensure no sharp or awkwardly shaped tools damage the physical unit during movement.

    The 11 drawers are supported by 45mm standard ball bearing slides and formed with rolled over drawer walls for added strength and rigidity.


    Gas-powered products for pros

    Stihl rolls out its latest products

    This large-scale launch involves 40 products and is the biggest in the company's history

    The latest professional models from Stihl will come with a host of enhancements. The string trimmers, edgers, KombiMotors and bed redefiner are designed with larger fuel tanks, providing 30% longer run times than the previous models.

    These units boast a simplified three-step start procedure enabled by the semi-automatic choke lever, saving users time on the job and reducing the chance of flooding the engine. Each product's vertical pleated paper air filter allows for better filtration, extended replacement intervals and long service life.

    In addition, the redesigned and lighter gearbox on the pole pruners and extended-reach hedge trimmers shift weight to the powerhead of the unit for balance and maneuverability. It can help users work for longer periods with less fatigue.

    The introduction of these new professional products is part of one of the largest product launches in company history. Other Stihl products to be introduced in 2017 include nine battery products, as part of the new Stihl Lightning Battery System[tm] and nine additional gas-powered models, featuring a line of Stihl pressure washers.


    Padlock uses fingerprints

    Hybrid solution for locking

    Benjilock can also be used with a key if the fingerprint sensors are not working

    BenjiLock is not a traditional padlock. A key can be used to open it but it's a lock that can also be opened using one's fingerprint. It was unveiled at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

    BenjiLock was developed by the Los Angeles-based company of the same name, which was founded in 2013 by CEO Robbie Cabral.

    The lock features a 7-pin cylinder and will come with a built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, charging cable and set of keys when it ships later this year at USD79.99 (AUD103.64), the company said. Consumers will be able to choose between sky white, jet black, stainless steel, copper and brass SKUs.

    There have been similar products on the market, Mr Cabral conceded. Tapplock is another padlock using fingerprint sensors. But competing devices don't tend to have a tough, stainless steel body, he said. BenjiLock also has a boron alloy shackle.

    Rival products also don't tend to provide the same "hybrid" solution for unlocking as BenjiLock. Mr Cabral notes that a key can come in handy when the fingerprint sensor isn't working for some reason.

    BenjiLock was named a 2017 CES Innovation Awards honouree in the smart home category. The Innovation Awards program is run by CES producer the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

    But it's open to debate whether BenjiLock is a true smart-home product. Smart, yes. The device is clearly designed to be used just about anywhere - from the home to the office to school to the gym. However smart-home products are also typically controlled by a smartphone or tablet app, or via a computer.

    Tapplock, in comparison, works in conjunction with a mobile app that can be used to grant access to family and friends and control the date and time the lock can be accessed. Unlike BenjiLock, the Canadian makers of that device turned to crowdfunding to help reach the market. Tapplock was successfully funded March 12 after raising USD328,959 (AUD426,397) via Indiegogo.

    The BenjiLock fingerprint sensor's ambient LED light is what makes the device smart once the user records his or her scan, according to Mr Cabral. Although the smart functionality is minimal, he said, his goal is to "build a relationship with the consumer of security," adding later versions of the device will "include apps and much more."

    The lock is charged via a Micro-USB cable and the charge "lasts a whole year with one single charge" based on tests in which it was used four times per day, he said.


    The shovel that's badass

    Female entrepreneur is behind the product

    The Alpha Shovel follows the successful launch of the Stealth Shovel in 2015

    Portable tools innovator DMOS has launched a second campaign on crowdfunding site Kickstarter to debut its new shovel for the active outdoorsman or DIYer. Supporters can pre-order discounts on the Alpha Shovel and its accompanying accessories: the T-handle saw and interchangeable T-grip.

    Last year on Kickstarter, DMOS introduced the Stealth Shovel, a pro-quality, packable tool for shovelling, raking, and biting through hard surfaces like ice and hard-pack snow. The Stealth Shovel went on to win the 2016 ISPO Brand New Hardware Award. (ISPO is a sporting goods agency.)

    DMOS out-performed its funding goals on its original Kickstarter campaign for the Stealth Shovel and received rave reviews from media outlets such as ESPN, Outside Online, and Freeskier Magazine.

    Using customer feedback to build the latest products, DMOS returns to the Kickstarter platform for further dialogue with the company's most supportive consumers. Founder and CEO, Susan Pieper said:

    The response to the original Stealth Shovel Kickstarter campaign was stellar; fans loved it and called for more. We listened and are very excited to return to Kickstarter with the Alpha Shovel and its accompanying accessories. Backers and early adopters demanded a shovel with a larger blade be added to the assortment, but it had to be as indestructible, well-designed and portable as the Stealth Shovel. We built the Alpha Shovel to be the top shovel of the pack...

    The Alpha Shovel campaign will enable DMOS to secure funding to complete production of the Alpha Shovel. The company will also offer add-on accessories of the saw and the T-grip as rewards for its Kickstarter backers.


    Briggs & Stratton industry showcase

    Generators for DIY enthusiasts

    Other products include the Vanguard oil system, Mow N' Stow engine and high pressure washers

    This year's Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), the outdoor power equipment industry's largest gathering in Kentucky (USA), provided a showcase for Briggs & Stratton. Dealers and retailers had the opportunity to see and test out the latest products.

    The 8,0002-Watt Elite Series[tm] Portable Generator with StatStation Wireless Bluetooth allows homeowners to monitor the generator from a smart device. They will be able to see the remaining fuel levels or capacity of the generator at a glance. The app also provides maintenance reminders and a store locator.

    The Vanguard[tm] brand launched Vanguard Oil, a 100% synthetic 15W-50 small engine oil designed for demanding commercial engine applications. Vanguard Oil is ideal for commercial-focused turf-cutters who push their small engines to the limits.

    Vanguard's Oil Guard System allows for 500 hours between oil changes. The system continuously exchanges oil between the engine and a large remote oil reservoir external to the engine. It protects the engine oil from thermal breakdown, extending maintenance intervals and producing a cooler running engine.

    The Mow N' Stow(r) + Just Check & Add[tm] walk mower engine combines two of Briggs & Stratton's most recent innovations. The engine never needs an oil change; owners need only check oil levels and add when necessary. This mower can be folded and stored upright even with gas and oil in the tanks, taking up 70% less space in the garage.

    EASYflex[tm] high-pressure washer hoses are designed to make pressure washer set-up and storage more manageable. At 30-feet long and more flexible than a standard pressure washer hose, it helps improve the pressure-washing experience.

    The Briggs & Stratton Protection Pack for pressure washer maintenance includes the exclusive pump saver formula to protect piston and seals from damage; O-ring replacement kit; and advanced formula fuel treatment and stabiliser to help prevent damage caused by ethanol.

    The third pressure washer innovation introduced at the expo is a rotating surface cleaner with detergent tank, which allows users to clean large outdoor areas such as driveways and decks. It comes in a 16-inch size designed for gas-model pressure washers and a 14-inch size for electric pressure washers. Both come with an integrated detergent tank.


    Upgraded surveillance system

    Wireless solution

    User-friendly with full High Definition 1080P digital encrypted video and audio

    Uniden has refreshed its Guardian digital wireless surveillance system range with the introduction of the G37xx series.

    The new DIY security systems offer homeowners greater flexibility and a host of practical, advanced features. The new models -- the G3720 and G3710 -- each include a seven-inch touchscreen tablet and weatherproof cameras (two and one, respectively).

    The range can be expanded to include up to four weatherproof cameras. In addition, the ability to install cameras where cables cannot reach means users can change the camera configuration quickly and easily as required.

    Suitable for monitoring the interiors and exteriors of residential properties, the G37xx series cameras communicate wirelessly via the touchscreen tablet. This can also connect to the internet for remote access from a smartphone.

    The touchscreen tablet has full High Definition (HD) 1080p resolution for clear picture quality, allowing homeowners to clearly see details such as registration plates and facial features that are critical in the event of an incident.

    Unique to the market is the introduction of an optional motion detection spotlight with a weatherproof outdoor camera. Enhancing night vision further, this deters unwelcome visitors by casting a bright light when movement is detected. Additional features include an infrared LED with infrared cut filter for true representation of daytime colour, HD picture quality and PentaZoom 2x digital zoom-in on live videos.

    Remote access via an iOS/Android app means homeowners can log on from anywhere to watch and record footage live as well as switch the optional spotlight on to deter intruders. The app also sends push notifications and email alerts whenever the system detects movement.

    Secure, digital and interference-free transmission can provide peace of mind while a two-way talk function offers interactive opportunities. The Guardian wireless surveillance series offers a plug-and-play set-up and can be ready to use within minutes.


    Smart yard systems

    Blossom and Rachio go after similar markets

    Smart controllers appear to have a bright future especially in drought-stricken areas

    David Witting lives in Southern California and was enjoying July 4th fireworks with a few friends on his backyard deck when, suddenly, his garden sprinklers went off. He said:

    I didn't have to rush into my garage with a flashlight to find the controller. I just pulled out my phone and turned them off in a second. It was pretty cool.

    This is what the "smart yard" is about.

    Mr Witting's irrigation system can be adjusted from an app on his iPhone that connects to the controller in his garage. Through his home WiFi, the controller also pulls satellite and local weather data from the internet. It automatically turns off his sprinklers when it rains.

    Mr Witting lives in a place where drought continues and water supplies are shrinking, where his tech-friendly systems could be crucial to conserving enough water for a growing population.

    His system is designed and manufactured by US-based Blossom, and is one of the latest inventions in the fast-expanding market of home automation.

    Manrique Brenes, Blossom chief executive and co-founder, holds 14 patents covering home networking and industrial Ethernet applications. He has worked with Blossom co-founder Kaido Kert at Skype and Microsoft. Mr Brenes said:

    Traditional irrigation controllers are just timers. They go off on a given schedule. But plants consume water as a function of the weather. As it gets cooler, they need less. And if it rains your sprinklers should turn off. What we do is 'smart watering'.

    With real-time weather data accessed through the cloud, watering in each section of a yard can be tailored to layout and vegetation.

    The two colleagues began shipping Blossom's first product, a 12-zone controller, in March 2015 after raising money through investors and a Kickstarter campaign.

    The 12-zone model is sold at selected Home Depots, Best Buys and online.

    A smaller, more modest version, Blossom 8, which covers up to eight zones, launched in June. It is offered on Blossom's website and on, with a broader rollout planned over the next two months.

    In California, where water is often priced in tiers with the higher tiers costing more, Blossom can lower homeowner bills by as much as 30%, the company estimates. The controllers connect to existing wiring, valves and sprinklers. Most users say installation is easy, taking less than half an hour.

    From the start, however, Blossom has faced competition. A Denver-based start-up, Rachio, sells a 16-zone smart water controller. It can work with other smart-home systems such as the Nest Protect smoke alarm, turning on sprinklers when smoke is detected.

    Rachio's 16-zone device is more expensive as well as larger than Blossom's 12-zone controller. And it garners superior reviews on Amazon: 4.5 stars out of a possible 5, as compared to Blossom's 3 stars. Recently, Rachio launched an 8-zone version that has also garnered 4.5 stars. Mr Brenes said:

    Much of our development has focused on our cloud-based infrastructure and we have returned to enhancing our Blossom App with new features.

    And Blossom's ambitions aim well beyond selling individual units to homeowners. Its founders are in talks to partner with Scotts Miracle-Gro that released a "connected yard" platform and a mobile app called "Gro" at the SXSW interactive festival this year. GRO app's information on individual plants, their geography, planting and fertiliser schedules could be integrated with Blossom's watering system.

    This video shows how Blossom works:

    Link to YouTube video


    The smart home moves outside - HNN Smart sprinkler controller at Lowe's - HNN

    Easiest-to-use ladder system

    Made to withstand extreme weather conditions

    Rhino-Rack's Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack is suitable for smaller trades vehicles

    Transporting ladders for tradies can be fiddly, especially if they are not operating a van. With that in mind, Rhino-Rack has designed the Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack.

    Most ladder racks are up to 3-metres long, and in their original form are only really useful on vans. The Rhino-Rack Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack is shorter, and can be used for smaller vehicles including single and dual cab utes.

    At 1.5-metres, the Multi Slide Extension Ladder Rack can still carry long ladders, and has similar features that Rhino-Rack's other ladder racks do. This includes side rails that prevent lateral movement, as well as a rear strap, which reduces excess rope and straps. This means users only need the one strap to secure the ladder to the rack.

    The ladder rack system is fully OH&S compliant and has been rigorously crash-tested to ensure that the product is as tough as it gets. It is also constructed from anti-corrosive materials. The system is compatible with any ute with a canopy via Rhino-Rack's range of vortex and/or heavy duty bars (sold separately).


    A revolution in pest control

    Stay-Away product line from Earthkind

    Creating safe alternatives to the traditional pest control products that contain poisons

    Kari Warberg Block is the founder and CEO of Earthkind, a USD40 million dollar natural pest control company.

    Earthkind was created in 2007 out of a necessity for natural and eco-friendly products to prevent pests. Nighty-eight per cent of the products in the pest control industry contained poisons to get rid of rodents and the other 2% were sticky tape paper and traps.

    She could not find a single company that sold chemical free pest and rodent deterrent products. Worried about using poisons around her pets and children she looked into to finding out how she could get rid of pests and rodents naturally.

    Her idea for a pest deterrent product came from an incident that happened many years prior when she was on a date with her then-fiance. She had sat down and a mouse scurried up her leg. At the time Warberg Block was selling cosmetics and perfumes; she instinctively grabbed a bottle from her purse and sprayed around her thinking the smell would drive the mice away. It worked.

    Warberg Block also lived on a farm and everyone kept telling her that rodents were just part of farm life. Knowing that pests were a problem that all farmers dealt with she began researching the farming and pest control industries.

    One of the products Earthkind offers is Fresh Cab Rodent Repellent that repels mice. It can used be used in caravans, houses, barns, boats, garages and anywhere else that mice like to frequent. The Stay Away Pest Repellent line offers several different products to repel mice, beetles, moths, spiders, ants and rats.

    Earthkind had the first pest control product to meet the gold standard set by the EPA (Environmental Protective Agency). Its Stay Away product won best new product of the year in 2015.

    There has been an annual 2% growth for eco-friendly products in the pest control industry, but Earthkind's products have been so effective that the company has seen a growth of 85%.

    And the company's success has not been without some challenges. Earthkind is up against big competitors and many stores did not want to give them shelf space without having proof that they would make the store money.

    Lowe's was the first retailer to accept them because selling a safe rodent deterrent product was the right thing to do. Currently, Earthkind products can be found in ACE Hardware stores, Tractor Supply, Menard's, Target (US), and John Deere.

    The company is based in the United States and sources the materials for its products from small farms that are also located around the United States.


    Trade MX has your measure

    A tape measure is a tradie's best friend

    Lufkin's Trade MX could be the ideal companion and the hero of any tool belt

    Ergonomically designed to fit the contour of a hand, the Trade MX tape measure from Lufkin feels like an extension of the body. Specialised construction of the internal components means that the compact body of the Trade MX can fit snuggly in the palm of a hand.

    Gone are the days of wrestling a rusted old tape measure that jams more than it doesn't. A co-moulded grip and top lock button make for easy operation.

    A four-rivet end hook for superior strength will lock onto the slipperiest edges, while a clear coated blade will make sure the tape lives a long and productive life. The Trade MX's case is even built from rugged ABS plastic for improved impact resistance.

    Designed and made in Australia, every Lufkin tape measure is individually tested to ensure the highest levels of accuracy. The Trade MX is the reliable, tough sidekick tradies want when they are on the job.


    Painter's tape easier to tear

    ScotchBlue PLATINUM Painter's Tape

    3M is known for continuously innovating to meet the changing needs of the paint category

    3M Company has introduced the first poly-backed indoor masking tape that tears by hand at a 90-degree angle. ScotchBlue PLATINUM[tm] Painter's Tape enables painters to mask surfaces quicker and easier with just one pull - compared to other 3M paper-backed masking tapes. Mark Hodgins, global business manager -construction and home improvement markets division, said:

    We developed the new ScotchBlue PLATINUM Painter's Tape as the premium solution to challenges with paper tapes related to masking corners and curves, tape slivering upon removal, and paint seepage...

    This interior tape is the only one of its kind to use an advanced polyethylene backing with micro-replication technology. This poly material provides enhanced durability, making it possible for the tape to be removed in one piece without tearing or slivering and helping to prevent paint bleed - compared to other 3M paper-backed masking tapes. 3M's micro-replication technology allows for a straight 90-degree hand tear.

    ScotchBlue PLATINUM Painter's Tape is easy to apply and readjust. The 90-degree tear allows painters to mask corners with more accuracy than when using paper tapes. It is recommended for use on baseboards, trim, metal and glass. It is UV-resistant and compatible with zero-VOC paints in normal conditions. (A humidity level of below 50% is recommended for the ideal tape performance).


    Benefits of Structural Insulated Panels

    Cost-effective and environmentally friendly

    Designed for residential and lighter forms of commercial construction

    The Structural Insulated Panel (SIP) is a high performance composite material defined by the US-based Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) as consisting of "an insulating foam core sandwiched between two structural facings, typically oriented strand board (OSB)".

    SIPs are becoming a go-to option by a growing number of Australian architects and builders as it boasts to be a quicker and smarter method of construction.

    Unsurprisingly, the popularity of SIPs is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia because the AEC (architecture, engineering and construction) industry has so far been fixated on more traditional construction methodologies. However, Bondor Australia - manufacturers of insulated composite roof and wall products such as the Insulliving building systems - believes the shift in the market is becoming more obvious. Bondor's national product manager for Insulliving and Solarspan, Paul Adams, recently told Architecture and Design:

    Our local rising energy costs, trade shortages and labour costs are now driving demand from the general public. [People are] seeking these alternative build methods to achieve for themselves a superior building environment that is more economical to construct and run, sustainable and comfortable to occupy.

    Central Queensland's first Eco Cool Home is made from Bondor Insulliving wall panels and a Solar Span roof. The display home has already achieved a 9.1 star rating, attained up to a C2 cyclone rating, with a constant temperature expected to be maintained within the home once completed. Lock-up times are expected to be between two to three weeks, according to Troy and Greta Tenheggeler from Tenheggeler Homes who are building the Eco Cool Home. It should be completed in August 2016.

    At the heart of SIPs' main benefits is a simplification of construction and. As Mr Adams points out, SIP construction effectively removes the "numerous layers of building materials that have been introduced over the years in an attempt to satisfy necessary building compliance, such as thermal or fire performance".

    In the real world, this translates to an ability to more easily resolve design issues despite being subjected to tight budget constraints. For instance, with insulation already integrated into the structure, less money will need to be spent on additional insulation products.

    Western Australian architect Andrew T Boyne, who used SIP panels for all the walls, floors and roof of the completed Augusta Beach House, said the use of SIPs helped him "create a building that was built of insulating foam like a huge esky".

    An exercise in lightweight construction, The Augusta Beach House utilises SIPS panels as the structure for walls, floor and roof. SIP panels, according to Mr Boyne, ensure that the structure is very rigid, has great insulating properties and is easy to transport and install.

    Contributing to this green badge is the use of fewer joints in SIPs, which means a tighter building assembly. A study by the largest US Department of Energy, Science and Energy laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, found that a SIP-constructed home was considerably more airtight than a wood-framed and fiberglass-insulated room when subjected to identical climate conditions and a blower door test. Mr Adams adds:

    Composite insulated steel products address deficiencies in energy efficiency by creating a continuous thermal barrier around the home. This reduces heating and cooling loss caused by air leakage and thermal transfer resulting in up to a 40% reduction in energy costs for the home owner.

    Since SIPs are pre-engineered, any waste produced during manufacture is minimised. Being produced in a controlled environment also cuts down on delays associated with weather changes that may be more common for traditionally constructed projects.


    X-Beam combination ratcheting wrenches

    Ergonomic design with 500% more surface area

    Flex-head designs can be ideal for hard to reach angles but sometimes "simpler is better"

    The average wrench features a squared middle and this can cause discomfort when working for extended periods of time. However the GearWrench 12-piece Extra Large X-Beam[tm] Combination Ratcheting Wrench Set has been developed to be a useful tool for fittings and fastenings, thanks to a 500% increase to surface area and 90-degree rotated wrench shaft.

    During use, these wrenches will rest flat on the palm of a user's hand while they rotate. This increases comfort and productive distribution of force. When coupled with an increased area size, they are left with a wrench that can do the job faster and more efficiently.

    In addition, the GearWrench XL X-Beam Combination Ratcheting Wrench Set has wrenches from 8mm to 19mm in length, with an overall reach that is up to 25% longer than average.

    Each ratcheting wrench is of a one-piece forged beam design with no twisting metal or weak spots. This ensures heightened levels of durability and strength for a longer product lifespan, as well as simplicity of use.

    In terms of functionality, each ratchet has the added benefit of a Surface Drive(r) on the box end, providing off-corner loading for better grip and reduced fastener rounding no matter the job. It can make slippage a thing of the past.

    This wrench set metric is designed to cover each and every base whilst working, with more user grip and less fatigue.


    DeWalt launches FlexVolt: 20V to 120V tools

    Batteries adapt to needs

    DeWalt may have closed the final gap between corded and cordless tools

    In a very clever and commanding move, Stanley Black & Decker's DeWalt professional power tools division has launched a range of high-powered tools and accessories.

    After "teasing" the market for over a month, on 21 June 2016 DeWalt finally released details of the new product it has been developing.

    Named "FlexVolt", the new product range is based on some unique battery technology. The FlexVolt batteries have a nominal voltage rating of 60-volt (maximum) or in the Australian market, a non-maximum rating of 54-volt. However, these batteries remain compatible with DeWalt's XR range of 20-volt maximum, 18-volt non-maximum power tools. Additionally, DeWalt is also producing some cordless power tools operating at 120-volt - the standard US household current - that combine two of the 60-volt batteries.

    >}The battery idea}

    Amazon is currently selling the batteries for USD199 for a two-pack of six amp-hour batteries.

    DeWalt is also selling a mains current adapter. This enables users to directly connect their FlexVolt cordless tool to household current, moderating concerns about running out of power on some tasks.

    DeWalt has also thought about the problem of air travel. Lithium-ion batteries about a certain wattage are not permitted on flights, as there is a potential they could catch fire. To get around this problem, DeWalt provides an air travel adapter that effectively makes the battery function like three smaller batteries tied together.

    Voltage switching is automatic between tools. Based on DeWalt's promotional video, the technology works by using three rows of batteries. When plugged into a 60-bolt tool, these connect in series. When plugged into a 20-volt tool, they work in parallel. The result is the high-power of a 60-volt tool, or what DeWalt claims as four times the runtime (per amp-hour) on a 20-volt tool.

    The FlexVolt range also includes what DeWalt is calling "high-efficiency" accessories, which it says are designed specifically to increase the runtime on cordless tools. These include circular saw blades, reciprocating saw blades, and disks for grinders.

    The tools

    DeWalt has announced two 120-volt tools and five 60-volt tools. In addition, it has announced plans to release three items of outdoor power equipment (OPE).

    The 120-volt tools are a fixed blade mitre saw, and a sliding mitre saw. The 60-volt tools are a circular saw, a table saw, a reciprocating saw, a grinder, and a stud/joist drill. The OPE range is expected to include a line trimmer, a blower and a chainsaw.

    Circular saw DCS575T2

    This saw has a 7-quarter inch full size blade, with an electronic brake that stops the blade after the trigger is released. This unit also has an LED light that provides clear sight to the cutline. DeWalt claims it can cut up to 339 cuts per charge in a 2x4 using a flexible battery.

    >}DeWalt DCS575T2 saw}

    DeWalt DHS790AB double bevel compound sliding mitre saw

    Designed for cutting wood, this 120-volt mitre saw is capable of 310 cross cuts in baseboard moulding, according to DeWalt. Tall sliding fences support crown moulding up to 185mm nested and base moulding up to 175mm vertically against the fence. The tool weighs 25kgs.

    >}DeWalt double bevel compound mitre saw}

    DeWalt DCS7485B table saw

    This table saw provides 600mm of rip capacity for ripping 4x8 plywood. Rack and pinion telescoping fence rails make fence adjustments smooth and accurate, with tool free adjustment of the guarding. Table coating reduces friction for smoother cutting. Adjustable rear feet are designed to level the saw on uneven work surfaces.

    >}DeWalt FlexVolt table saw}

    DeWalt DCS388T1 Reciprocating Saw

    The saw has a keyless lever-action blade clamp, and a variable speed trigger. DeWalt claims it can cut up to 158 cuts per charge in a 2x4.

    >}DeWalt FlexVolt reciprocating saw}

    Details on the other tools in the DeWalt line-up are a little hard to find just now, but HNN will keep you posted with more news as it becomes available.


    This is really a very good marketing move by Stanley Black & Decker. The need for more powerful tools, and hence a second battery system, has been growing over the past two to three years as cordless increasingly becomes the default, and having to make arrangements for corded tools somewhat annoying.

    DeWalt has managed to crack the primary problem with that: how do you introduce more powerful batteries without requiring clients to purchase an entire, second system of battery infrastructure? Using one battery that provides the extra power required, but remains compatible with the standard DeWalt tools, is very good.

    More than anything, though, this move has created a strong reason for businesses at the heavy end of building and construction to either stay with the DeWalt system they are already using, or even switch to it, either wholly or partially.

    Both Techtronic Industries (TTI) with its Milwaukee brand, and Bosch with its professional "Blue" brand, had begun to make inroads on that market through their adaptations of mobile phone technology, converting tools into part of the Internet of Things.

    That technology gap still exists, and Stanley Black & Decker will need to address it in some way in the near future. However, at the very least, this move provides the company with more time, and secures its credentials as being at the forefront of tool development.


    Fibre cement technology

    Suitable for backyard decks

    The durability of fibre cement can also appeal to prospective buyers when it comes time to sell a house

    A technology once used exclusively for home siding is making its way to backyard decks. It can eliminate costly repairs associated with water damage, fading deck colour, wood rot, wood-boring insects and board gaps.

    Water, humidity, pollen and sun exposure can leave an outdoor retreat looking faded and dingy after just one season. This can turn having backyard deck into a maintenance nightmare for homeowners. In response, many US homebuilders are turning to fibre cement decking by Allura.

    Fibre cement stands up to weather conditions in all climates, it does not rot and wood-boring insects are never an issue. The product is flame resistant, cooler on feet and unlike real wood, doesn't fade, peel or chip. Tom Taylor, Allura's director of customer relations said:

    The only time you have to repaint or stain fibre cement is if you want to change the colour. Allura decking looks like wood, but with none of the hassles. Fibre cement is changing everything we previously came to accept about backyard decks. It's an affordable choice for transforming a landscape.

    Restoring home imperfections

    All-purpose wood filler

    DAP plastic wood technology optimises strength and performance for DIY projects

    DAP(r) PLASTIC WOOD(r) All Purpose Wood Filler can help rejuvenate wood surfaces to make them look new again. And now, DAP PLASTIC WOOD-X makes the application process simpler with the patented DryDex(r) Dry Time Indicator. It has a unique formula which goes on pink and dries natural, letting users know when it's time to sand and stain.

    Both products feature a latex-based formula that is easy to clean up with water, low in odour and looks and acts like real wood.

    The All Purpose Wood Filler is engineered to dry with minimal shrinking and no cracking to provide a permanent solution for professionals and DIYers who want to repair interior and exterior wood surfaces. Its thick, knife-grade consistency spreads smoothly and evenly, which is ideal for vertical surfaces or to mould and sculpt corners.

    Once cured, the wood filler is three times stronger than most other products on the market and provides strong nail and screw anchoring capabilities. While other wood filler products appear speckled or discoloured, Plastic Wood All Purpose dries a consistent natural colour to maintain a blemish-free appearance that can blend well with real wood when stained or painted.

    It is also available in squeeze tubes and comes in multiple wood shades, including natural, golden oak, red oak, walnut and white. Kate Piche, group product director at DAP said:

    Using DAP PLASTIC WOOD All Purpose to easily repair unsightly holes, scratches and gouges in wood surfaces can give your home a refreshed look. It is the perfect solution for repairing imperfections in wood trim, floors, furniture, cabinetry, doors and more.

    DAP has made wood repair application process easier by adding its patented DryDex dry time indicator to the performance of PLASTIC WOOD - creating PLASTIC WOOD-X. Working in the same way as the All Purpose Wood Filler, PLASTIC WOOD-X goes on pink and dries natural so there's no guesswork when it's time to sand and stain. It can create an invisible repair.


    USA summer of tools

    DeWalt, Lowe's and Milwaukee releases

    As the days grow longer, tools just seem that little bit more beautiful

    If in the northern hemisphere spring a young man's thoughts turn lightly to love, by the time June rolls around the thoughts of building and construction crews have largely turned to three almost unanswerable questions:

  • Is it level?
  • Seriously, the guy who drew this thinks he's an architect?
  • And - especially for those just a bit older - how bad is doing this now going to hurt tomorrow?
  • Fortunately, there is relief at hand to these difficult questions, and it comes in one of the best forms imaginable: new tools.

    Well, "new" may be pushing it just a little, as some of the tools that get highlighted have been released a couple of months before, and some of then have been "pre-released" to the media, but they are certainly new to the people putting down some hard-earned money at a local hardware store, ready to invest in a new set of tools now that the work book is starting to fill up with new jobs.

    This year Stanley Black & Decker's top brand DeWalt has surprised us with some new specialty cordless power tools, the Lowe's home brand Kobalt has finally released the 24-volt tools it promised a few months ago, and Milwaukee is keen to remind us of the tools it has built, and the tools yet to come, including their promised 9 amp-hour 18-volt cordless tool battery.

    The buying decision

    Looking over the tools that are available, HNN would suggest there is something of a difference between this year and the past several years. Every professional/tradie buyer has a kind of imaginary meter in their heads: on one end of the scale is "Me like, me want to buy", and on the other end of the scale is "Could make a difference".

    That "could make a difference" reading is important to independent craftsmen and contractors. It can be the tool that saves that one crucial hour which means that the job gets finished, instead of having to come back the next day as well, or that saves a few percentage points on costs, or is simply safer, faster and gives a better finished result. It can be the difference between making a decent margin on a job, or keeping a key customer happy.

    This year there are quite a few tools that fall into the "difference" category. They do that by pushing the boundaries of what is expected just that one notch further. Rather than optional, nice to have if you have the money tools, they are what HNN is calling "the new essentials".

    DeWalt ramps up

    The big news coming out of DeWalt is something that hasn't happened just yet: the release of a "mystery technology" which it hinted at a month ago in its most recent results release.

    The hint has become a little more defined now, with DeWalt launching a landing page on the web that further teases the product with the brand statement "A Power Shift is Coming". Speculation is rife in the power tool community, and ranges from everything from a line of 24-volt tools to a more efficient battery technology.

    DeWalt promises that we will know all on 21 June 2016 in the US, which will be 22 June 2016 in Australia. HNN will keep you updated. Meanwhile, you can check out the tease at this URL:

    World's First at DeWalt

    20V Max threaded rod cutter

    Designed to easily cut through mild steel rods up to 13mm, and stainless steel rods up to 10mm, the DeWalt DCE350 will likely find acceptance with electricians, mechanics and plumbers currently using corded tools. It uses a four-sided rotatable cutting die, enabling the user to choose the right-sized die for each cutting task. Its design helps to cut down on chips and sparks in the cutting process.

    >}DeWalt DCE350}

    20V Max U-Type Died Crimper

    This is an interesting tool, as it is part of DeWalt's foray into more connected tools. The DCE300 has what DeWalt is calling its "Crimp Connect System". This system will record details of the date/time of a crimp, the force employed, and the total number of crimp cycles the tool has performed.

    While details remain incomplete, it would seem this data can be downloaded from the tool using a USB connector, possibly to custom software. A control panel on the top of the tool shows battery information and service requirements.

    The crimper can deliver up to 118 kilonewtons (12-ton) of crimping force. It features a head that can pivot through 270 degrees, and is designed for one-handed operation.

    >}DeWalt Died Crimper}

    20V Max Dieless Crimper

    The DeWalt DCE350 is very similar to the DCE300, except that it is dieless, of course. It features the same Crimp Connect System, and a similar control panel. It uses a four-pusher design and the head rotates through the full 360 degrees.

    >}DeWalt Dieless Crimper}

    20V Max Press Tool

    This tool can press pipe fittings from 12mm to 100mm in both copper and stainless steel. It also has the Crimp Connect System, and a control panel. The Dewalt DCE200 has a head that can rotate through 320 degrees, and is compatible with a wide range of crimping heads and attachments.

    >}DeWalt Press Tool}

    20V Max Cable Cutter

    No images of this tool are yet available. The DeWalt DCE150 can cut a wide range of cables, and features a hardened steel cutting blade.

    Lowe's Kobalt 24-volt tools

    While HNN has already previewed these, based on pre-release media coverage from the US, these tools are now selling in Lowe's, and user reviews give us a better perspective on them. One surprise is that Lowe's is already offering discounts on some of its 24-volt tools, cutting prices by around 15%.

    The average review rating on the tools ranges from four to five stars, which isn't unusual on the launch of a tool, as it is typically enthusiasts who buy them first. We're just going to look at three of the most significant tools: the circular saw, drill and impact driver.

    24V Max Circular Saw

    Reviews of the saw are particularly enthusiastic, with an overall five-star rating. Many users praise its extra power and depth of cut (it's a 6.5 inch saw, but has the cutting capacity of a regular 7.25 inch saw). For many it is evident this is the first cordless saw that actually makes sense, and helps them to do tough jobs such as cutting 4x4 fence post flush, with ease.

    Bare tool, USD129.

    >}Kobalt 24V Max Circular Saw}

    24V Max Cordless Drill

    As with the saw, this drill received a five-star rating. While users universally praised its power, a few also commented on its increased weight. At the same time most felt that it was a well-balanced tool, that felt good to use. Some mentioned a lack of small touches, such as their being no magnetic bit holder.

    With 2.0 amp-hour battery, charger and soft case, USD149.

    >}Kobalt 24V Max Cordless Drill}

    24V Max Cordless Variable Speed Impact Driver

    Two features of this Kobalt impact driver received a great deal of comment. The first was that it seems to users to be no heavier than standard 20V max impact drivers. The second was a real appreciation for the drivers "finish" feature. Pressing a button (which then illuminates) makes the driver use the hammer for only the first second of operation. This means the user can "pulse" the trigger, and hopefully get a better set to a screw, as well as limiting over-torque, which could snap the screw head.

    With 2.0 amp-hour battery, charter and a soft carry case, USD149.

    >}Kobalt 24V Max Impact Driver}


    Most of Milwaukee's most interesting innovations have to do with its One-Key system, which brings Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to power tools.

    This was the highlight of its annual (northern) summer promotional event, the New Product Symposium. However, there were plenty of coming innovations alongside that to keep most tool buyers interested. One of the most significant is the coming release of Milwaukee's 9 amp-hour battery. Promised for close to a year, Milwaukee says its release is now imminent.

    For the Milwaukee 12-volt range, the company is releasing a larger battery as well, increasing it from the current 3 amp-hour to a 6 amp-hour unit.

    Milwaukee is also at the start of making a major play in outdoor power equipment (OPE), using the same 18-volt batteries used in its cordless tools. This line of equipment is set to be launched in January 2017.

    Milwaukee heavily promoted its One-Key tool tracking feature, which seems to be evolving in terms of interface. As this system relies on an internal battery inside the tool, it is difficult to defeat - those batteries last for as long as 18 months. According to the company, something like 1000 tools that were lost or stolen have now been found again by using One-Key.

    One-Key has also added a lock-out feature, which makes it easy to remotely shut down a tool so that it won't work until its owner unlocks it.

    In terms of new tools in the One-Key line, the star is currently the M18 Fuel Sawzall. Here the One-Key system can provide a vital service. By altering the way the saw performs based on the type of material being cut, blade life can be considerably enhanced, and cutting tasks can be achieved both more easily and safely.

    >}Milwaukee M18 Fuel Sawzall with One-Key}


    The patterns that we have seen in tool development in the recent past have largely been about design convergence. Most cordless power tool manufacturers have been keen to match the offering of their competitors, and possibly squeeze out a slight advantage by offering just that little bit more.

    This year, each of these major manufacturers have largely gone their own way. We could interpret DeWalt's push into its downloadable data tools as being a "catch-up" effort in the face of Milwaukee's One-Key system. There may be an element of that, but these tools are also more likely to appeal to smaller contractors who are less concerned about connectivity, and don't find downloading data to be a bad thing to do.

    The Kobalt 24-volt tools represents a brilliant move by Lowe's. It has identified a particular strong slice of the market, which is those professionals/tradies who are unwilling to entirely let go of their corded tools as they don't like to compromise on power.

    These tools are, according to the initial reviews, well-designed, and deliver on the power promise. Lowe's also promises they will have long lives, due to using less-stressed systems, and time will prove whether this bears out. If it does, then Lowe's may be on its way to establishing a "must have" set of tools for specific contractors involved in areas such as fencing and framing.

    Milwaukee has done amazing things with its technological development of its One-Key tools. While the features it currently offers are very attractive to owners of large fleets of tools, it will be interesting to see how well the company "gears down" these capabilities so that smaller contractors and even individuals are interested in them as well.

    The One-Key Sawzall is one clear step in that direction. Being able to offer a high degree of fine control, as well as "remembered" settings for different situations would be enough to make heavy users of these tools take a second look at the Milwaukee system.

    The story of tool development over the next two years will be one of understanding how to bring more technology to specific markets, in such a way that its uptake is high enough to pave the way for yet more technology. Each of these companies has selected a specific path, and it is going to be interesting to see how these strategic choices play out.


    Troy-Bilt adds to FLEX line

    First-of-its-kind yard care system

    It helped to change the way homeowners bought and used outdoor power equipment

    Three new attachments have been added to Troy-Bilt's FLEX range, a customisable yard care system that was introduced last year. The system revolves around one engine that can accept multiple attachments.

    The FLEX Dethatcher, Plug Aerator and Water Pump now join the original attachments, the FLEX Wide-Area Mower, Leaf Blower, Snow Thrower and Pressure Washer. In the US, they are exclusively stocked at Lowe's stores.

    The FLEX system has been honoured by the Edison Awards with a gold award in the Home Tools & Maintenance category. Originally established in 1987, the Edison Awards have recognised excellence in new product and service development, marketing, design and innovation.


    The FLEX Dethatcher covers more ground in fewer passes, combing grass with 7.5-inch, zinc-coated, double-torsion spring tines. It offers six different height settings to ensure quality performance through all types of grass.

    Plug Aerator

    The FLEX Plug Aerator has a 28-inch operating width engaging sixteen, 12-gauge galvanised steel plug spoons that manually rotate to extract soil plugs as deep as two inches. The integrated weight trays accommodate several weight sources commonly found around the home - like cinder blocks or paver bricks - which will help dig even deeper.

    Water Pump

    The FLEX Water Pump has a 120gpm (gallons per minute) max water flow rate and a 20-foot reinforced suction hose designed to supply water to the pump in all appropriate pumping applications. The water surge is subsequently discharged through a 25-foot flat discharge hose, with up to 80-foot total lift and 20-foot suction lift. It can work in a variety of positions, high and low.

    Additionally, this water pump comes with all pieces and parts, including hoses, all couplings and integrated storage to keep everything in one place - so it's ready to go wherever and whenever it's needed.


    Modular yard care system - HNN

    Digital tools for renos

    Simplifying home improvement projects

    The ToolSmart range of is being sold at Lowe's Home Improvement stores in the US

    General Tools' ToolSmart[tm] line includes a free Android or iOS mobile app that uses Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technology to wirelessly connect to four handheld measuring and inspecting tools. Data from each device is instantly transmitted to the app, which automatically stores and catalogues the information and determines the materials and tools necessary to complete the project.

    The ToolSmart product range includes a laser distance measurer with a range of 100 feet; a video inspection camera with a pencil-thin camera-tipped probe that can capture videos and photos; a digital multimeter for measuring voltage, current, resistance and surface temperature; and a digital angle finder with a range of 225 degrees. Greg Bonsib, vice president of marketing at General Tools said:

    General Tools is excited to be teaming with Lowe's to help tradesmen, DIYers and craftsmen work smarter, measure better and be more productive.

    The design of the ToolSmart app eliminates the need to jot down readings on scraps of paper that often get lost in cluttered project areas. In addition, the precision of the ToolSmart devices combines with the app's capability to store and integrate data. This combination can also generate a list of materials and tools to minimise human error. Product manager, Andrew Micallef said:

    Working in concert, the ToolSmart app and devices provide precise support for even the most intricate and complex building, remodelling, woodworking or inspection projects.

    Founded in 1922 as General Hardware Manufacturing, General Tools has over 1,200 products including specific-purpose mechanical hand tools as well as precision measuring and inspection tools.


    Mow in your own way

    Cub Cadet LX42 mower is new to the market

    The company claims the engineering has surpassed "functional" to being something more

    The LX42 ride-on mower from Cub Cadet features a tighter turning circle, which enables the user to better manoeuvre in cramped areas and around common outdoor obstacles such as trees, fence posts and flowerbeds. This reduces the need for unnecessary laps of the garden and saves the rider time and fuel.

    As a standard, the LX42 is fitted with premium Multi-Trac[tm] tyres - with a uniquely designed tread to minimise slippage and spinning, even on wet grass. The tread directs power straight into the ground for less turfing, precise manoeuvring, and better results for lawns. Each ride proves to be smooth and efficient when partnered with a 22hp Kohler 7000 Series V-Twin OHV, and the hydrostatic drive system.

    Alongside precision handling and power, a mower must be hardy. The LX42's Corrosion Defence System is e-coated, delivering automotive-grade corrosion resistance against the elements, as well as general wear and tear. This provides users with the best-in-class protection of critical components.

    The LX42 is designed to be hassle free, allowing the operator to effortlessly change the deck height. The 107cm (42") deck lift is spring-assisted so that when the user changes the deck height, the spring applies force to the deck and takes the strain away.

    On top of convenience and accuracy, the LX42 mower has the new Cub Comfort[tm] seat, which features a 10-degree incline and slide mechanism to provide an ergonomic riding experience. This works in harmony with the smoothness of the cruise-control, and the high-back seat reduces fatigue when mowing for extended periods.

    The Cub Cadet LX42 ride-on mower is finely tuned and visually bold.


    Cutting through tough yard projects

    Troy-bilt introduces a new line

    Latest products include a string trimmer, leaf blower and hedge trimmer

    Troy-Bilt powered by CORE[tm] offers homeowners a different approach to cordless outdoor power equipment that rivals the power of gas. Products using this system include a string trimmer, leaf blower and hedge trimmer. A push walk-behind lawn mower is coming soon.

    The patented CORE motor design works together with a responsive, load-sensing controller to deliver more torque. By applying cutting-edge intelligence to basic power principles, CORE has been designed to draw power more efficiently and deliver concentrated power when and where it's needed. CORE co-inventor Lincoln Jore said:

    Real power comes from the motor -- the heart of the tool -- not the battery or the voltage as many may think. The battery simply supplies the energy, but the motor converts that energy into torque, which is what's needed to power through yardwork without slowing down.

    With more power, users experience a longer runtime, and can trim, blow and cut quickly to achieve what they want in the yard. The unique motor is smaller and lighter than copper-wound motors for easy manoeuvring. Its high efficiency leads to less heat, and less wear and tear. CORE also offers the industry's only motor backed by a limited lifetime warranty. Troy-Bilt brand manager Megan Peth said:

    Troy-Bilt has been manufacturing gas-powered outdoor power equipment for more than 75 years, so we know the types of challenges homeowners face in their yards. With this revolutionary cordless system, we're excited to offer the power and performance consumers expect from Troy-Bilt, but now without the gas.

    Using Troy-Bilt powered by CORE is simple. The proprietary CORE controller communicates with the motor to monitor how hard it's working and automatically responds when more or less power is required. By managing the flow of energy to and from the motor, the product can achieve maximum runtime.

    Additionally, the string trimmer and leaf blower are equipped with a colour-coded power display panel that tells users how much power is being used, giving more focus on the job and less on the equipment.

    All Troy-Bilt products powered by CORE units can operate on the same battery, allowing consumers to save money by purchasing just the bare tools if they already own one battery.

    All CORE tools are backed by a 5-year limited warranty. All CORE batteries and chargers are supported by a 3-year limited warranty.


    Makita replaces Maktec with MT Series

    Back to blue-green and no more orange

    New diffusion brand integrates with Makita Li-ion batteries

    Japanese-based power tool company Makita has launched a replacement for its off-brand Maktec range of power tools. The new diffusion brand, named "the Makita MT Series", signals a change of market strategy at what has been one of the world's best tool design/manufacturing companies. It is also inline with what seems to be a more general shift in the overall cordless power tool market.

    "Cordless" is a key term, as one of the major differences between Maktec and the MT series is that the latter (unlike the former) will include a range of Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery-powered tools. (Maktec did have one cordless tool, the Nickel-Cadmium battery-powered MT065SK2 drill.) Not only are they Li-ion cordless, but they also make use of standard Makita 18-volt 1.3 amp-hour batteries and chargers, showing integration into the main Makita line of tools.

    Why Maktec and MT Series makes sense

    The core idea behind Maktec - and behind the new MT Series - is a sound one. It relates both to market needs and the costs associated with the design and manufacturing of tools.

    At the end of any durable product's manufacturing run, the manufacturing company finds itself left with a number of valuable assets. There is the design itself, of course, but also the hard manufacturing assets used in production which, with the change of product, no longer have much residual worth. Added to that are the "soft" manufacturing assets.

    Typically, during manufacturing a number of lessons are learned, both in how to make a product a little better, and how to cut costs in numerous small ways, which can add up to considerable efficiencies.

    Maktec was likely initially conceived as a means of giving those assets a "second life". Power tools which had been superseded by newer and better designs, but which were still competitive against the average tools in the market, could be produced using some of the existing assets.

    Costs were cut by the reduced asset expense required, and also by shifting production from Makita's higher operating cost factories in Japan to its less expensive resources in mainland China. That worked out well, because the Japanese factories excel at the Japanese manufacturing art of continuous improvement.

    By the time manufacturing shifted to the purely cost-focused factories in China, the processes were highly refined. This resulted in an ideal blending of a higher-cost, high-development environment, and lower-cost, low-development manufacture.

    There is something in this of the Japanese concept of "shibui". On the surface is what seems a quite usual re-use of older assets. Underlying it, however, is a balancing of the strengths and weaknesses of the different resources in the company.

    The Maktec problems

    The problem Makita faced was that even when they were a couple of generations old, Makita tools were still so good that they could take market share away from Makita's newer tools - what is sometimes referred to as "cannibalisation". To help overcome this problem, Makita came up with the "Maktec" brand, which included different tool casing designs, in particular the orange colour that sharply sets these tools apart from Makita's teal tools.

    (There is also a degree of "colour play" in this choice of colours. The official Makita colour is defined under the Pantone Matching System as number 321. Reproducing that colour in red, green, blue (RGB) settings, it comes out as 0, 140, 149. So it is a close matching of green and blue, but slightly more towards blue. In the Japanese culture/language, this blue-green colour (which in English we call "teal" when it is more blue, and "aquamarine" when it is more green), is actually regarded as a primary colour, known in transliteration as "ao". So, in the Japanese language of colours, Makita has used a primary colour for its main Makita range, and a secondary, derived colour, orange, for its off-brand Maktec tools.)

    The Maktec tools, which were marketed in particular through Mitre 10, tended to confuse the market, as Makita was not always that clear about what these tools were, or how they expected them to be used. In promotional materials, Makita usually categorised the tools as being ideal for DIY and "semi-pro" uses.

    In the Australian context, the take-up of these tools for DIY use would seem to have been very low. The same would really hold true for both interpretations of "semi-pro": they weren't the tool of choice for odd-job handymen, and certainly not for the prosumer, either.

    They did have an appeal, however, for tradie/professional users who made occasional use of a certain type of tool, but not enough to justify buying the topline, most expensive model. Examples of that kind of use would include mixers, routers, and heavy-duty corded drills. Tradies liked the Maktec tools for these uses because the tools would be retained for long past their warranty, and used for the equivalent of two or three weeks a year. What they were purchasing was, in effect, long-term reliability.

    It's not surprising that one of the more popular Maktec tools was its line of corded routers. This is the kind of mechanically complex tool that Makita knows how to build as a hard-wearing, reliable unit, something that could not be said for most of the routers cost-competitive with the Maktec range.

    Makita resolves conflict

    As far as HNN has been able to determine, there seems to have remained something of a slight conflict within Makita management over what should be done with the Maktec tools. In the end the company chose to go ahead with the project, but the tools received quite limited distribution and promotion.

    These conflicts have been clearly resolved with the replacement of the Maktec brand by the Makita MT Series brand. Makita is now aligning these less-expensive tools with its main brand. The change in the name - now incorporating "Makita" - and the use of the primary Makita colour both reinforce this very different approach.

    Early indications are also that the company will be seeking wider distribution of the brand. For example, it is now available through the Hardware & Building Traders (HBT) group. The marketing approach has yet to be released, but the Makita stand at the HBT 2016 National Conference in Townsville, Queensland was strongly promoting the MT Series, and it seems likely this will be a general approach.

    What might have helped resolve the previous conflict over the Maktec brand is simply the accelerated pace of development in the power tool market. We are effectively entering, in 2016, the third stage of cordless Li-ion tool development, after the technology has been on the market for just 11 years. This contrasts with the relative stability of the previous Nickel-Cadmium (and its derivative Nickel-metal hydride) battery technologies, which evolved very slowly from their introduction in the late-1970s by Makita.

    For example, there is now a very clear differentiation between brushed and brushless power tools, with most professionals today unlikely to consider brushed motors for their daily use tools, as the advantages of brushless tools are considerable.

    One very important fact is that the MT Series cordless tools are being sold with the Makita BL1813G 1.3 amp-hour battery as standard. As long-time Makita users know, "high-drain" Makita tools are made so that they cannot use the 1.3 amp-hour batteries, requiring the 3.0 amp-hour and up batteries instead.

    What we could see happening over the next three years would be for Makita to move most if not all of its brushed tools into the Makita MT Series. This would offer a dual benefit. Not only would it establish a clear, individual brand identity for tools that were built to the same high standards as all Makita tools, but with lower-cost technology, it would also clearly define all the pure Makita branded tools as being of the highest quality.


    South-East Asian markets

    It's notable that other power tool makers have also adopted a downshift in the professional market. Most notably, Stanley Black & Decker (SBD) have begun a wider distribution of their Stanley FatMax brand, including through HBT.

    One cause for an increased interest in downscale tools is preparation for an expanding market in South-East Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, well as the Asian sub-continent. Not only are the tool manufacturers struggling with economies where much of the building is done informally and "on the cheap", they are also dealing with building professions where the move is not from corded to cordless tools, but from hand tools to cordless tools.

    The Maktec range has been used by Makita as a bridge into these markets. The front page of Makita's Vietnamese website frequently features Maktec tools. Makita's Indian site not only features Maktec tools, but also describes some models of these as designed specifically for the Indian market. It is highly likely that the introduction of the MT Series brand into these markets will boost sales considerably.

    Stanley has made some progress in these markets as well, especially in the Philippines. It does seem possible, however, that the Makita MT series may have an advantage over FatMax for the next two or three years in the less-developed markets, as its profile of high durability and ongoing repairability are a good fit.

    The Australian market

    Given this change in its marketing, and a far clearer definition of what Makita MT Series tools are, replacing the fuzzier sense of what Maktec tools were, which markets will find these tools appealing?

    One clear market will be professionals who, for a range of reasons, still need some corded tools in their kit for special uses. Another evident use would be as the "backup" tool to that one tool a tradie simply cannot do without, such as an impact driver. Instead of purchasing a cheaper brand, and thus a whole new battery system, as insurance against that day when the apprentice drops the Makita off the roof of a two storey building onto the concrete below, a builder can have a Makita-branded replacement ready, using the same battery system, without spending too much.

    Beyond those markets, HNN does also believe that the MT Series could find a decent market with a certain band of DIYers. These would be people largely involved in maintenance and repair work who, more than anything, are looking for a tool that can absorb bumps and small falls, and will last for more than six years.

    Where it is far less likely to succeed is in the field of prosumer users. These markets tend to look for advanced features. In fact, the Stanley FatMax brand is just about an ideal fit for the prosumer.

    The Australian situation

    It is possible that there is another, slightly more dire, reason why some of the power tool companies are marketing down-spec tools in the trade market. The forecasts from the Housing Industry Association and other sources indicate that both 2016/17 and 2017/18 are likely to see a mild decline in construction activity.

    At the moment the forecast would indicate a mild recovery in 2018/19. However, this is less certain than the declines over the next two years. It is just about as likely that 2018/19 will be a flat year for construction growth.

    Given that less than positive future, the tool manufacturers may be gearing up to supply tradies who are doing it tough with good-enough, less expensive tools.

    Tool company strategy

    With the introduction of the Maktia MT Series this is a good time to look at the overall strategies of the leading tool companies.

    There are surprising similarities in the strategies of Techtronic Industries (TTI) and Bosch. Both have two major lines of tools, one consumer DIY, and the other high-end trade/professional. While TTI's Milwaukee brand certainly has the technological edge at the moment with its One-Key connectivity options, indications are that Bosch is on a stretch project to catch up over the next two years.

    There are some similarities, but not as many, between the strategies of Makita and SBD. Both are offering a split range to the pro/tradie market. Bosch has a good product for prosumers, and Makita a good product for less-developed countries. SBD, let us not forget, also has a very good pure DIY offering with its Black & Decker tools, something that Makita has not developed.

    One real similarity between SBD and Makita, however, is that both companies are lagging in the Internet of Things (IoT) development of their tool systems. SBD has brought out a Bluetooth-equipped battery for both its B&D consumer range and DeWalt, but indications are that sales are slow for these products. SBD has promised a surprise hi-tech innovation for later in calendar 2016, but no details have become available as yet.

    Makita, on the other hand, has not indicated any development work in IoT product enhancements. This could, in part, reflect the fact that of the major tool companies, Makita has the lowest reliance on fleet tool sales, which is what IoT is generally aimed at.

    In terms of strategy over the next six or seven years, the difficulty HNN sees is that the endpoint of IoT development will be the integration of Hilti-like tool leasing arrangements for the major tool companies. If that does happen, Makita could find itself quite disadvantaged in the market.

    HNN has not, of course forgotten the other major power tool company, Hitachi Koki. Hitachi has made an excellent move in acquiring the German-based Metabo, but we expect the fruits of their merged technologies will not be available until mid-2017 at the earliest.

    That is something to look forward to. In fact, 2017 is set to be something of a "banner year" for tool development. We will likely see a second generation One-Key product from TTI/Milwaukee, Bosch will be launching its tools with integrated Bluetooth control, and DeWalt will be developing whatever its new innovation is.

    For retailers facing something of a "down" market in Australia, it will be particularly good news, as tool innovations will help spur demand for tools, and hopefully give revenues a good boost.


    Surfaces that look like stone

    ...but are not made of stone

    Smartstone can be a smart alternative to natural stone in cost, looks and durability

    The growing popularity of engineered quartz surfaces has seen the product often replace marble and granite as the material of choice for benchtops and splashbacks.

    More durable than granite or concrete, quartz surfaces are less likely to chip or crack, do not require sealing, are non-porous, resist spills and stains, and can be maintained hygienically. This can them a highly practical choice for modern working environments. Best of all, engineered quartz surfaces also replicate the attractive aesthetic of natural stone.

    Smartstone has been a major distributor of engineered quartz surfaces since 2002. It offers a range of well-finished durable surfaces for kitchens and bathrooms. The company's surfaces are composed of a minimum 93% quartz and a unique mix of resins and pigments. They are balanced and engineered to create natural stone finishes.

    The Smartstone collection is a tailored palette of visually striking options, comprising of four classic ranges with 24 unique styles that match the look of real natural stone without the expensive price tag. By offering the natural stone aesthetic in a more affordable and durable product without compromising on quality, Smartstone is an ideal value-for-money solution for projects of all sizes.

    It can meet the needs of homeowners who wish to combine looks and practicality in their selection of building materials.

    The Smartstone range also has low maintenance qualities. Being non-porous, these surfaces do not need sealing, are stain-resistant and absorb very little moisture. They are suitable for kitchen worktops as well as bathroom vanities and bath surrounds. Smartstone engineered quartz surfaces also provides a 15-year limited warranty.


    Efficient LED downlights

    New DLI Series from HPM

    Legrand has also introduced its specialist emergency exit signage

    HPM has unveiled its LED Downlights DLI Series, designed to set a new benchmark for lighting efficacy. Emitting up to 880 lumens at 7 watts, the range features a lumens per watt ratio of up to 125 lm/w. This should deliver serious energy savings and lighting performance.

    The one-piece design has a fully integrated dimmable driver to significantly reduce installation time, and the downlights' IC-F rating allows them to be installed underneath insulation.

    In an industry first, the DLI Series specifies a proven lifespan of 20,000 hours under insulation. This is backed by extensive testing in HPM Legrand's local NATA --National Association of Testing Authorities -- accredited laboratory. The range delivers 35,000 hours lifespan in free air.

    As a manufacturer of both dimmers and downlights, HPM delivers a dimmer compatible LED range for smooth dimming and no flickering. Contractors should be able to install them with confidence.

    The DLI Series has a screw-less terminal cover for easy hard-wired connection, and 2,500 volts electrical surge protection provides added safety. Created for 90mm or 125mm cut outs, it has a low profile for easy installation in slab canisters and low ceiling cavities. Other design benefits include a fitted one-metre flex and plug, and a 10mm recessed diffuser for reduced glare.

    With a colour rendering index (CRI) of 80+ for truer colour expression, the downlights can emit between 700 and 750 lumens of warm white light and 820 to 880 lumens of cool white light. The downlights are IP44 weatherproof and are suitable in covered outdoor areas.

    Lighting up exit signs

    Emergency lighting maker Legrand has launched a tamper resistant SecurIT LED Exit Sign for institutional environments and correctional facilities. Mahmoud Kebbi, category manager for commercial and emergency lighting at HPM Legrand said:

    Clear and visible communication is essential for smooth emergency evacuation. A one-size fits all approach is rarely suitable for emergency evacuation products. Evacuation signage should be specified for the precise requirements of a building to ensure it is always visible and the potential for damage is minimised.

    The SecurIT LED Exit Sign has been specifically made for prisons, detention centres, police stations and psychiatric wards. It features an unbreakable flexible thermo plastic diffuser, which cannot be used as a weapon if dislodged.

    Anti-tamper Resitork screws prevent the removal of the sign, while a 6mm interior cover prevents entry to electronic components and LEDs. Four watt LEDs deliver up to 50,000 hours of light, reducing the need for regular maintenance.

    Legrand has also added a new Large LED Exit Sign to its offering. Created for easy viewing from up to 60 metres away, these are ideal for large shopping centres, entertainment venues and industrial applications.

    Ceiling and wall installation options are available, and 5.6 watt LEDs deliver up to 50,000 hours of light. An auto-disconnect terminal block provides additional safety. The terminal block is quick to connect and auto-disconnects easily.

    Legrand's Edgelight LED Exit Signs are a versatile solution that can deliver a modern aesthetic for office buildings and public spaces. Winner of a 2015 Good Design Award and a Commendation Award from the Illuminating Engineering Society of New South Wales, this exit sign is made to deliver unobtrusive high performance.

    Recessed and surface mounting allows for flexible installation to suit wall, ceiling and sloped applications. The LED strips and electronics are locally designed and manufactured.

    All products can be set up as individual signs or networked with Legrand's wireless emergency lighting system, AXIOM.


    Bulbs for winter planting

    Mr Fothergill's releases new varieties

    It offers produce seeds for colder months and flowering bulbs for the spring season

    Mr Fothergill's has just launched a number of new produce and flowering bulb varieties for planting this winter. Managing director Aaron Whitehouse said while autumn is considered the prime bulb planting season for traditional spring favourites such as daffodils and tulips, there are many varieties that should be planted in the colder months.

    Winter is the key season for planting summer bulbs and getting started in June is ideal for flowering perennials such as lilies and gladioli, and produce including strawberries and asparagus, that enjoy cooler temperatures.

    Produce bulbs

    Seed Potato Dutch Cream is a creamy potato variety with rich yellow flesh. Ideal for boiled or mashed but is also suitable for baking or used in soup.

    Seed Potato King Edward is a large variety with creamy white flesh and a light, floury texture. It rarely discolours when cooked and is useful for roasting.

    Seed Potato Russett Burbank is a popular variety with dark brown skin and few eyes. Its flesh is white, dry and high in starch making it ideal for baking, mashing and particularly hot chips.

    Unfortunately these potatoes are not available in WA or TAS.

    Flowering bulbs

    Gladioli Mon Amour is perfect for a big floral show. The elegant spires of ruffled blooms provide an explosion of cream, pale yellow and pink.

    Hellebore Mix are dainty nodding blooms that bring months of colour into winter gardens. Hellebores are drought tolerant, long lived and suited for partly shady spots in the garden.

    Lilium Mapira are large, deep purple, almost black blooms with vibrant orange stamen and a faint fragrance.


    Husqvarna unveils power tools

    Products launched at Bauma Munich

    The company also previewed two items that are still in the prototype stage

    Outdoor power tool maker Husqvarna has introduced a raft of new and updated products including a power cutter, power pack, floor grinder, diamond tools for surface preparation and more.

    They were revealed at Bauma Munich, a major trade fair for construction, building materials, mining machines, vehicles and equipment. It is held every three years in Munich, Germany.

    The K 6500 power cutter has a magnesium blade guard, improved water system and a new blade bolt concept. The latest model is equipped with Husqvarna's high frequency PRIME[tm] technology, making it the company's most powerful electric cutter ever. It can be used with Husqvarna's PP 65, PP 220 or PP 490 power packs.

    The PP 490 power pack has been designed to be used with the Husqvarna WS 482 HF wall saw, the CS 10 wire saw, prime power cutters and drill motor.

    The PG 680 RC floor grinder saw made its debut too. This product has unique oscillation function for greater productivity. In addition, two carts for power cutters were at Bauma Munich in the form of the Husqvarna KV 760 and KV 970/1260. They both come with pressurised water tanks and a guard retainer.

    The company also showcased its Redi Lock G 1400 range of metal-bond diamond tools for the Redi Lock system, used for surface preparation. The G 1400 model is specially developed for very hard concrete surfaces.

    At the trade show, Husqvarna gave a sneak peek at two prototype products not yet available on the market. They included the diamond micro trencher DMT700 for fibre installation jobs and the WSC40 wall saw chain attachment.


    Cutting it close

    Compact bolt cutter from HKP

    Angle cutter head can be positioned flat against surfaces for clean, nearly flush cuts

    Angle cutter head can be positioned flat against surfaces for clean, nearly flush cuts

    HKP has designed a brand new Compact Bolt Cutter (CBC) that combats user fatigue by reducing force requirements. The CBC requires 50% less cutting effort compared to a pair of standard lineman's pliers.

    For greater efficiency and less strain, the recessed throat-notch clasps materials closer to the joint. And the heavy-duty spring return facilitates a measured cutting experience for high production applications.

    The extra wide, dual-material co-moulded grip can further enhance the user's comfort and experience. The HKP Compact Bolt Cutter is easy to use and is built to last, with induction hardened cutting edges for robust performance and extended working life.

    The CBC can cut through materials such as copper, vinyl, steel and aluminium (up to 6mm). So be it fencing (4mm), wire (6mm) or chain (4mm), the CBC will be suitable for most workloads.

    Its robust locking latch is also easy to switch with gloves on. With no nonsense straight-head and centre cut blades, this bolt cutter is designed to save time, reduce fatigue and assist with precision engineered functionality.


    Hilti expands customer base

    Its 12V cordless range welcomes new users

    These tools are still built Hilti tough but more compact and on a new battery platform

    Hilti has developed its smallest and lightest range of cordless tools to date to help customers reach higher levels of productivity, control and accessibility in everyday light-duty drilling and screw driving work. Although these tools seem to have been available for some time, Hilti is marketing them as a brand new range.

    Operating on a 12V battery platform and only weighing around 2.5lbs. (approximately 1.13kgs) each, the cordless hammer drill/driver SF 2H-A, cordless screwdriver SFD 2-A and cordless impact SID 2-A have been designed for working in tight spaces, dark corners, and occupied spaces where noise level is a concern.

    These tools are ergonomically designed for simple handling and working comfort including a slide style connection battery that makes it easier to handle. They also feature dual, built-in LED lights at the base of the tool to illuminate the task at hand.

    The 2.6 Ah Li-ion batteries come complete with State-of-Charge indicators so users will always know how much charge is left to complete their work.

    The 12V range is fitted with Hilti's lithium Cordless Power Care (CPC) system that features electronic battery management for extra-long lifetime and a rubberised, impact-resistant battery casing for durability.

    The 12V kits are offered with either a single 12V battery charger or a 12V battery adapter that will allow customers to use their existing Hilti 18V and 36V Li-ion chargers to recharge the 12V batteries.

    This 12 V line is built to provide long-term service under the most rugged conditions.

    SF 2H-A cordless 12V hammer drill/driver

    This Hilti SF 2H-A combination hammer drill/driver should give users the versatility to handle various drilling applications. It offers a precision clutch that provides control for intricate screw driving such as drilling small diameter anchor holes in hollow concrete block or brick, installing masonry screw anchors and drilling or fastening into wood based materials.

    SFD 2-A cordless screwdriver

    The cordless screwdriver is designed to reduce noise while providing reliable fastening performance with its 15-position torque clutch and rapid switch reaction features. The Hilti SFD 2-A is equipped with a voltage, current and temperature sensors to protect it during stressful tasks.

    SID 2-A cordless impact driver

    The Hilti 12V cordless impact driver can drive self-tapping screws up to 3/16" diameter in metal. Wood screws and lag bolts up to 1/4" are also on the menu. The SID 2-A shares similar features with the SF 2H-A and SFD 2-A. It has a compact design with two LEDs located at the foot of the tool, ergonomic grip, and rapid switch reaction along with voltage, current, and temperature sensors.


    DeWalt upgrades 20V MAX XR lineup

    Refreshing two cordless tools

    The drills and hammer drills have gained strength and can run longer

    DeWalt has expanded and enhanced its 20V MAX XR Brushless line as part of the company's Made in the USA with Global Materials initiative. The new additions include a Premium 3-Speed Drill/Driver (DCD991) and Premium 3-Speed Hammer Drill (DCD996). As nearly identical models, the DCD991 and DCD996 differ only in that the latter adds the hammering mechanism.

    The 3-speed transmissions offer greater control for specific applications. This can help prevent overdriving a screw or give users more speed when needed.

    The hammer drill features 0-38,250 BPM (blows per minute) and 2,250 RPM. It is up to 82% more powerful than the previous version and offers up to 2.8 times more runtime.

    A 60-Lumen LED light is standard on both units. It features three settings, which includes a spotlight mode with 20-minute delay option.

    DeWalt is also kitting the 20V Max XR Brushless Drills with 5.0 amp hour battery packs. The new drills deliver 820 unit watts out of power, which is about a 25% increase over the current model. That ends up being in the 885-inch pound (99.99157 N*m) range for maximum torque.

    Both models have a nitro-carburized metal ratcheting chuck that is easy to grip, and a comfortable handle that fits hands of all sizes. The coated and sealed switches are moisture and dust resistant.


    Lawn tractors boast power and precision

    New standard in comfort and command

    The XT2 Enduro Series Lawn Tractor is Cub Cadet's strongest ride on mower yet

    Cub Cadet's XT2 Enduro Series of lawn tractors (models LX46 and LX54) is visually bold, and its Signature Cut[tm] offers the user guaranteed mechanical longevity and a crisp lawn, every time. It is durable in build and ergonomic in design. And the new Cub Comfort[tm] slide capable high back seat with arm rests has a ten-degree chair incline. This means the operator can complete long mowing jobs in comfort.

    The XT2 Enduro Series has a refined and strengthened cutting deck with the latest extra-tough fabrication and an optimal catcher. Its hardy E-coating defence build is designed to withstand corrosion and weathering.

    The power and strength of these lawn tractors have been streamlined with an Auto Locking Differential system -- if one tyre starts to slip, the rear two will automatically lock into place keeping the user safe and stable at all times.

    Fitted with premium tread Multi-Trac tyres that distribute power straight into the ground for greater precision, less turfing and minimal slippage, even on wet grass. This is ideal for stabilising attachments like trailers and for towing.

    The Cub Cadet XT2 Enduro Series is expertly designed for ease of use. Operators just push down on the pedal and the Hydrostatic Transmission System will do the rest. Coupled with responsive handling technology, the user should have a smooth and commanding mowing experience.

    The XT2 Enduro Series Lawn Tractor is a versatile machine for challenging terrains, hauling or general yard maintenance.


    A backyard ally

    Lightweight chainsaw for domestic jobs

    ECHO claims its new 12" top handle chainsaw is also well balanced, powerful and precise

    ECHO's CS 2510TES 12" Top Handle Chainsaw has a 25cc engine that offers plenty of grunt. Weighing in at just 2.3kg, the 2510 model reduces fatigue so users can get the job done in one fell swoop.

    The G-Force Engine Air Pre-Cleaner system is a sophisticated mechanism, designed to significantly increase the lifespan of the engine. The 2510 chainsaw has an impressive power to weight ratio, offering more from a lighter unit.

    Despite operating at a lower weight than its competitors, the 2510 does not cut corners when it comes to function. The compact machine is easily manoeuvrable in tight spaces, comes equipped with a swing out lanyard ring that makes for better balance and climbing easier. A top mounted chain oil adjustment allows the operator to control oil flow, optimising operation.

    UK-based ECHO has manufactured outdoor power equipment for over 60 years, and its CS2510 should prove to be an instant classic.

    Quick specs

  • Engine Displacement: 25cc
  • Output: 1.11kW
  • Bar length: 25cm
  • Saw chain pitch: Carving - 1/4 Sprocket - 3/8
  • Guide gar Gauge: 0.050"
  • Dry weight: 2.3kg
  • products

    Ryobi's garage technology hub

    Garage door opener +

    The Ryobi garage door opener points the way to a future home automaton market

    Over the past four years home automation has been viewed as a product category that extends existing product ranges. Home automation products are often "souped-up" versions of familiar devices, with additional home automation features added-on, at a similarly "souped-up" price. For example, $50 lightbulbs, or $100 powerpoints, that measure energy use.

    The market seems set to change over the next three years. Home automation products will take on a more aggressive role, competing with standard products in the mid- and low-range by offering better features at similar prices.

    Something of an "index case" for these changes has already appeared. It's telling that it has shown up in a product right in the centre of the home improvement sector. Somewhat less unexpectedly, the product has been developed by the Techtronic Industries (TTI) Ryobi brand, which has invested heavily in technology for the DIY power tool sector.

    Ryobi's Ultra-Quiet Garage Door Opener retails for USD248 at US-based big box retailer The Home Depot. This product represents the first real advance in garage door openers (GDOs) for the past 20 years.

    Its importance isn't only about the advances it has made in this previously very stable category. It's also about the way TTI innovated, in both meeting customers' needs, and leveraging its own capabilities for marketing and design.

    Opener history

    GDOs were originally invented in the USA in the mid 1920s. They became popular in the late 1940s, when entry via an external wired keypad was first introduced. In the mid-1950s entry via a wireless button keypad was added, using technology developed during World War II to remotely detonate bombs. Modernised through the use of transistors, the remote controls were small and convenient to operate.

    >}1930s use of a radio garage door opener}

    Security concerns about the remote transmitters persisted until around 1996, when there was widespread adoption of the same "rolling code" systems used by remote car unlocking systems. These encrypted the communications between the transmitter and the opener, making it almost impossible for a burglar to open a garage door by duplicating the entry code.

    >}Ad for radio-controlled garage door opener}

    Various accessories were added to GDOs over the years. A light that switched on when the opener was activated became common, and by the early 2000s, the light was also motion activated. Battery backup was introduced as an option, and now comes standard on some systems.

    Around 2010 or so the first systems that could interconnect GDOs with the internet (and thus smartphones) appeared. Even today, many of these systems rely on sub-routers that need to be connected directly to an internet-connected wireless router via an Ethernet cable. Others have evolved to use only wireless connections, though most still rely on a separate control panel to set them up.

    >}US-brand Craftsman garage door opener internet gateway}

    Function and design

    The mechanical design of the GDO has hardly changed since its invention. In the common installation for sectional garage doors, the device is mounted to the ceiling of the garage. A "trolley track" along the ceiling of the garage houses a metal-reinforced rubber belt. This is attached to the trolley itself, and the trolley is attached, via a metal "arm", to the door.

    To open the door, the electric motor in the GDO rotates to drive the rubber belt, moving the trolley towards the back of the garage, thus opening the door. To close the door, the motor operates in the reverse direction. Sectional and single-panel garage doors are counter-balanced, which means the force needed to open and close them is not large.

    The Ryobi innovation

    There are two parts to this transformation has made of the humble GDO. the standard features the GDO come with, and a set of six (for now), optional modules that can be purchased separately to add to its functions.

    The basic Ryobi GDO

  • The Ryobi GDO (RGDO) provides wi-fi/internet/smartphone connectivity out of the box. Linking directly to a smartphone for initial setup, it connects to a local wi-fi network in much the same way a standard wi-fi printer would.
  • The smartphone link provides access to most of the settings on the device.
  • The smartphone link provides access to the usual status/log activities, such as whether door is open or closed, and open/close activity in the recent past.
  • Homelink. This is a US communications protocol specifically for GDOs and gate openers. For example, the Tesla S is equipped with Homelink, and it can be programmed to show a Homelink button "door open" button on its integrated touchscreen when the GPS the vehicle is approaching the garage.
  • What Ryobi describes as an electric motor that is "20% quieter" than competing products.
  • A motor Ryobi rates as having 1400 Nm/s of power, as contrasted with the maximum of 1000 Nm/s common to most GDOs.
  • LED light with motion sensor. As has become standard on GDOs, the unit provides lighting via a motion sensor, with adjustable activation settings.
  • >}The Ryobi garage door opener without modules}

    In addition to the above, the RGDO also comes equipped with a battery backup system, which can operate the door opener up to 100 times from a fully-charged battery.

    It's here, with the battery backup, that we begin to see the real marketing intelligence behind this device. The battery it uses is a standard Ryobi One+ Li-ion, battery, the same type used in Ryobi power tools and outdoor power equipment.

    The device doesn't come with a battery -- which makes sense -- but the RGDO doesn't just house the battery, of course, it also acts as a fully configured Ryobi One+ battery charger.

    While other GDOs can be configured with a backup battery, those batteries are entirely passive investments -- all the battery does is sit there, attached to the GDO, perhaps getting used for 10 opens for one or two days every two years. The Ryobi alternative integrates this system with they Ryobi cordless tool range, and makes getting value from the battery a real possibility.

    People who already own a few Ryobi cordless tools, of course, don't really need to buy a battery: when there is a power failure, they can just get a ladder and plug one of their power tool batteries into the RGDO.

    For people who don't own a Ryobi cordless tool, a 1.5 amp-hour battery costs as little as USD40. Or they could just decided to get better value by buying one of the Ryobi tool kits, such as the ONE+ 18-Volt Lithium-ion string trimmer/edger, blower/sweeper, battery and charger kit for USD99, or the ONE+ Lithium-ion hammer drill, impact driver, battery and charger kit for USD129.

    In other words, it works just like a Ryobi cordless tool purchase in encouraging a customer to benefit from the wide range of tools.

    The RGDO modules

    The backup battery only hints at what is further developed by the set of five modules currently available for the device. Each of these enables the buyer to customise the device. The current modules include:

  • Retractable extension cord. This provides almost nine metres of extension cord, and three outlet sockets.
  • Laser park assist. This is a pair of lasers (for two cars). They are adjusted by the user so that they shine on a particular part of the car (eg., a windshield spray nozzle) when the car is correctly positioned in the garage. This helps to guide parking.
  • Bluetooth speaker.
  • Three-speed fan, controlled by the RGDO remote.
  • Carbon monoxide sensor.
  • >}The Ryobi garage door opener with modules}

    The first two of these, the extension cord and the laser parking assist, fall into the category of "why not?" accessories. They relate as much to the position of the RGDO, overhead in the garage, as anything else.

    The Bluetooth speaker and the fan will be familiar to anyone who knows the Ryobi range: these are repurposed tools. TTI is making use of pre-existing manufactured lines, likely with some simple adapters added.

    The most interesting of all the modules, because it is the one that points to the future development of the RGDO, is the CO sensor. To begin with, this is simply a great idea. Anyone who has done any work at all on cars in garages will be aware that the level of CO can be a concern. While it is easy to detect high levels to CO, longer-term exposure to low levels of CO can also lead to fatal poisoning. A side benefit is that CO detectors can also provide an early alert to some types of fires.

    What is really interesting about this module is that it interconnects with the RGDO smartphone app, so that when excess CO is detected, it sends an alert to the smartphone. This capability could see the type and functions of future modules radically extended.

    For example, adding a simple webcam module could enable a scenario where a delivery person rings the internet-connected doorbell, is asked to leave the delivered package in the garage, which is remotely opened and then closed through the Ryobi app. The webcam could be used to make sure that nothing untoward happens during the delivery.

    Outside of that, there are further possibilities for Ryobi to integrate their tools into the RGDO as well. The charge level of the battery in the RGDO can also be checked via the smartphone app. What if some Ryobi battery chargers can link to the app via the RGDO in the garage, and notify the user when a charge cycle is complete? Or tool "cradles" could report back if tools had been returned to them at day's end, and properly stored. Which introduces the possibility of custom storage worktables made by Ryobi.

    So, on one level, the RGDO is just a convenient grouping of features you'd like to have in a garage. On another level it is a highly functional hub for home automation features.

    The competition

    To really understand the potential impact of the RGDO, you need to think about its competition in markets such as Australia. Based on projected currency exchange rates, if Ryobi did choose to market this device in Australia, pricing would likely be around $400 to $440 for the base unit.

    Take, for example, the B&D Controll-A-Door Prodigy (CADP), which is marketed by B&D, part of DuluxGroup's troubled garage door/opener business (which saw EBIT decline by 6% in 2015). The base unit, which is less powerful than the RGDO, is sold by National Garage for $540. Adding smartphone connectivity costs over $240 more from the same source (though you can buy kits through eBay for around $99). Meanwhile, the other major player in Australian GDOs, Giderol, doesn't seem to even offer any kind of smartphone option.

    >}The B&D Prodigy}

    These features and price points go directly to current competition, but they aren't the real point. The real point is that DuluxGroup, which is a paint manufacturer that has diversified into a medium-industrial, import business, simply has no real chance of competing with TTI in this area. The same could be said not only of other companies that have diversified in this way, but several pure-play opener companies as well.

    The advent of home automation, the introduction of technology to what has been for 20 years a sleepy byway of home improvement accessories, will both revitalise this market, and lock out many of the current participants. The real future competition is likely to come from companies like Stanley Black & Decker and Positec. Other participants will either consolidate to form real competition, or else be relegated to the lower, purely functional end of the market.


    Garden tools for US spring

    Ames is rolling out its latest products

    They are ergonomically designed for use in a standing position to minimise back strain

    The Ames Companies has introduced a new line of garden tools under its Ames brand in time for the spring season in the US. They can provide a sneak peak of what is to come for the Australian market.

    The Spike Aerator is the "secret weapon" to improving lawn health. Its all-steel, multi-spike design should provide optimal soil penetration. This allows water, air and fertiliser to achieve faster root access. It is a suitable tool for hard soils and comes equipped with a footstep and a strong, U-shaped steel handle for added leverage.

    >}The Spike Aerator}

    The Stand-Up Weeder has a patented design that quickly and easily removes weeds at the root with no physical bending or divots of damage to turf. This tool also aerates the soil for a healthy lawn and features an ejection slide action for easy release of weeds. Made of durable steel and lightweight poly, this tool is ideal for eliminating weeds without chemicals.

    The Garden Tiller has a patented head design with six innovative tines for optimal soil aeration and turnover. This tool allows air, water and fertiliser to mix and penetrate the ground which can result in a healthy garden. Its large, non-slip footsteps offer added leverage when breaking up hard, compacted soil or mulch. The tool also has a wide, T-handle, which provides a comfortable grip.

    The Landscape Border Edger is useful for creating clean borders around beds and walkways. The arched, serrated steel blade cuts through grass and turf in one step and is able to create straight or curved trenches for custom-shaped beds. A footplate provides consistent cutting depth. This tool works well to create clean, finished edges along driveways, flower beds and sidewalks.

    >}The Landscape Border Edger}

    The Garden Cultivator features a cast metal head for increased strength and durability. There are six rotating, detachable tines that can effortlessly penetrate soil to accommodate tilling around and in between rows with ease. Its ergonomic steel handle design can also minimise fatigue, and its cushioned grip provides a comfortable and sturdy hold.

    The Planting Auger makes planting bulbs and annuals fast and easy from an upright position. It attaches to a power drill, which does the digging, and its all-steel design ensures strength and durability.


    Garden and Tools trading as Cyclone Tools - HNN

    Easy control blinds

    Luxaflex enters home automation

    These blinds can help with heating and cooling, lighting as well as home security

    Luxaflex Window Fashions are welcoming the next generation of wireless technology with its new PowerView motorisation, which allows homeowners to control their blinds with the press of a button.

    The latest product can be controlled via smart devices. It lets homeowners schedule personalised settings that will activate automatically.

    National marketing manager, Jenny Brown, said PowerView is compatible with most home automation systems available today. She said:

    The house of the future is here right now. PowerView fits into most home automation systems and its purpose is to simplify your life. It is now possible to raise the garage door, position the blinds to maximise privacy at night and have your favourite music playing, all at the touch of a button.

    Homeowners can create "scenes" to balance different lighting and privacy needs and adjust window coverings for temperature and security. This can be done from across the room or across the world, using the PowerView app. Brown said:

    By pre-programming different scenes for various times of the day -- such as 'winter breakfast' which can raise your blinds to invite in the winter sun, or 'hot afternoon' to lower shades and minimise heat transfer, it is taking very sophisticated technology and making it extremely easy to use.
    As the blinds are cord-free, they look modern and are safe for pets and children. It's never been easier to find the perfect combination of light, privacy and warmth to keep your home perfectly in sync no matter the time of day or the season.

    Luxaflex PowerView will be launched in May.


    King of lawns

    Lawn King Ride-On Mower 20/42 from Rover

    The latest model is more durable with an improved high-performance steering system

    Rover's Lawn King takes durability one step further, with a new style chassis that is stronger and more resistant to the elements.

    The Lawn King's tighter compact turning circles reduce cut time by lessening the amount of required line trimming. The rider can manoeuvre better through tighter areas, and around common backyard obstacles such as trees, fence posts and flowerbeds.

    The mower is controlled by a foot operated hydrostatic transmission system and powered by a 20hp Kohler 7000 Series V-Twin OHV engine. Coupled with cruise control and a high backseat, the Lawn King easily allows the user to comfortably cover grounds up to 8,000m2.

    With an easier-to-use 107cm (42-inches) side discharge spring-assisted cutting deck, that applies force to the deck, the Lawn King can tackle diverse terrains, whilst taking the weight and strain away so that the rider can adjust height more easily.

    The Rover Lawn King is covered by a three-year (unlimited hour) unit warranty, a five-year chassis and front axle warranty as well as a 90-day commercial unit warranty. It comes with a number of optional extras such as a mulching kit, bumper and catcher.

    The Rover Lawn King Ride-On Mower 20/42 is designed to be efficient, affordable and comfortable.


    In the (matte) black

    Dark tapware finishes are becoming popular

    Methven offers another level of sophistication with its latest tapware range

    Traditional chrome finishes for kitchen and bathroom tapware are increasingly being replaced by modern and sophisticated matte black. While chrome trends will never completely go out of vogue, matte black tapware is growing in popularity.

    Matte black tapware is ideal for customers looking to add a sleek and stylish look to their kitchen or bathroom. Its versatile and timeless characteristics can finish off most designs whether it is a cool monochrome, stone or warm timber.

    In the kitchen, black accents on a culinary sink mixer can make a statement. Whether the design is industrial-style, fitted with timber or concrete benchtops or with stone, the Methven collection is a premium option.

    >}The Methven Gaston culinary sink mixer is a best seller}

    The Methven Gaston is the company's best selling culinary sink mixer. It meets the matte black trend and offers kitchen functionality with its pull out veggie sprayer, as well as a pause option and spring pull down hose.

    In the bathroom, the monochrome pairing of black tapware and white bathware creates a contemporary yet classic look. The minimalist Methven matte black tapware and shower mounted on white tiles instantly becomes a striking centrepiece.

    >}The slim line Methven Glide collection is a popular choice}

    The slim line Methven Glide matte black tapware collection is a popular choice with customers because it balances retro chic with contemporary classic, giving end-users an edgy style option to the traditional chrome.

    Additionally, the matte black finish diminishes the appearance of fingerprints and watermarks, making them less visible than stainless steel or chrome. So the Methven range is easy to maintain.


    Shedding light on smart homes

    Multifunctional Light from Sony

    Sony has tried to think of everything with its latest smart home product

    The Sony Multifunctional Light can illuminate a room in any colour of light available on the visible spectrum. It doesn't need a switch because its sensors know when someone is in the room. These sensors can also track temperature, sound and humidity, and pass on this information to other devices such as air conditioning and thermostat units.

    And because it knows when someone walks in, it can turn the television on and then be used as a speaker system for enhancing the viewing experience. But if that person is an uninvited guest, the overhead light doubles as a burglar alarm.

    The accompanying app serves as an intercom system for the entire home and can receive voice commands regarding other gadgets under its control. It also has a microSD memory card slot.

    A recent report from technology market intelligence company, ABI Research indicates that sales of individual smart home devices are set to double during 2016. By end of the decade, many of us will be paying for a smart home services package in the same way we do for an internet connection. Jonathan Collins, principal analyst at ABI Research said:

    As the smart home functionality continues to push into new homes, vendors are benefiting from initial device and system revenues but the goal is to bring these sales into long-term recurring revenue services. Managed smart home system pricing, like traditional home security services, is geared to win new consumers with reduced device and equipment sales in return for long-term recurring revenues.

    The company notes that service providers are already taking established devices like Nest Thermostats or Philips Hue lights and bundling them as an integrated package. If this trend continues, then a device like the Multifunctional Light or Amazon's Echo could soon be seen as the ideal unobtrusive hub for controlling such packages.

    Whether or not ABI's forecast is accurate, Sony's smart light suggests that companies are increasingly looking beyond smartphones to other electronic outlets to channel their creativity.

    The Sony Multifunctional Light is set to go on sale initially in Japan later this year.

    You can watch the video here:

    Link to YouTube video

    Cabot spins gold

    Satin finish and strong protection

    Works best for decks and outdoor furniture, and made to withstand weather extremes

    Cabot Woodcare is launching a new finish, Cabot Gold that blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor living. It mimics the appearance of interior hardwood floors outdoors for a luxurious look through two coats. The first coat penetrates, while the second coat adds dimension as it seals, to protect against UV sun damage, extreme temperatures and rain and moisture.

    Cabot Gold is applied in three steps:

  • Remove all existing stain, paint or sealer. Then clean and sand the bare wood so Cabot Gold can penetrate properly and seal properly.
  • Let the first coat dry at least 24 hours before applying the second coat. Let dry for three days before returning furniture to a deck.
  • Applied properly, Cabot Gold will wear gracefully without peeling.
  • Cabot Gold is available in four different stain colours and can be used on both cedar and pine. Stain colours include Sun-Drenched Oak, Sunlit Walnut, Fireside Cherry and Moonlight Mahogany.


    Smart lock for apartment owners

    Not available to individual consumers yet

    Latch is a sleek, high-tech door lock that is designed for both renters and landlords

    Start up company Latch is making its first smart door lock available to real estate developers, so that apartments will come fully equipped with the high-tech entry system. Because Latch is a smart lock, there are no keys required so the lock is operated by passcode and smartphone integrations.

    For most city-dwellers and apartment-renters, installing their own high-tech smart lock is out of the question, because the landlord needs to be able to access the apartment too. That's why Latch is targeting luxury apartment buildings in order to give tenants access to the lock through their standard rental agreement. (The company is also trying to do deals with some offices and other commercial spaces like gyms.)

    Latch is even going so far as to discourage renters from passing out keys, unless a tenant insists. That way keys can't be lost and buildings don't have to change the locks when someone moves out.

    Latch can open with a traditional key, but its creators stress the passcode as the primary operation for locking and locking the door. Tenants will be able to issue temporary passcodes to visitors and family members. And as with other smart locks, Latch features setting options that will unlock the door as soon as the tenant's smart phone is within range.

    Some of the obvious concerns with Latch-equipped apartments have to do with privacy and security. Theoretically, building owners and managers would be able to access Latch's detailed logs of door activity, including each time a specific Latch device is opened or closed.

    Owners of large apartment buildings have the benefit of a sort of attendance log in case incidents or emergencies take place, but renters, who have access to their own information as well, have little choice about the tracking of their presence within Latch apartments.

    Latch door locks also have hidden cameras that snap pictures of guests at the door. Luke Schoenfelder, co-founder and CEO of Latch, told Digital Trends in an email:

    Latch deeply values consumer privacy and intentionally limits the data they collect to increase the security and safety of the building.

    So far, Latch has raised a total of US$16 million in funding to bring its first smart lock to market. Much of that funding came from real estate partners who have invested in Latch in order to secure early or exclusive access rights to the system. Two buildings in New York are already slated to implement Latch in the 435 units shared between them.

    In the future, Latch is considering marketing its product to individual consumers, although that's not a part of its early business model.


    Commemorative pruners from Fiskars

    Special Edition 365 Titanium Pruner

    The rugged DuraFrame construction offers superior strength and reduced weight

    The Special Edition Fiskars 365 Titanium Pruners are a way for the company to thank its customers and celebrate their 365th anniversary. Through its patented Powergear technology, these hand pruners can reduce tension, giving the user more torque. It also provides three times more cutting power than traditional pruners.

    The strength and precision of titanium blades make cleaner cuts every time, which is important in preventing damage to plants and leaving them vulnerable to disease. And the pruner's ergonomic design is comfortable, and works as an extension of the user's hand.

    For over 365 years Fiskars have been creating best-in-class durable and lightweight tools through advanced engineering, and a heavy focus on ergonomics. As Finland's oldest company, it continues to focus on improving the consumer experience in the garden, kitchen and craft categories.


    Guild power tools provide professional finish

    Known for their ease of use

    The range is exclusively available at UK's Argos and Homebase, online and in-store

    The new Guild power tool brand features sanders, angle grinders, circular saws and drills. They have been designed with easy to use buttons and controls so that anyone from novices to keen DIYers can feel confident when tackling DIY projects around the home.

    With over 40 products to choose from, this extensive range can help users complete both small and large-scale projects with ease and precision.

    The Guild 18V Hammer Drill is a "must have" for any toolbox. Screwdriving and drilling is made more efficient with its 23 torque settings for greater versatility and high power. This is a high performance tool that can drill into brick, stone, wood, metal and plastics with ease.

    For outdoor projects, the range includes an 18V battery that can be used on all of the Guild 18V cordless products as an additional spare. This is ideal if users are away from a charge point. Guild brand manger, Sophie West said:

    We understand that having the right tools that are easy to use, great value for money and will get you that professional finish, is really important to customers. We are confident in the quality of our products and that's why all our power tools come with a free two-year guarantee. Whether it's hanging a picture or making a bookcase from scratch, the Guild range gives both amateurs and DIY experts great tools to help carry out projects around their home.

    For customers, the Guild range can be reserved free of charge for instant pick up from over 840 Argos stores around the UK or online at both Argos and Homebase. The full Guild range will be available in Homebase stores from March 2016.


    Getting rid of garden debris fast

    Rover has just released its Jet blower

    It is equipped to assist in quicker yard clean ups with minimal effort required

    Rover's Jet blower is a high-airflow leaf blower that pushes a volume of 650 cubic feet of air through the end of the nozzle every minute at speeds of up to 208 km/h, thanks to its durable two-stroke 27cc engine.

    The mixed-flow fan works by pulling in and pressurising a high volume of air, and then releasing a powerful 650 CFM (cubic feet per minute) to deliver superior control over leaves and debris.

    The tapered nozzle allows users to continue to focus on a particular area and increase airspeed, while maintaining volume. The Jet blower also incorporates a diffuser to increase air speed and maintain the pressure of high air volume.

    The Rover Jet blower is battery starter compatible which gives end-users easy starting to save them time and energy. (The Power Start battery starter is sold separately.)

    You can check out the video here:

    Link to YouTube video

    Mr. Fothergill's expands bulb range

    New seed lines from Johnsons World Kitchen

    The company continues to bring innovation to Australian home gardeners

    This season, Mr Fothergill's is offering an extensive bulb range of traditional favourites such as daffodils, freesias and hyacinths, as well as a number of varieties that have never been featured before including Allium Drumstick, Anemone Poppy Blue, Dutch Crocus Tricolour, Nerine Wintercheer, Peacock Iris, Tulip Dynasty, Fritillaria Mixed and Tulip Double Angelique. Managing director Aaron Whitehouse said:

    Growing bulbs is very rewarding for gardeners of all experience levels, as they are easy to grow, drought tolerant and hardy.

    Most bulbs can be left in the ground year round where they multiply and resurface each year with vibrant displays of colour.

    Ready-to-Plant Bulb Trays

    Mr Fothergill's new Ready-to-Plant Bulb Trays also make growing bulbs easy. These unique biodegradable trays are pre-filled with an assortment of the most popular varieties and pre-spaced in the tray. Each tray contains 45 bulbs.

    All users need to do is dig a hole large enough to fit the tray, plant it and cover with soil. The range includes three mixes of spring favourites:

  • Tulip & Friends (24 Freesia Massing Mixed, 11 Triteleia Light Blue, 10 Tulip World Favourite)
  • Daffodil & Friends (24 Grape Hyacinth, 11 Triteleia Light Blue, 10 Yellow Daffodil)
  • Jonquil & Friends (24 Sparaxis Mixed, 11 Tritonia Cream, 10 Jonquil Erlicheer)
  • Latest seeds for autumn

    Johnsons is expanding its range of World Kitchen seeds as Australian gardeners are branching out from traditional vegetables to more exotic varieties. It was launched 18 months ago with 80 vegetable and herb seed varieties from around the world.

    >}Johnsons Seeds is expanding its range of World Kitchen seeds}

    The selection has increased for autumn to include the following:

  • Snow Pea Yakumo. This purple flowering variety produces large flat pods to 13cm long. The stems and leaves of immature plants are also commonly used as a vegetable in Chinese cooking. The pod can also been eaten.
  • Broccoletti Raab Rapini. Rapini has attractive leaves that surround clusters of green buds resembling small heads of broccoli. It is known for its nutty, savoury and intense flavour, and is associated with Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cuisines. Leaves, buds and stems are all edible and highly nutritious.
  • Chinese Cabbage Blues F1. A mild flavoured and versatile vegetable with dense, barrel-shaped heads. Very quick growing and slow to bolt variety.
  • Leek Jaune Gros du Poitou. Fast growing, thick and stocky "shanks" with excellent flavour and attractive yellow-green leaves.
  • Radish Jutrzenka. Unusual, rose pink egg shaped roots with crisp white flesh and a milder "not too hot" flavour. Ideal for sowing between slower growing crops to make the most of available space.
  • Related:

    @HTHG Show: Mr Fothergills World Kitchen seeds - HNN

    ACDelco Tools enter Australian market

    Distributed through KC Tools

    Five products from the range are now available for professional end-users

    The arrival of the ACDelco tool range in Australia - including an 18V heavy-duty impact wrench and a sensitive 10.8V 75mm mini polisher - means that local customers can now get a product that is reasonably priced, yet offers the grunt and power that is needed. KC Tools CEO Stephen Stacey told Paint and Panel:

    ACDelco hand tools are built for people who make their living with their tools, every single day. It is without doubt one of the most recognisable tool names in the world, and appreciated by true tool professionals. We are honoured to be able to be the sole distributor for this important brand.

    KC Tools is also looking to continue to expand on the ACDelco range of tools, depending on the response to the initial five tools that have been introduced so far. Stacey said:

    We anticipate that Australian technicians, mechanics, car enthusiasts and many others will be keen to get access to the ACDelco series, so we are open to considering bringing more of this award-winning product range into the country. It is an exciting time for the KC Tools network of retailers.

    The ACDelco products are being made available through ordering online from KC Tools or through visiting a bricks-and-mortar location in its retail network.


    Products added to Lightify portfolio

    Offers intelligent automation via the Lightify app

    Lightify enables users to have more convenient control of their lighting and electronics

    Osram Sylvania is expanding the Lightify portfolio. New products include the Lightify Switch and Outdoor Flex RGBW. The company is also unveiling the Lightify Plug, which makes nearly any electronic device smart and connected.

    Lightify RGBW and tuneable white light bulbs are now available in a variety of forms. The RGBW lights are unique to the market because they can go down to a warm candlelight glow of 1900K at any brightness.

    Lightify Plug

    Featuring a sleek look, the plug enables users to group and control electronics via the Lightify app. For example, consumers can remotely activate window unit air conditioners shortly before arriving home to cool off the house without wasting energy having it on all day when people are not home. The plug can also turn off those items that may have been left on after leaving the house like a TV or radio.

    Lightify Switch

    Consumers now have the ability to dim their smart lighting regardless of what type of wiring they have in their home without needing mobile devices. Dimming via the Lightify app is always an option, but users can use the battery powered Lightify switches that are wire free and unobtrusive.

    The Lightify Switch can program up to four or eight different lighting settings, depending on the version, and features intuitive handling. It has fast toggling between predefined settings via two or four buttons that react differently from a short tap versus a long press.

    After a one-time set up via the Lightify app, settings become accessible without having to open the app or being connected to WiFi. Aaron Ganick, head of Smart Home Americas, Osram Sylvania said:

    Just because our products are becoming smarter, does not mean that consumers will need to be glued to their smart devices 24/7. The introduction of battery powered switches that do not require the use of a smart phone for daily operation, and the plug that can automate consumer electronic devices based on schedules and scenes, allows consumers to take a step back from their smart home...

    Illuminate the outdoors

    The Lightify Outdoor Flex RGBW is a 16-foot long flexible strip that can wrap around lamp posts, deck railings and under stairs. It offers colour changing, tuneable white and dimming capabilities.

    Lightify RGBW products now include A19 for traditional lamps as well as BR30 and RT5/6 for recessed lighting. Dimmable products offer versatile customisation from different colours and a range of colour temperatures from candlelight (1900K) to daylight (6500K). They also provide a true green lighting experience that creates a higher quality coloured and white light.


    Nucleus partners with Lowe's

    The connected home device will be available at its stores

    Nucleus combines the phone, intercom, video chat and security alerts in one product

    Nucleus will be the largest debut of a smart home product of its kind to be promoted within dedicated endcaps across 1,000 Lowe's stores. The product will also be for sale, including pre-orders, on

    The Nucleus device offers families home security, motion detection, instant video connectivity, privacy features as well as voice activation. In addition to pursuing integration with the Iris by Lowe's smart home platform, Nucleus supports integrations with other connected home platforms including Nest, SmartThings, iControl and Insteon.

    According to the 2015 Smart Home Survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Iris, when it comes to shopping for smart home products, home improvement stores (either in-store or online) were rated the number one place Americans are most likely to buy.

    Additional findings from the survey revealed that among those who plan to buy any smart home products in the next 12 months, security cameras are on the top of their list (56%). Parents with children under the age of 18 in their home are nearly three times as likely to purchase smart home products in the next year as those without. Mick Koster, vice president and general manager of Iris Home Systems explains:

    We are committed to offering our customers smart home products that combine ease-of-use with breakthrough technical capabilities. Consumers are seeking connected home products that deliver security and automation in engaging ways [as Nucleus does].

    With Nucleus, families can forgo expensive and outdated intercom systems and easily connect to family members for an audio or video conversation in the home, between homes, or with any iOS or Android device via the Nucleus app. Morley Ivers, co-founder and president of Nucleus, said:

    Nucleus was created by families to help other families instantly connect with loved ones, while keeping their homes protected. We are thrilled to announce our category exclusive retail partnership with Lowe's...and we are excited to offer Nucleus to simplify the connected home for customers.

    Makita lifts its 12-volt max game

    Slide-on battery line-up

    After letting this category slide for a number of years, Makita is back in the 10.8v/12v max game

    After initial rumours in mid-2015, Makita has finally released its new line-up of 12v max tools. As expected, the tools feature slide-on batteries in 2.0 amp-hour and 4.0 amp-hour sizes that replaces the previous plug-in haft battery in Makita's 12v line-up. And yes, these batteries do have a built-in charge level indicator.

    The charger for the tools has also been improved, incorporating its own cooling fan. That means that batteries can now be rapidly charged, with the 2.0 amp-hour battery charging fully in just 22 minutes, according to Makita.

    There are six tools currently in the new line-up: an impact driver, drill, screwdriver, hammer drill, circular (trim) saw, and a reciprocating saw.

    Makita CXT impact driver

    Weighing in at just one kilo, this driver has two speed settings of 200rpm to 2600rpm, and 0rpm to 3500rpm. It has a single light directly underneath the chuck. Its torque rating is 110 newton-metres.

    >}Makita impact driver}

    Makita CXT drill

    This features a 3/8-inch single sleeve drill chuck, a two-speed gearbox, and an LED worklight. It weighs in at 1.1 kg.

    Makita CXT screwdriver

    This is virtually identical to the drill, except for the chuck, which is a 1/4-inch hexagonal quick-release design. It weights slightly less than the drill, at 940g.

    Makita CXT hammer drill

    Almost identical to the plain drill, this tool can deliver up to 25,500 beats-per-minute in hammer mode. It weighs 1.1kg.

    Makita CXT circular saw

    This is essentially a "trim" saw, featuring a 85mm blade, with a 20mm arbour hole. It weighs in at 1.5kg. Makita claims the saw can make 110 cuts through 25mm x 100mm timber on a single battery charge.

    >}Makita 12v circular saw}

    Makita CXT reciprocating saw

    Very similar in design to the 12v saw this unit replaces, it offers both a trigger switch and a paddle switch. With a 150mm blade, the saw has a cutting capacity of 50mm. It produces up to 3300 strokes per minute, and weighs 1.3kg. According to Makita, the saw can make 30 cuts through 50mm x 100mm timber on a single battery charge.

    >}Reciprocating saw}


    This move by Makita manages to be both somehow expected and a little puzzling. Where Milwaukee Tool has redeveloped its 12-volt max line-up to get as much power out of the smaller format as possible, the Makita tools fit into a market niche that is just under them.

    Is it possible that Makita sees these tools as one way to access more of the consumer market? Or does the company want to make sure that this smaller line does not in any way touch the market for its well-regarded 18-volt line?

    There is a growing sense that while the developments in power tools over the past 12 years or so have quite suited the historical Makita approach of constant and respectful progress in tool development, in the past two or three years the market has changed, and that approach may not be optimal for the future.

    If that turns out to be true, it is almost certain that the market will give Makita considerable time to adjust its approach. The brand's reputation for decent, high-value, highly repairable tools will carry it for another year or two. However, even with one of the best (deserved) reputations in the business, if it cannot keep pace with market changes, it will eventually be relegated from an almost automatic first choice by a wide range of professionals, to being considered as the second or third possible option.


    After Li-ion, the next cordless tool revolution


    Mobile technology helped to develop better batteries and motors for power tools; next comes tool communications

    Comparing an average power tool, such as a cordless drill/driver, and a smartphone like Apple's iPhone, it's difficult to spot too many similarities. iPhones are not known for their abilities to drill holes or drive screws. Yet the development of the iPhone, its popularity, and its influence on the entire mobile phone market, the changes it has made to electronics manufacturing, the networks that have been built and the software that has been developed, has had a profound effect on power tool design and capabilities.

    Even so, the changes fuelled by mobile technology that will develop in the near future - at least in the industrial and construction areas - will likely outpace the changes to date.

    The major technological change will be increased connectivity. This connectivity will be powered by mobile-based technologies such as low-energy Bluetooth connections, inexpensive Wi-Fi chips, and the use of RFID.

    >}Mobile technology dominates component availability}

    As connectivity becomes common, it will change much of the way power tools are used in the industrial area. HNN estimates that by the end of 2020, one of the main differences between most "pro" and "consumer" power tools will be that the pro tools all provide advanced options for connectivity.

    Given the current state of development, a change like this is likely to drive strong benefits for the Techtronic Industries subsidiary Milwaukee Tool, and possibly disadvantage companies more cautious about technology, such as Makita.

    Mobile tech in tools now

    The two major benefits that have flowed through from the mobile phone to the power tool industry are vastly improved Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery systems and a wider availability of brushless (also known as electronically commutated) motors. The small size of mobile phones drove development of lightweight, compact, highly efficient batteries.

    The numerous advantages of Li-ion over the previous Nickel-Cadmium batteries, combined with the significant advantage of cordless tools in general, has driven a wave of power tool replacement over the past five years.

    Brushless motors have also improved power tools by providing more power with less power usage, as these motors can reach between 80% and 90% efficiency, compared to 65% to 75% efficiency for standard electric motors. At the heart of every brushless motor is a computer chip that switches the electric current with microsecond accuracy.

    Mobile phone research spurred the development of the kind of chip needed to run these motors, something small, relatively powerful with low power usage. This work builds on a long history of the development of compact brushless motors in high-tech devices, from computer hard disk drives to laser printers.}Brushed/brushless motors}

    These two developments have benefited a wide range of power tool users, from the home handyman, to the tradesperson, on up to extreme use in the building, construction and manufacturing industries.

    The third development has an even closer relation to mobile phone technology. It is the ability to produce power tools that can communicate - communicate with a central controller, with each other, and even with the environment where they operate. This has become known in popular discourse as the "Internet of Things".

    What "Internet of Things" means

    In many ways the notion of the "Internet of Things" (IoT) has been something of an unfortunate buzz-phrase. Born more than 20 years ago, in 1994, the concept has been evolving as technology evolves, but it is only over the past three years that it has moved clearly out of the speculative and into practical implementations.

    On a casual level it conjures up images of refrigerators that know when they need to order the milk. This is a poor example. One difficulty is that actually knowing when to order milk turns out to be a very complex problem to solve. Also, it's not true IoT because it is just a single device sensing a need and making a one-way communication.

    IoT is more than that. Sticking with the kitchen analogy, a better IoT example might be a toaster that helps prevent you burning your raisin toast in the morning. The toaster senses the package of bread, notes its type, and adjusts its settings, possibly with reference to a central computer that has stored your toast preferences. This is a direct communication between "things", with a possible boost from a central knowledge repository. It's the more common pattern in IoT.

    The toaster example also illustrates something fundamentally wrong with the IoT name: the internet doesn't really need to be involved. When the toaster and the bread packet communicate, it probably wouldn't be done by the toaster accessing the internet website of the bread. It's more likely that the toaster reads an RFID tag on the bread packet or a Bluetooth beacon on the clip used to keep the packet closed. It is a direct "thing-to-thing" communication.

    IoT in construction and manufacturing

    On its own, the notion of IoT probably wouldn't have that much of an effect on either construction or manufacturing. However, it turns out that when IoT is associated with other developments in construction and manufacturing, the result has so much potential that, in the case of manufacturing at least, the combination is seen as possibly ushering in the fourth stage of the industrial revolution.

    What gives IoT such a boost in terms of possibilities is the invention and development of what is often termed "virtual modelling" of both construction and manufacturing. Virtual modelling means building a model in software of something that exists as a collection of physical objects.

    The idea of the model is that it should reflect the physical model as much as possible. Drive a virtual car far enough, and it will eventually run out of petrol. Rock a virtual building with a strong enough earthquake, and it will fall down.

    In construction, the virtual model is created as the centrepiece of using Building Information Modelling (BIM). BIM seeks to gather all the information that relates to a building, before, during and after construction. This then provides the single, unified virtual model of the build and the building. Post-build, it is a very helpful guide to maintenance, improvement and continuous renovation.

    In manufacturing, a virtual model of how the plant works is part of the Smart Factory specification. Originally put together as an idea in 2008, it was inspired by Mark Weiser's idea of the "smart environment". This is described as:

    ...a physical world that is richly and invisibly interwoven with sensors, actuators, displays, and computational elements, embedded seamlessly in the everyday objects of our lives, and connected through a continuous network.

    The Smart Factory model is designed to sense almost everything that happens in it. This includes major events, such as supply delivery and product completion, down to the smallest events, such as ambient temperatures, and the completion of each assembly operation.

    The two virtual models have some differences. In the case of the construction site, the model that drives the BIM is - at least until the building is completed - idealised and therefore incomplete. Its primary role is to drive planning and execution. In the case of the Smart Factory, the model is not idealised. Instead, it is largely passive, made up of a great deal of feedback, from machines, sensors and human input.

    Despite these differences, the opportunities offered for connected power tools to help improve productivity, quality and worker safety are very similar across the two models. Building on both BIM and especially on the Smart Factory concept, two movements have already been started with the aim of rapidly developing these opportunities.

    In the US, General Electric is leading the field, with its concept of the "Industrial Internet". At the moment, however, the most developed concepts are coming from Europe, specifically Germany. The German government sees the development of Smart Factories allied with tool connectivity as being so important they have labelled this movement "Industrie 4.0", and see it culminating in nothing less than the fourth stage of the Industrial Revolution.

    Existing technologies

    Before we get to discussing what the Europeans and the Americans have in mind, it's a good idea to take a brief survey of how far this technology has developed already, and what we are likely to see further develop over the next two years or so.

    DeWalt's Bluetooth battery

    A good example of an interesting IoT product yet to gain wide acceptance is the Bluetooth-equipped 18-volt batteries brought out by DeWalt in mid-2015. As HNN has reported in its past reviews, the battery has its own iOS and Android apps. The user downloads these to their phone or tablet, then "pairs" the battery with the device. From that point onwards the user can monitor a range of performance aspects, such as the battery's current state of charge and its operating temperature.

    There are three sets of features the Bluetooth connectivity brings to these tools. These are: monitoring of the battery status, notifications for certain changes; and pre-set actions that occur when certain changes are noted.

    >}DeWalt's Tool Connect}

    In the first category of monitoring, the charge state of the battery and its current operating temperature can be seen. In terms of notifications, the connected app can alert the user when the battery has a low charge, when it has completed recharging, and when it has gone beyond the range of the Bluetooth connection. The actions that can be preset include turning the battery off when it loses the Bluetooth connection (eg. it has been moved off-site), having it automatically switch off overnight, or even setting a defined number of days until it deactivates itself (for example, a battery loan period).

    Most power-tool users will see some of the immediate benefits of these communicating batteries instantly. The most important immediate gain is simply making sure that everyone on the worksite begins the day with fully charged batteries, with the charge state checked from one central location. During the day the charge state can be monitored, and freshly charged batteries sent out to workers who are beginning to run close to empty.

    Equally, of course, there are some aids here to help prevent both theft and accidental loss of batteries. The batteries could be set to be active only for the day of use, so that if they do wander off, they would no longer work. If the worksite needs to be packed up at the end of the day, it's also easy to inventory the batteries. Each battery can be sent a message to flash a light, so individual batteries can be easily identified.

    It's likely that the kind of battery management the Bluetooth connection enables would be enough to cut back on the stock of batteries kept as a redundant backup, possibly reducing the total number required by 10%. On a worksite that is running 200 batteries, that could mean a net savings of over $2000 in equipment costs.

    As helpful as many of these uses are, this is really just scratching the surface of what could be achieved even with as simple a system as this. If DeWalt is wise, it will open up development of the software component of this system to third-party software developers, who would be able to integrate the information flow that Tool Connect offers with other software products.

    For example, in construction the amount of battery power being used could indicate that workers are not working as efficiently as they could. Very low battery usage could indicate that they are not working as hard as they might, or that some problem is interrupting their work. This information could be integrated with a project management system. Such a system could indicate, for example, cases where reported project progress does not correspond with observed power tool usage, which could warrant further investigation.

    Milwaukee Tool's One-Key system

    The full suite of Milwaukee Tool's One-Key products is set to launch in February 2016. Where DeWalt has opted for a simple, practical system with its Bluetooth battery, Milwaukee has been more ambitious in launching a comprehensive system.}Milwaukee Tool One-Key}

    The first layer of that system is already in place. It enables users to manage their entire fleet of tools (including non-Milwaukee tools) from a web browser interface. The next layer that will launch in February will enable wireless access to individual tools so that they can be custom programmed. For example, the tool manager will be able to take a specific drill that will be used for a certain job, and set it up with several settings options for torque and rpm. The actual user of the drill can then select the appropriate setting for the task at hand from a short range of options. Further, the actual task that is undertaken is recorded by the system, enabling the tool manager to check back on how the tool was used.

    For construction sites, manufacturing facilities and some automotive assembly applications, this kind of centralised control will bring big benefits. It will radically reduce the number of fasteners applied with incorrect settings, for example, and enable companies to more easily meet contractual obligations that require the certification of tasks as having been performed within tight limits - a common requirement in, for example, the aviation industry.

    As with the DeWalt Bluetooth battery, it's easy to see how this might develop into an adjunct to project management software. As it tracks actual tool use rather than battery use, the system could deliver highly accurate numbers as to how both teams and individuals are performing on the job.

    Suiting the tool to the job and the place

    While the Milwaukee One-Key product development is ambitious, already a number of companies have formed a consortium in Europe, and are hard at work pushing the boundaries of what connected tools can do. These companies are part of the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC). The IIC has implemented a program of "testbeds", where interested and complementary companies get together to work on developing new systems based on Internet capabilities.

    One of these testbeds is called "Track and Trace". The companies involved with it are Bosch, Cisco, National Instruments and TechMahindra. Their goal is to develop a system for factories where each individual power tool can be tracked within 30cm of its location. Once the system can do this, it can tell by the location of the tool and the date what action the tool needs to perform, and then automatically program the tool with those parameters.

    >}Location-based tool enhancement}

    If that seems over-elaborate, this is a quote from a case study by the IIC which looked into aircraft construction:

    As an example, a given subassembly of an airplane has roughly 400,000 points that need to be tightened down, which requires over 1,100 basic tightening tools in the current production process. The operator has to closely follow a list of steps and ensure the proper torque law settings for each location using the correct tool. Because of the manual process, human error adds a lot of risk to the production.
    This is significant since even a single location being tightened down incorrectly could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. A smart tightening tool understands which task the operator is about to perform using vision to process its surroundings and automatically set the torque. And the device can record the outcome of the task in a central database to ensure the location was set properly. With the central manufacturing execution system (MES) database and the distributed intelligence of the devices, production managers can precisely pinpoint the procedures and processes that need to be reviewed during quality control and certification.
    Airbus Case Study

    Even this kind of development is likely to be extended still further. As tools become ever-more connected, further details of tool usage can be captured. This might include the orientation of the tool during the performance of tasks (horizontal, vertical, overhead), and even (through sensors located in the tool's grip) the amount of force exerted on the tool by the user.

    Industrie 4.0

    There are three different components that get grouped together to set up the coming revolution that the German government has taken to calling "Industrie 4.0". These are: the IoT, the Smart Factory, and what is known as the "Internet of Services", or IoS.

    >}Industrial revolutions}

    IoS is actually a quite complicated system. It enables elements of an industrial production or construction process to interact with external and internal suppliers. For example, a supply hopper might sense that, by monitoring its weight, it had run out of a particular type of fastener. The request for replenishment might go from the hopper to the warehouse. The warehouse might discover that resupplying the hopper would reduce its store of those fasteners to the critical level where it needed a new delivery. Using IoS it would then be able to send out a request for resupply, which would be delegated to a service handler. This system would be capable, through using the IoS, of sourcing competing bids for supply, evaluating these based on requirements, and then contracting for resupply.

    In combining these three systems together, the Industrie 4.0 concept is guided by these six principles:

  • Interoperability: the ability of cyber-physical systems (semi-automated processes), humans and Smart Factories to connect and communicate with each other via the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services
  • Virtualisation: an implementation of the Smart Factory systems in a virtual environment, which will enable managers to model the effects of change and external influences
  • Decentralisation: a shift from a command-control structure, to semi-autonomous structures that make decisions based on network feedback
  • Real-Time Capability: the use of continuous data sensing and data monitoring to provide an ongoing over of what the "state" of the manufacturing system is at any moment of time
  • Service Orientation: offering of services (of cyber-physical systems, humans or Smart Factories) via the Internet of Services
  • Modularity: flexible adaptation of Smart Factories to changing requirements by replacing or expanding individual modules
  • Drivers of change

    While the systems described above evidently provide the potential to increase efficiency, there are other drivers as well. What initially sparked much of the discussion about the Smart Factory in Germany was the development of the Siemens plant at Amberg. The management of that factory described some of the factors that drove them to develop it along "smart" lines like this:

    Dieter Wegener, Siemens' coordinator for Industrie 4.0, argues that companies aren't pushing these developments; consumers are. We want customised products, he says, we want them now, and we want them made efficiently, in order to both bring down prices and preserve natural resources. This isn't possible without networked production processes.
    The Independent

    Customisation is not, of course, limited to industrial production, but is coming to apply just as much to construction. By making production/construction processes "smart", they also become flexible, and easier to modularise. This flexibility adds considerable value from the point of view of end-consumers.

    The developing tool market

    As we remarked above, HNN believes that connectivity will become a major feature of high-end industrial/construction tools by the end of 2020. How will the tool market develop over the coming four years leading up to that?

    The release of One-Key by Milwaukee in early 2016 will mark the beginning of a major market change. While it will not affect professionals using a smaller fleet of tools, contractors who look after as few as 30 to 40 tools will find the management capabilities of One-Key attractive. We can expect to see Milwaukee progressively rev-up its One-Key offering in the first calendar half of 2017, at which time we will hopefully see the software side of the system opened up to developers, so that it can be integrated with project management and other systems.

    As this happens, the tool lines at Milwaukee will begin to diverge. Many tools will be offered in two versions, with and without One-Key. Other tools are likely to be released in One-Key only form.

    By 2018 there will be a number of competing systems available. It is unclear what moves DeWalt and other Stanley Black & Decker divisions will be making. It seems quite clear that Hitachi, through its recent acquisition of Metabo, will be offering similar connectivity. Another key player will be Bosch, which is already playing a central role in the testbed developments at the IIC.

    One of the more interesting questions is what Makita will do. Makita has not always been at the forefront of technical developments - for example, it only made battery gauges standard on its products in 2015. To compete in the connected tool segment, Makita would likely either have to enter into a partnership with another Japanese company, or even acquire a company that can provide it with this technology.

    What is clear is that for tool suppliers the connectivity revolution will turn out to be a very profitable shift in the industry. Not only will tool purchasers be seeking to renew their tool fleets ahead of the regular schedule, but they will be considering a near-total refresh. To help capture this market, tool suppliers will need to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of this new market, and can offer guidance and assistance to customers who may be struggling to understand this more complex world.


    Tools for underwater projects

    Showcased at DEMA Show 2015

    Nemo Power Tools developed the first underwater drill and now the range is expanding

    The new Diver drill from Nemo Power Tools resembles a cordless electric drill unlike previous incarnations of underwater power tools which were driven by either hydraulics or pneumatics. However its design wasn't a simple matter of adapting existing designs for new applications.

    When the Israeli Army approached engineer Nemo Rotem to design a submersible drill for them, he wasn't even a certified diver. In order to understand what would be required of such a tool he became a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) open water diver. This could have been a metaphor for the entire design process of the Nemo Diver V2 drill.

    Rotem developed the tool from the ground up with a die-cast aluminium body, two 18V Li-ion batteries, a keyless metal chuck and rotating seal similar to those used in the drive-shafts of boats. It can go to 165 feet (50 metres), making it a portable powerhouse for commercial divers as well as hull cleaners and scientific researchers - anyone who needs a bit of extra muscle in the deep.

    There is also a lighter, fresh/chlorinated water version specially aimed at pool and spa technicians. This cordless, battery-operated submersible drill can be used underwater to a depth of about 33 feet (10 metres).

    Two LED lights are built into the drill housing for use after dark. The drill has a 10mm stainless steel chuck and an 18V Li-ion battery pack. Its net weight (with battery) is 3kg.

    The products were displayed at DEMA 2015, an expo for the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association in Orlando, Florida (USA).

    In 2016, the company will expand its line to offer a high-torque hammer drill, a Special Ops version in low-profile all-black with no logos that will go to 328 feet, and an angle grinder that uses a Li-polymer battery to provide enough energy for high-intensity applications.

    Its 2016 catalogue also features a 60,000 lumen handheld dive light. Ideal for search and recovery, low-visibility, or other situations where a high level of illumination is required. This light is also usable topside, with an on-board cooling system to disperse the 1,000 watts.


    Outdoor storage offers style and function

    Trex range listed among the year's top home products

    Respected magazine This Old House recognises the collection in its latest issue

    The latest Trex Outdoor Storage range has been named by This Old House as one of its "Top 100 Best New Home Products of 2015".

    Introduced earlier this year, the collection of waterproof outdoor cabinets and storage components has been recognised by editors of the well-regarded home improvement publication for its ability to bring both utility and style to outdoor living spaces.

    The range landed a spot on the magazine's coveted list in the November/December issue and posted online at Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex Company said:

    In recent years, the popularity of outdoor entertaining has surged and today's homeowners are giving more thought to intentionally designed outdoor living spaces that feature kitchens, dining areas and storage.

    From concealed ice chests to drawers for cushions, garden and pool equipment, the Trex Outdoor Storage includes an number of complementary and customisable built-in storage solutions. Components include base cabinets, pull-out ice coolers, bench drawers, waste receptacles and hampers, along with optional roll-out drawers and shelving. Marble, granite or stone tops are also available.

    All items are manufactured with high-density, low-maintenance resin that won't warp, fade or crack. Pieces are offered in five Trex Transcend(r) tropical decking shades, including Havana Gold (a warm, golden colour), Island Mist (silvery shade), Spiced Rum (earthy umber), Lava Rock (reddish-black) and Tiki Torch (light brown), and are engineered to withstand the elements and resist corrosion.

    Trex Outdoor Storage is manufactured and sold by Florida-based NatureKast Products under a trademark licensing agreement with Trex Company.


    Blink smart home monitoring system

    Enters into production phase

    Announces US$5.8m investment after being named a CES 2016 Innovation Award Honoree

    Blink, one of Kickstarter's top technology campaigns in 2014 with nearly 7,000 backers and over US$1 million in pledges, has raised an additional US$5.8 million from private investors. They include Easerich Industrial, Innosilicon and venture investment firms Baker Capital and Dot Capital, both headquartered in New York City.

    The affordable, wire-free battery-powered HD home monitoring and alert system is entering production, following a successful Beta release.

    Blink has also been named a 2016 CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Innovation Awards Honoree in the smart home category. Products entered into this program, administered by the Consumer Electronics Association, are judged by an expert panel of independent industrial designers, engineers and members of the consumer electronics trade media.

    CES Innovation Honorees reflect innovative design and engineering in some of the most cutting edge tech products and services coming to market.

    Blink's Kickstarter campaign and subsequent pre-order program caught the eye of several supply chain partners, who have invested in the product. To date, approximately US$6.8 million has been raised in support of Blink's entry into the US DIY smart home market, which is forecasted to grow from US$1.28 billion in 2014 to nearly US$7.8 billion by 2019. (Source: NextMarket)

    Peter Besen, CEO of Immedia, the company behind Blink said:

    We're proud to welcome several of Blink's supply chain partners as investors in the product, a validation of our relationship-based approach to product development. Their collaboration and input ensures that we can deliver the product more quickly and efficiently. The system design has also benefited from feedback from the Blink community.

    Blink's features include motion-based video alerts and Live View. The system is designed to appeal to budget-minded consumers.


    Robots could replace brickies

    Challenging the rising cost of brick layers

    Bricklaying robots could eventually build a four-bedroom house, according to Fastbrick Robotics

    Perth-based Fastbrick Robotics - which recently listed on the ASX - has invented a machine it says will eventually be able to build a four-bedroom house in two days without human help.

    Australia's residential construction market has made brick layers in demand and in short supply. A bricklayer can now make close to a six-figure salary in large metropolitan areas. That is not quite as much as what mine workers attracted at the height of the resources boom, but it is considerably more than what they were able to command as recently as a couple of years ago.

    Bricklaying is among the manual trades globally where ranks are thinning as baby boomers retire and young people opt for white-collar jobs. Mike Pivac, chief executive of Fastbrick, highlights the physical strain of the job. He told the Wall Street Journal:

    There are no young people coming out of school and saying I want to be a bricklayer like Dad, because Dad got to about 45 or 50 and couldn't bend over to touch his toes anymore.

    Fastbrick's remote-controlled Hadrian robot - named after Hadrian's Wall, also known as the Roman Wall, built by the emperor Hadrian across the north of England in the second century A.D. - could eventually lay 1,000 bricks an hour. That compares with roughly 100 bricks an hour for an experienced mason. A prototype version of the robot lays about 300 an hour, explains Pivac.

    Competitors include SAM - short for semi-automated mason - created by New York-based Construction Robotics, which works alongside human masons, doing rote tasks such as picking up bricks, applying the mortar and putting them into place. A traditional bricklayer is still needed to handle tricky areas such as corners.

    SAM is at a more-advanced state of development, with the first commercial units set to go on sale for around half a million dollars.


    Bamboo composite could replace steel

    An alternative for building and construction

    The material could revolutionise the industry because it is stronger and cheaper than steel

    A leading Swiss researcher and academic claims to have developed a composite bamboo that is strong enough to replace steel as the main reinforcement material in the building and construction industry.

    Speaking at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore recently, Dirk Hebel - a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) - touted the new material as a potential game changer that could "finally provide an alternative to the monopoly of reinforced concrete".

    Made from bamboo fibres mixed with organic resin, the material is called bamboo composite material. It can be pressed into any shape and then sawn or sanded like wood.

    Formed into rods, the material could potentially replace steel as a reinforcing matrix for concrete with no loss of performance, according to Hebel. He said:

    We can produce a material that in terms of tensile capacity is better than steel. Our material is only a quarter of the weight of steel. In terms of strength to weight, it performs better than steel.

    Hebel said the material could also be used for other industrial applications such as the automotive industry.

    The material could also be used for car body parts. The big advantage of a bamboo fibre is that it is 100 times cheaper than carbon fibre, but it has potentially the same strength.

    Hebel began experimenting with bamboo as part of a research project to give developing countries more sustainable and affordable alternatives to steel, which has to be imported from producing countries that are mostly in the developed world.

    According to Hebel, 70% of all steel and 90% of all cement is consumed in developing countries. He said:

    We found one very interesting plant that grows exactly in those areas where we expect the highest urbanisation rate. That plant is bamboo.

    Unlike timber, bamboo does not require replanting after harvesting. As with other grasses the root system remains in the ground, stabilising the soil while new shoots are generated.

    Beams made by combining bamboo composites and concrete are tested for strength by bending them in a machine

    Bamboo, which has extremely high tensile strength, has long been used as a construction material in the developing world. But rather than use bamboo in its natural state, Hebel developed a way of extracting fibres from the plant and mixing it with 10% organic resin to create a mouldable material.

    Concrete reinforced with the material has been undergoing testing at a laboratory in Singapore. He said:

    We had a breakthrough - our testing machine was not able to break the material.

    Hebel told Dezeen magazine that the next step is to develop a sustainable alternative to concrete which, together with other cement products, accounts for 50% of all construction materials used globally. He said:

    So right now we are working with Berkeley University to develop an alternative to concrete that is not based on cement but on a biological based material made of mycelium [the material fungi is made of].

    Bamboo composites could potentially be used to build skyscrapers in future, Hebel said.

    Can you build high-rises with that material? In theory you can but that is not the market we're talking. Eighty per cent of all structures worldwide are one or two stories. That is our market.

    Pliers provide increased flexibility

    New push button tongue and groove pliers

    Easy-to-adjust pliers offer automotive professionals speed and convenience

    GearWrench has enhanced the standard tongue and groove plier with stronger capacity and double the jaw locking positions. Quicker and easier to adjust, end-users spend less time finding the best position.

    Automotive technicians can place the upper jaw on the workpiece, push the button and easily slide the bottom jaw into position to get the best fit and handle span for maximum holding and turning power.

    The V-shaped jaw paired with the induction-hardened, angled teeth grip flat, curved, square or hexagonal objects with ease. The longer jaw and thinner head of the new push button tongue and groove pliers provide increased access in tight spaces.

    These pliers are made to handle rigorous demands. While strong and durable, the pliers -- made of forged chrome-vanadium steel -- are lightweight and easy to work with. The professional dipped handle grips quickly wipe clean and are resistant to gasoline, brake fluid and anti-freeze. The pliers also have a protective, anti-rust clear coating.

    Available in three variations; 8", 10" and 12" individually, or as a set of all three pliers. All GearWrench push button tongue and groove pliers exceed ASME performance requirements.


    Drill press fence features angled dust port

    Creates greater clearance

    US-based Rockler Woodworking and Hardware has developed this drill press fence

    A new drill press fence from Rockler Woodworking and Hardware features a specially designed dust port that is angled to the side, minimising interference with the drill post and providing up to 3-inches of extra clearance.

    The drill press fence can be fitted to many existing drill press tables and includes a free plan for those who opt to build their own.

    Until now, drill press dust collection has been an afterthought, resulting in awkward and cumbersome setups that interfere with the work area of the table. Rockler's drill press fence dust port, which fits a 2-1/2-inch dust hose, is angled upward and off to the side, keeping dust collection components clear of both the work area and the drill post. This allows easier setups and manoeuvrability on the table surface. Steve Krohmer, Rockler's vice president of merchandising and product development, said:

    This new drill press fence makes adjustments easier and opens up more drilling area. The dust port is angled properly so it will stay clear of the drill post, allowing maximum clearance for workpieces between the post and the drill itself.

    The drill press fence is composed of an aluminium backbone and adjustable 3/4-inch melamine-coated MDF faces. The included flip stop can be anchored anywhere along the top T-track for repeatable drilling setups.

    It can be mounted to drill press tables via T-tracks or thru-slots and quickly positioned and secured with the hardware that is supplied.


    Targeting tradies with utility products

    KEEN launches industrial boots in Australia

    A Gold Coast company has also released its latest series of box trailers for tradies

    US footwear brand KEEN recently released its new work boot range in Australia, where they are ready to take safety, comfort and worksite style to new heights. The company is well-known for its outdoor range of footwear for men, women and children.

    The Detroit Mid Work Boot is both lightweight and versatile and made to move with the wearer, while still delivering stability, support and protection. The boots are waterproof, oil resistant hand have a steel toe. It has hydrophobic/hydrophilic 2-zone comfort lining. They also have an oil and slip resistant, non-marking rubber outsole.

    The boots meets or exceeds ASTM F2412-11 and F2413-11 I/75 C/75 EH standards - AU/NZS 2210.3.2009. They weigh 24.7oz (700.2g).

    Tradies "best mate"

    The heavy duty Tradies Box Trailer is the latest product from Trailer Guys, a Biggera Waters based business in Queensland. Managing director, Rhys Jones said:

    Our heavy duty box trailers are robust and built to be a hard working companion on the job site. We have fine tuned our Tradies Box Trailers and the latest range has more features and inclusions.

    Features of the Series 3 Tradies Box Trailers include:

  • Full hot dipped galvanised tub and drawbar
  • 400mm high sides
  • 800mm high cage
  • Spare wheel and jockey wheel
  • 45x45mm K1045 solid square axles
  • Tilting draw bar
  • products

    Three lights, three design approaches

    Illuminating the brands

    Worklights have become more important as users move towards adopting systems instead of buying tools

    Most people buy cordless systems rather than cordless tools. That means that products which were once regarded as being more of secondary importance have now become vital for manufacturers to get right. While the competition for the best drill, impact driver and circular saw remains intense, a second front is opening up in these once neglected accessories.

    One of the more important of the accessories is the worklight. Having a really good worklight might be just enough to tip a customer over into buying one brand over another.

    The three worklights that HNN wanted to look at this week are complementary to the impact drivers we are also testing. (Apologies for not having the test results ready yet. We keep completing tests, looking at the results, and seeing either flaws or ways to make the tests better.)

    Like those impact drivers, each of these worklights has its own character and unique set of capabilities. While most of these brands offer alternative worklights, these are the "mainstream", non speciality items that would be suited for most customers.

    Bosch: basic but surprising

    To begin with the simplest of the group: the Bosch GLI VariLED Professional. This light has a familiar design, as it represents a style quite common with NiCad worklights in the past.

    The VariLED attaches directly to either a 18-volt or 14.4-volt Bosch Li-ion battery. It adds about 30mm to the overall height of the battery when folded shut. A red plastic button at the top of the unit turns it off and on. The light also features a plastic lens that can be rotated, producing either a more focused light beam or a less focused, more wide-angle beam. It features a soft plastic band that folds out from the unit, and can be used to hang-up the light.

    >}The Bosch light}

    The top of the light sits flat against the battery, but can be rotated up in 15 degree increments, to a slightly down-facing 120 degrees.

    Though it is not evident at first, this is very much a special purpose light. What it is good for is providing sturdy illumination of a specific work surface. In particular, it would be good for users who need to light something from underneath, in a confined space. Think plumbers, some electricians and even auto mechanics.

    The LED light itself is rated at 300 lux, and while not startlingly bright, provides enough work to get things done with. The rotating lens again just seems a bit of a gimmick more than a carefully thought-through solution.

    >}Dial adjusts focus}

    Outside of this kind of static illumination, it's difficult to see how using this light would work very well. It could be used for, finding the way down a path at night, but holding the battery (which is how you would do it) is a bit awkward.

    The soft rubber hanging loop could make it more useful, but it seems something of an afterthought. For example, to use the loop, you have to slide the light off the battery, fold it out, then slide the light back onto the battery.

    So, to conclude, this is more of a specialists item than it appears at first.

    DeWalt LED Work Light DCL040-XE

    This is definitely one of the more "high-end" handheld worklights on the market. It features an ergonomic pistol-style grip faced with a durable soft rubber finish. Gripping the light naturally brings the forefinger to sit on the light switch. The head of the light tilts from a slightly downwards angle of 80 degrees from the vertical to an upwards facing 190 degrees. The tilt is on a ratchet, with 10 clicks, so around 11 degrees per click. The 18-volt battery attaches to the base of the light on a horizontal slide, and provides a solid, weighty base for the light to rest on.

    >}DeWalt light}

    The light produces 110 lumens, and this is in two zones. There is an outer ring of softer, diffused light, and an inner core of brighter light. The worklight also has a small metal hoop attached to its head, which locks down on a cam, and swivels up to provide a means of hooking it on something. There is also an attachment point for a lanyard on the back of the light near its base.

    Judging by some of the online reviews, this is a light that has found some favour with people on casual security duty, or who have to do regular work in the dark. It is definitely the ideal kind of light to hold while the user illuminates an area where others are working, as it is comfortable to hold for long periods, and the trigger switch provides very good on/off control.

    The switch is, however, a little of an ergonomic oddity. The pistol-style grip means the forefinger constantly rests against the switch, which is not something generally required.

    As mentioned above, the battery gives it a weighty base, so that it can be stood off to one side on its own to illuminate an area. The worklight also can operate quite well resting on its back to shine directly upwards in a tight space.

    It is a very versatile light, but it does still have some limitations. The pistol-style grip that makes it comfortable to use also means it has to be held in just one way, and there could be situations when working solo where it would be awkward to get it pointed in the right direction.

    Milwaukee M12 LED-0 (49-24-0146)

    Where both the Bosch and the DeWalt might be thought of as lights with some of a specialty in a couple of areas, the M12 LED is very much a general purpose light. In fact, with its slim 12-volt battery, it reminds one of a conventional flashlight, especially when the light head is in the directly upwards position.

    >}Milwaukee light}

    As with the DeWalt, it has a tilting head, with a slightly more limited range of between 90 degrees and 180 degrees, incrementally by eight clicks. The off/on switch is a standard plastic-covered unit.

    The light is not as bright as the DeWalt worklight, but it is about as bright as the Bosch. It features a quite strong magnet of the back, making it easy to hang from any handy metal surface. It can be stood on its base, but as this is a triangular area about 40mm to a side, it is not very sturdy in this position.

    Where the light does excel is in the kind of solo work a user does with the light in one hand and a power-tool or screwdriver in the other. For example, the simple tube shape makes it easy to hold the light upside down, and thus, for example, lean over something and shine the light back towards the user.

    It is really part of what Milwaukee does best, which is to rethink conventional designs and make them work better, without sacrificing their basic utility.


    As with all these comparisons, there is no such thing as a clear "winner". It is interesting just how much of each manufacturer's overall approach to the market shows through the way in which they design even these relatively simple accessories.

    In that light, HNN must confess that we are still struggling to fully understand how Bosch goes about its design processes. It is difficult not to believe it is perhaps designing for a slightly older generation than the other two manufacturers.

    The DeWalt is truly an interesting and well thought-out design. It does feel slightly futuristic, and it would seem that at times it would be the perfect solution to a lighting problem and at others just a little less than optimal.

    The Milwaukee light is quite traditional, but surprisingly versatile. What comes through in this design, as in many other Milwaukee designs, is that while the company caters to the "traditional" at times, it also never condescends. It assumes its users will be intelligent, interested in good design, and be able to discern the advantages of the simple.


    First Use: DeWalt Bluetooth 18-volt battery

    Great connections

    It's a battery management system that tells you what is going on - its charge, location, and temperature


    The one thing that using DeWalt's newly released Bluetooth equipped battery, the DCB183B, convinced HNN about was that we needed to improve the way we review these new technologies. We're simply going to have to divide our reviews into two, starting with a "first impressions" review, and following up a month or so later with a more reflective review.

    The reason behind that decision is that it is simply almost impossible not to be very enthusiastic about new technologies such as this DeWalt battery when you first start using them. It seems clear to us at the moment that DeWalt has really developed a technology here that will eventually take over a significant part of the market.

    It's not so much what DeWalt has already done with this technology - which is considerable - but how this technology could develop in the future. Just about everyone who uses the DeWalt battery comes up immediately with an additional feature they would like.

    HNN hopes that Stanley Black & Decker is giving some serious thought to opening up the programming end of this device, enabling third-parties to develop more software tools that make use of it.

    The basics

    To start with, the most important thing to emphasise is that DeWalt has made using this battery just as simple as possible. Once you have the battery, you start by downloading the DeWalt app to your smartphone or tablet (Android of Apple iOS) - it's free, of course.

    The next step is to "pair" the battery with the app. If you've used Bluetooth before for something like cordless headphones, a Bluetooth speaker or a mouse, then this is exactly the same. You begin by tapping the "+Tool" button on the home screen. You can give the battery its own name, and optionally choose to register it with DeWalt at the same time.

    >}Adding a tool.}

    When you complete those details, the app will begin scanning for the battery. To pair it up, simply press the button that illuminates the charge indicator on the back of the battery. In our case it took less than 10 seconds for the app to pair up the battery.

    Your first stop after doing that will likely be the Diagnostics tab. This tab shows you five basic parameters: the date and time the battery was "last seen" - when it was in range; "fuel gauge" - the amount of charge on the battery; the battery's status (enabled or disabled); the battery's health; and the current temperature of the battery.

    This seems a simple display, but it is actually quite sophisticated. For example, the fuel gauge will let you know when the battery is being charged, as well.

    >}Diagnostics tab}

    Below the information display are three buttons: Enable, Disable and Identify. If you tap the Identify button, a blue LED set into the side of the battery will begin to flash, and continue for about six seconds. That way you can tell exactly what battery you are dealing with.

    >}The DeWalt Bluetooth battery flashes its LED}

    In fact, whenever you send any kind of command to the battery, the LED will flash to confirm you are making the change. Most of these commands actually reprogram the battery to work in a specific way. That means the battery is not checking back with your mobile device to see what it should be doing. Instead, it carries instructions for its own behaviour. The app simply helps you to change what those instructions are.


    Dewalt has obviously thought pretty thoroughly about how the battery/tool combination should behave. For example, one of the options you have from the diagnostics screen is to simply disable the battery immediately. You might do this if, for example, the battery seemed to be operating at too high a temperature, and you were concerned it might be damaged.

    However, even after the battery has been disabled, it remains usable for some applications. Pressing the trigger on a drill with a disabled batter still makes the drill LED lights go on. In fact, if you have a worklight attached to the battery when it is disabled, the light will continue to work.

    HNN believes this is likely to be a well thought out safety measure. Whatever the reason you may have for disabling the battery, you certainly don't want to leave someone up a ladder in a dark room without a light, for example.


    Many of the interesting things that can be done with the battery an be found on the "Actions" tab. There are five basic actions, and four of these are information alerts.

    The options to "Alert if out of range" triggers a notification on your mobile device when it can no longer "see" the battery. In testing this using an Apple iPad mini outdoors, it seemed the range was reliable up to around 50 metres.

    "Alert at low battery charge" sends a message when the charge is getting low enough that it will affect performance in the near future. "Alert at high temperature" lets you know if the battery may soon exceed its operating temperature range. "Alert at charge completion" tells you when the battery is up above 80% charge again, and ready to be used.

    >}Completed charging notification}

    In addition to those four alerts, the fifth option is "Disable if out of range". This enables the owner to set up the battery so that if it is taken far enough away that the mobile device can no longer communicate with it over Bluetooth, it is automatically disabled. It's a simple theft protection measure.

    Lending the battery

    One of the more interesting features is the ability the app has to set the battery up to be loaned out for a specific period of time. There is a "Lend" button on the actions page. Tapping that button brings up a screen that enables the owner to set a loan period ranging from one hour to months, if necessary.

    >}The lending screen}

    At the end of the loan period, the battery will be automatically disabled, and, optionally, the battery's owner will be sent a reminder message, including the name of the person who borrowed the battery. With the DeWalt Bluetooth battery you can not only be much more certain you will get the battery back, but also that it will be the right battery.


    The alerts tab in the app keeps track of all the alerts the owner receives, from all the Bluetooth batteries owned. The type of alert, and the date/time it was issued are all displayed. Tapping on an alert brings up a screen that enables the owner to delete that particular alert. A button at the bottom of the tab enables the owner to clear all the alerts with a single tap.

    The future of batteries, and ...?

    As we remarked, just about everyone who gets to use the app and the battery comes up with further ideas for it. For example, alert forwarding, where the mobile device of the person actually using the device could also receive an alert after the owner's device received it.

    Many people have suggested the extra hardware features they would like to see on the battery. The one that comes up the most is for a GPS chip, so that the battery could communicate its location back to the owner. Some would like it to have a small sound chip, so that it could buzz, helping to locate the battery if it has been accidentally left behind, for example.

    Perhaps the most exciting idea, however, is that it seems evident DeWalt plans to expand this Bluetooth system to devices other than batteries, and likely to the tools themselves. This could mean that DeWalt is planning a line of tools similar to the Force-Logic tools from the Techtronic Industries-owned Milwaukee Tool, which report on their exact usage patterns. This might extend to something like the control system that Milwaukee has planned, which enables power tool owners to set up programmed parameters on tools, ensuring they are used correctly.

    Making the use case

    Who might effectively use this type of battery? At the moment the most likely market are professionals/tradies with a battery fleet of over 12 or so units. Some sub-contractors, for example, supply most of the tools their crews use, and that can easily run up to 20 batteries for even a small crew of five or six (presuming they need to use more than one tool at a time).

    Aside from helping to limit loss and even theft, these batteries could reduce the total number of batteries required by 10% to 20%. Being able to remotely monitor the battery charge state means more effective charging patterns, and so less redundancy required. That translates directly to more money in the cash flow, which for anyone at anytime in the building industry is always a good thing.


    The one thing HNN would really like to emphasise is that, even if you don't like "fiddly" things, you might still like these batteries. DeWalt has done a great job in making the setup and systems controls as easy to use as possible. There isn't anything difficult to do, and the result is a battery system that makes a lot more sense, and makes using cordless tools even easier.


    Turning furniture into a smartphone charger

    Zens' Built-In Wireless Charger

    It is similar to what IKEA has already released, and it should have the same limitations

    Zens, a young European technology company making wireless charging devices, announced a new product that will allow users to add wireless induction charging stations to their existing furniture.

    Users will need to create a hole on the surface of the table or desk to which the charger will be added. The company includes the tool needed to create the correct size hole with the purchase of the charger, so users won't have to look for specialty tools. The charger is designed to fit into and cover the hole up.

    The Zens Built-in Wireless Charger is a Qi-certified (a leading wireless charging standard) charging device. The company said there are currently over 500 Qi-certified products on the market that can be charged by the built-in charger, including the last four generations of the Google Nexus phone, the current Samsung Galaxy lineup, and the recently announced Lumia 950 and 950XL from Microsoft.

    Zens said it has also made provisions to make the charger durable and designed to be spill resistant.

    The Zens Built-in Wireless Charger has had its initial release in early November at some retailers and online sellers.

    IKEA turns furniture into wireless phone chargers - Yahoo! News

    Tree pruners a tall order

    Latest tree pruners from Fiskars

    Users can keep on top of new foliage on larger trees and shrubs

    The Fiskars Universal Tree Pruner is a premium tool for ground-cover jobs or higher pruning work that usually requires a step ladder. The device gives the user a pruning height of around 3.5 metres while keeping their feet safely on solid ground.

    The Telescopic Tree Pruner is ideal for tall trees or overgrown bushes and hedges. The length-adjustable tool helps to avoid potential ladder dangers, with a shaft that can swiftly change from 2.4 metres to four metres to enable a reach of up to six metres.

    Both pruners are designed to make the job easier and safer. The efficient PowerReel[tm] mechanism makes cutting 12 times easier compared to standard mechanisms. The pruners also has an adjustable cutting angle up to 230-degrees for a more effective action time after time.

    The blade is durable and stays sharp due to its special CrMov steel construction, and is finished with a PTFE coating that makes it corrosion resistant and non-stick. The bypass blade is suitable for cutting fresh, living growth with ease. The locking mechanism means users will always be able to access that tricky overhead branch and bring it down safely and without too much fuss or trouble.

    When tackling thicker branches, the Universal Tree Pruner can cut through with its 32mm cutting diameter. It goes further with the ability to attach a saw to the end of the shaft, for removing bigger branches or dead wood.

    These functional qualities coupled with a lightweight and hardened aluminium construction makes the Fiskars Universal Tree Pruner a must-have tool for every gardener.


    Reviving old furniture and cabinets

    Furniture Paint and Cabinet Enamel from Valspar

    It has created new paints specifically for furniture and cabinet projects

    Two new specialty products developed by Valspar - Furniture Paint and Cabinet Enamel - offer consumers a way for bringing such discarded furniture back to life. According to Russ Neale, director of product management and innovation, the latest Valspar formulations are designed to refinish and reinvent an existing piece that might otherwise get kicked to the curb.

    Furniture and cabinet makeovers account for more than half of the paint projects that consumers tackle on their own. Valspar Furniture Paint and Cabinet Enamel require minimal prep time and yield completed surfaces requiring little to no maintenance over time. Neale said:

    We wanted to be sure we were providing products that would give consumers the confidence to pick up a paint brush and transform something they love...and achieving results they can point to with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

    Valspar's Furniture Paint is an oil-enriched satin finish paint formulated to provide smooth durable coverage that's resistant to spills, scuffs, stains and discoloration caused by moisture.

    It adheres to most surfaces, even laminate, with minimal priming and sanding needed. This makes it an ideal solution for upgrading furniture, whether for indoor or outdoor use. Two coats are required for best results.

    Cabinets found in bathrooms and kitchens typically require a coating that withstands frequent cleaning and exposure to steam, and Valspar's Cabinet Enamel delivers that in one product.

    The paint comes in a semi-gloss finish featuring a non-yellowing formula, and like Furniture Paint, the coating adheres most surfaces with no priming and minimal to no sanding needed. It dries to a smooth factory-finish quality, and one of the added benefits is that doors and drawers will not stick.

    To further boost confidence and inspire, Valspar has produced a series of "Rehab Project" videos, accessible online at Valspar Rehab Project. Spotlighting a variety of mini-makeovers that can be accomplished by using the new paints and completed in as little as one weekend, the step-by-step process is fully demonstrated.

    Also available and echoing these projects are "recipe cards" that not only detail the painting how-tos but also guide on what supplies are required, prepping and clean up.


    Solving storage problems for small spaces

    Spanbilt Smartlocker 800

    It claims to be the most secure storage solution for apartment dwellers and carport owners

    The latest product to enter the premium storage shed market is Spanbilt's Smartlocker(r) 800. It has been designed in direct response to the large number of enquiries received from apartment and townhouse dwellers for a smaller security storage shed.

    The new model has all the benefits of the Smartlocker storage solution in a smaller format to fit into modern urban situations, like car parking spaces and car ports.

    Spanbilt is the manufacturer of the Smartlocker. It is made from high quality, heavy gauge corrugated Colorbond(r) steel. The strength of the framing design is used in steel garage buildings and uses a portal steel frame construction. It highlights security, strength and visual appeal.

    Spanbilt has been making outdoor storage products for over 40 years. The company was known as Spic and Span back in the day and was one of the original manufacturers of the iconic garden shed.

    Spanbilt makes all its sheds in Australia which benefits local communities. Its manufacturing base also gives the business key insights and understanding, to ensure it develops products that meet Australian trends and conditions.

    Specifications of the Smartlocker 800 include:

  • Width: 2400mm x Depth 800mm
  • Height: Front 2305mm / Rear 2315mm
  • Door opening: W1855mm H1680mm
  • Warranty: 20 Years
  • Wind region ratings: Regions A, B
  • products

    Preserving paint brushes

    New options on the market

    Alternatives to help homeowners keep their paint brushes in good shape

    Spring is a time not only for the budding of flowers and the arrival of day temperatures suited for purposes other than long-term food storage, but also for widespread outbreaks of the Great Paintbrush Guilt Trip.

    Every homeowner who has surveyed a fence, gate, window-frame or mailbox and concluded that, yes, this is the year it absolutely has to be painted, knows this feeling.

    The creaking box or cupboard where the painting implements are stored is creaked open. Alongside the paint-matted thin plastic drop-cloths, the part-used tins of seven different shades of white paint, and three different kinds of paint stirrer, there lurks the remnants of previous seasons' paint brushes.

    More recent brushes may be subject to the kind of resuscitation efforts more commonly seen in medical dramas - though rather than "stat!" and "code-blue!" rather more earthy and well-worn single word terminology tends to get used. Brushes are soaked in water, in patent products designed to restore lustre and life, washed in detergent, combed with wire brushes.

    Some, it is true, are restored to some kind of life, but many - or even most - don't make it. Guiltily homeowners troop to the local hardware store to purchase new brushes, along with a couple further shades of white paint.


    It is an obvious commercial opportunity, and one that not a few businesspeople have tried to take some advantage from. The most well-known effort is a product known as The Paint Brush Cover (though this now includes covers for paint rollers as well).

    The product gained some fame through being featured on the US TV show "Shark Tank". It achieved funding that exceeded its initial "ask", and has gone on to enjoy a high degree of success.

    That product is aimed at stopping paint brush destruction at its source, which is often not during the long period between painting jobs, but while the painting job is under way. The cover is made of hard plastic, and fits neatly around different sizes of brush, establishing a water-tight seal that prevents the brush from drying out.

    Paint product inventor gets deal with Home Depot - HNN

    For busy home-owners, who might only be able to put on only one-coat of paint a day, it saves them the lengthy and messing chore (often not done very well) of washing out the paint from the brush.

    Now a new product is entering the same market. Known as the "Brushaper", this product takes a different approach. Instead of using a hard plastic case, it uses a soft neoprene fabric.

    The Brushaper is not designed to prevent evaporation, but to allow the brush to dry slowly and naturally, while hugging the bristles, thus keeping the brush's shape. The Paint Brush Cover might work well for limiting clean-up over a short time, but the Brushaper is designed to aid long-term storage.

    Like many good things, the Brushaper is the invention of one person, Andy Oliver, who lives in the state of Michigan in the US. Mr Oliver is trained as a mechanical engineer, and ran a painting company for many years, so he has a unique combination of qualifications for this task.

    The covers are currently being sold via the website, and range in price from US$7.00 to US$9.00 depending on size.


    Pro Tool Reviews Innovation Awards

    Cordless tools category

    Cordless is where most of the innovation in tools is happening today

    The ProTool Reviews (PTR) website has released its annual list of Innovation Award Winners.

    PTR is a good website for checking out the latest in power tools. Based in the US, it typically is among the first to break stories from the major power tool manufacturers. Its reviews are frequently "use-based" - they don't just look at the tools, but, where possible, actively test them.

    The Innovation Awards are part of the website's "Buying Guide" series. They are not really the place to go if you want to find out what the best cordless drill/driver (for example) is on the market.

    The Innovation Awards instead look at the general market and find products that have some unique features that make them stand out from the crowd. Some of these will be specialty tools, but there are also tools that indicate some kind of emerging market direction.

    From the 38 or tools in the guide, HNN has selected seven that seem influential.

    Winner - Cordless Hammer Drill: 12V

    Milwaukee M12 Fuel 13mm Hammer Drill/Driver

    The 10.8v-12v line of tools continues to pick up the pace not only on the 14.4v category but the 18v category as well. The smaller tools do not have quite the power of the higher voltage tools, but they are ideally suited to a very large range of tasks.

    >}Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2404-22}

    This hammer drill/driver from Milwaukee is designed to get the maximum amount of power out of the smaller form-factor. It essentially takes all the great features available on the Milwaukee M18 18v line, and fits them into a compact drill.

    This includes the brushless motor, which delivers more power/longer runtime, constant power output, cool running, and high-wear internal components. It can use both the standard 2.0 amp battery pack, and the larger 4.0 amp extended use battery pack.

    Other features include:

  • Tool warranty: 5 years
  • Peak torque: 39.5 Nm
  • Chuck: 13mm Metal Single Sleeve - Ratcheting Lock
  • Speed: 0-450/0-1,700 RPM
  • Winner - Cordless Drills/Drivers: 18V/20V Max Compact

    Milwaukee M18 13mm Compact Brushless Drill/Driver

    Australian Model: M18BLDD-0

    US Model: 2701-22CT

    This tool sees Milwaukee introduce a new price/value point in its range. The tool sits in-between the top-level M18 FUEL line and the mid-level M18 line, offering all the advantages of an 18-volt brushless tool in a compact form-factor.

    >}Milwaukee M18 13mm Compact Brushless Drill/Driver}

    Other features include:

  • Tool warranty: 5 years
  • Peak torque: 60 Nm
  • Chuck: 13mm Metal Single Sleeve - Ratcheting Lock
  • Speed: 0-450/0-1,800 RPM
  • Length: 174mm
  • Milwaukee M18 13mm Compact Brushless Drill/Driver in Australia

    Winner - Cordless Drills/Drivers: Collated, 18V/20V Max

    DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Lithium-Ion Drywall Screwgun

    Model: DCF620

    The DeWalt DCF620 offers a drywall screwgun in a compact, lightweight package, with all the advantages of cordless. Operating at up to4400rpm with a brushless motor, it delivers the power expected from a screwgun.

    >}DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Lithium-Ion Drywall Screwgun}

    The collated magazine attachment is versatile. It can be rotated on the tool, allowing better access to corners, can be easily cleaned of drywall dust, and accepts most collated screws. Its quick release mechanism makes it easy to change. The screwgun also comes with a locking nosecone, for use with non-collated screws.

    Other features include

  • Tool warranty: 3 years
  • Peak torque: 30 Nm
  • Weight: 1.88kg
  • Speed: 0-4400 RPM
  • DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Lithium-Ion Drywall Screwgun

    Winner - Cordless Impact Drivers: 18V/20V Max

    Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Quick-Shift Mode 3-Speed Makita 18V LXT

    This is an impact driver that wins in a number of categories. It is compact, lightweight and powerful. It also features Makita's Quick-Shift technology. Using this, the cordless driver begins driving screws at its highest rotational speed, setting 3. As the torque required to drive the screw increases, the driver "down shifts" to setting 2, providing a slower rotational speed and higher torque.

    >}Makita 18V LXT Makita 18V LXT}

    Other features include:

  • Tool warranty: 3 years
  • Peak torque: 175 Nm
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Speed: 0 - 1,100 / 0 - 2,100 / 0 - 3,600 RPM
  • Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Quick-Shift Mode 3-Speed Makita 18V LXT

    Winner - Cordless Paint Sprayer, 18V/20V Max

    Graco TrueCoat Pro II Cordless

    This hand-held, cordless sprayer uses the same piston pump as is found in corded Graco sprayers. That helps it handle a very wide range of coatings, including decking stain and exterior paint - though it can only be used with water-based products.

    >}Graco TrueCoat Pro II Cordless}

    Graco is careful to point out this is not a sprayer to use on its own for larger jobs - they suggest a limit of around eight litres maximum - it is a great machine for touch-ups and smaller jobs in areas that would be hard to reach with an electric cord.

    The self-contained sprayer can spray a little less than a single four-litre can of paint on a single charge form its 2.4 amp battery. Like all Graco products, the company has made this sprayer a very repairable unit. Most of the parts are easily replaced with new modular units.

    Other features include:

  • Tool warranty: 1 year limited
  • Pressure range: 1000 psi to 2000 psi
  • Weight: 2.95kg
  • Winner - Cordless Sanders: Finish, 18V/20V Max

    Ryobi 18V One+ Corner Cat Finish Sander P401

    This Ryboi sander features a very compact housing that makes it easy to get into tight areas. It is designed specifically for corner sanding, making it ideal for use in finishing furniture.

    >}Ryobi corner sander}

    Other features include

  • Tool warranty: 2 years
  • Orbital stroke rate: 22,000
  • Speed: 11,000 RPM
  • Weight: 0.62kg
  • Winner - Cordless Saws: Circular Saws, 18V/20V Max

    Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless 165mm Circular Saw Kit

    US Model: XSH03Z

    Australian Model: DHS680

    Featuring Makita's automatic speed change technology, which increases torque under increased load conditions, this saw has won accolades for its smooth cutting action and good ergonomics.

    >}Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless 165mm Circular Saw}

    The materials used to construct the saw make use of magnesium to produce a durable and lightweight tool. Two LED lights help to illuminate the cutting area, and a dust blower keeps the line of the cut free of obstructions.

    Other features include:

  • Tool warranty: 3 years
  • Cutting depth: 55mm
  • Cutting depth at 45 degrees: 40mm
  • Speed: 5,000 RPM
  • Weight: 3.42kg
  • products

    Husqvarna on smart outdoor equipment

    Ideas for the future of professional landscaping

    Husqvarna claims to be the first company to deploy connectivity to outdoor power products

    Husqvarna has developed a connected battery that can collect and provide real-time data from power tools. This product is currently patent-pending.

    The company has also unveiled a design concept hedge trimmer for the future, with a visor that uses real-time data and augmented reality to support operators.

    During a press event in Antwerp, Belgium recently, Husqvarna showed a prototype of a lithium battery with integrated Bluetooth connectivity - a connected battery. Tools equipped with this battery prototype will be able to share valuable information about themselves to their user.

    The battery prototype can easily be paired with an operator's smartphone or a smart watch, to either provide the operator direct information, or to pass on information to other members of the team. Kai Warn, CEO and president of Husqvarna Group said:

    Battery and connectivity constitute the biggest leap in our industry since motorizing outdoor products. The connected battery and our concept hedge trimmer demonstrate Husqvarna's commitment to pioneer high performing battery products and leverage the possibilities of the Internet of Things.

    Taking advantage of data

    When powering tools with intelligence, landscapers and other professionals can start developing new ways of working. For example, avoiding downtime by shifting from reactive maintenance if a machine breaks down, to proactive maintenance. The tools themselves can alert and prepare managers and technicians when they need service.

    Other examples of opportunities from real-time data provided by the connected battery prototype include:

    Improving skills

    Tools can give direct feedback and guidance on how to use them, helping operators to refine their technique as well as help beginners use the tool in a professional way faster.

    Improving safety

    The new battery creates opportunities to improve user safety, as well as to prevent theft by locking the machine so someone else cannot use it.

    Improving team communications

    Getting an instant overview enables team leaders to go from "how did we do today" to "how are we doing right now". This makes it more flexible in adjusting directives or allocating resources differently if something unexpected happens.

    Improving planning

    With the data and insights provided by the connected battery, managers will have better intelligence to support their planning activities.

    Design concept

    The Husqvarna Ramus[tm] is an intelligent and ultra lightweight hedge trimmer that features technologies such as:

  • Super light cutting blades in carbon fibre and liquid metal, with individual sensors on each blade to govern exactly how much power the battery should provide for the job at hand.
  • An augmented reality visor that uses data to support the operator in real-time with everything from machine status information to projected cutting patterns while cutting.
  • An integrated micro camera that displays the cutting view when cutting high hedges or complicated angles that are out of sight.
  • Fleet Services

    In 2014, the company launched Husqvarna Fleet Services. It is an online platform that provides landscaping professionals with data from smart sensors that have been added on to products. The aim is to integrate the connected battery with Husqvarna Fleet Services when it becomes available to the market.

    The company is also launching a smartphone app version of Husqvarna Fleet Services. This app allows team leaders and operators to access assignment details on the map, record and submit business opportunities identified while working in the field.