Every year Bosch generously invites members of the press to come test out, preview, and otherwise interact with, their new tools. At the Bosch 2011 Media Event we are invited to hear about the company’s direction, focus, product initiatives, and even get a sneak peek at some upcoming tools. While we’d like to tell you about those, we’ll have to stick to the things which are NOT under NDA and won’t land us in hot water. Besides, nobody would believe us about the new Bosch 18V Lithium-ion beer cooler anyway… Just kidding… or am I?
Bosch 2011 Media Event Intro
OK, this section is going to review what Bosch said about their company. If you’re not interested in this – fair warning, skip to the next heading. But I have to say, it’s a nice overview and gave a decent birds-eye on their end of the industry. Bosch calls this their Global Leadership Tour 2011, but the “tour” part is for us. It’s more of a showcase, though, and what a showcase it was this year. First up was Frank Carroll – President, Bosch Power Tool North America. He revealed that last year the glide miter saw, which was written about by us an other publications a full 5 months before it came out, literally sold out, almost before it hit the shelves. The company only just caught up with demand in May. I guess that’s the power of media for you. Anticipation and demand are a good thing.
While 2009 was a tough year for Bosch (and everyone else for that matter), 2010 showed great growth, particularly on the back half of the year. Bosch had the #1 rented demo hammer in the industry and the introduction of the Glide miter saw didn’t hurt either. All told, the company ended up in the double digits over the previous year. Fast forward to 2011 and, after the first 4-5 months of this year, Bosch considered itself in “hyper growth” – well into the 20%’s in the industrial channel. Professionals are buying tools, their plunge router quietly hit the shelves – finally, and the new MX25 oscillating tool seems to be difficult for the company to keep in stock. Bosch is, of course, hoping to sustain the rapid company growth throughout the year. A good summary – and one that showed Bosch is rocketing off to a good start for 2011.
Tools of Tomorrow
Next up was a bit of a surprise. It seems Bosch took some of our responses to an inquiry on what kinds of new tools we’d like to see and turned them into actual product concept drawings. We gathered around several of the more prominent designs and interacted in a back-and-forth creative discussion of what these new tools might bring and how they might operate. As we kept the discussion mostly on what features each product “might” have, things quickly got both interesting… and occasionally downright silly. Some of the inventions included:
- A new, smaller Glide Miter saw that was portable and included a handle for easy carrying from the truck/workshop to the jobsite.
- A universal Li-ion battery adapter to allow Bosch cordless power tools to accept batteries from other competing brands
- A tool “memory” chip that recorded depth and duration for repeatable drilling applications
- Various laser guides for concrete saws (one of which looked more like a lightsaber, than a cutting guide…)
- A “beverage” cooler, in both single and 6-pack cooling and distributing formats.
- An iPhone app for tracking tools and providing tool and accessory information
There were also some other concepts that didn’t get as much recognition, like an electric chainsaw and a new wood planer. Bosch was so courteous that they all but refused to shoot down anybody’s suggestions… which some of the more snarky of us began quickly to run with, asking for bizarre and entertaining features for some of the products. It was certainly fun, and the Bosch design team should be applauded, because later that evening the team had redrawn several of the top ideas to include many of the suggestions and modifications we had made. It was a great sneak peek into the work of bringing new ideas to the table and holding round table discussions – something Bosch is apparently doing quite a bit of with their product development cycles.
Bosch 12V Cordless Tools
Later in the Bosch 2011 media event, Shannon Tenut, Product Manager of the 12V Max lines was up next and began with the new Bosch PS90-1A Inspection Camera. This was launched in March and comes with a 4′ long, 17mm wide cable. But the really key component is the camera head, which is unusually small – just 1.9″ in length. The camera also has a 2.7″ LCD screen and improved optics. We thought it looked pretty good and had a fairly wide angle on the lens. There is also a 9.5mm wide, 3′ long cable that is better suited for automotive use where you have to get into tighter places.
The upcoming Bosch PS11-2A right angle drill will launch July 1 and it looks like a very compelling product. The head tilts into any of 5 positions and the top-mounted LED follows the chuck, so you never lose the light. Like all of the new 12V lithium-ion tools, the Right Angle Drill includes a battery fuel gauge. Still not impressed? How about the release of the much-anticipated (and oddly familiar-looking) new PS60-2A Pocket Reciprocating Saw? This new saw has an LED light and a slightly longer stroke (.57″ – as opposed to the competition’s .5″). It launches on August 1 and should prove to be a popular product for Bosch owners. We really like the concept of a one-handed reciprocating saw – it’s incredibly handy and it sliced through PVC, copper and aluminum with very little difficulty.
Bosch 18V Cordless Tools
Nick Feld, Product Manager for 18V Lithium-ion System Tools took the stage with much flair and showed off the Bosch JSH180-01 jigsaw, which is available now and which we actually got to demo last year at Bosch headquarters. It’s a solid tool and should do well to round out Bosch’s 18V line of cordless products. Also available now is the brand new FNH180K-16 finish nailer that we got to test pretty extensively. It’s obviously heavier than comparable air-powered models… but not so much if you include lugging around a compressor – something you can discard when doing finishing projects with this nailer. We particularly liked that Bosch brought the dry fire lockout feature to this tool – something we really appreciate on their air tools.
The Bosch BSH180 Compact Band Saw launched back in March, a bit too quietly perhaps. We might need to make a bigger deal of this tool. It’s absolutely incredible – and I’d almost say that every commercial electrician should definitely have this as part of their arsenal. This tool is 60% lighter and 40% more compact than your standard hand-held corded band saw. It only weighs 7.5 pounds and is just 13.5″ long – think about how great this would be for overhead use!
Nick wasn’t done yet, but added Brian Triplett, also a Product Manager for 18V Lithium-ion Tools to the stage. Brian unveiled the new Bosch Compact Tough HDS180 Hammer Drill/Driver and Bosch Compact Tough DDS180 Drill/Driver – products we’ve been waiting for since last year’s event showed them off in early form. These tools really push the limits of size-to-weigh ratio. Compact size and lighter weight with power is the design goal. Based on our own use of these tools, I’d say they really pulled it off and achieved their goals. Feedback from construction professionals (and we’re inclined to agree) indicated that cordless drills in general are are too heavy, too big, and do not provide enough run-time. On top of that, pros wanted a better balanced grip, more ergonomics, more power, and durability for rugged jobsite conditions. They basically wanted a tool that felt good to use, would do its job well, and didn’t have to be babied. We used these tools extensively, even performing a competition of sorts to see how well the new HC high capacity batteries stood up against RedLithium and other Li-ion batteries. Bosch’s Compact Tough Drill put in 519 three-inch screws into lined up pieces of 10×10 lumber before it ran out of juice. The nearest competitors were Milwaukee with 423 and Makita with 399. DeWalt drove in 318 screws.
Bosch’s response? Create and develop the lightest weight, most compact tool with long-lasting batteries, an optimized grip, and a high performance motor. Oh, and make it durable. How durable? Bosch took us outside and dropped a Compact Tough and a Brute Tough drill from a helicopter that was hovering a little over 530 feet above the ground. They were tossed. They fell. They still worked!
Video of the Bosch Helicopter Tool Drop
So Bosch has essentially three types of 18V Drill: Compact, Compact Tough, and Brute Tough (and there are the Hammer Drill versions of the Compact Tough and Brute Tough as well). While a bit more diverse than you’d expect (I mean, what’s the Skil brand for, right?) they do seem to have a method to their madness. Each tool caters to a different array of priorities. Compact, for example, is particularly price-conscious and geared towards what Bosch calls their “Pro-DIY” market. These are sold in places like Menards, True Value, Ace Hardware, etc. The Compact Tough and Brute Tough both focus on compact size, light weight, and run-time. Heavy duty users, however (those who would buy the Brute Tough drills) will tend to prioritize performance above price. We also heard a rumor that Bosch will be releasing a new cordless impact driver late this year, but we don’t have any more specific info to release at this time.
So what’s new? Well, the new line of tools needed to be able to handle cold temperature use, have increased run-time, include a fuel gauge, and provide a long battery life. The HC (high capacity) battery pack really met all of these needs. The HC packs actually have higher capacity cells which are capable of handling higher currents. The new HC batteries are good to -4 degrees F, include fuel gauges, and are built using an advanced cell quality with advanced cell protection and longer life. What’s that? 4 degrees F? Yeah. Brian Triplett, Product Manager for Drill/Drivers and Impact Tools, took a frozen battery out of a block of ice. The battery had been kept in ice and contained at 20 degrees for 2 days (the environment was 20 degrees, we’re pretty sure the ice and battery were right at 31-32 degrees the whole time). Brian then chipped the battery out of the block of ice, removed it from its ziplock bag and stuck it in a Compact Tough drill and fired it up… successfully. Cool demo… uh, literally. (Afterward we found out that the plastic bag one of the batteries was kept in actually broke, and so the battery had been exposed to raw ice as well as cold – and still worked.)
With all of the changes, Bosch is claiming they now have the most compact, and toughest tools in the market. But what did they specifically change in the second-generation from the first-generation lithium-ion tools? Here’s a summary of what they did in the new 2nd-gen Compact Tough and Brute Tough drills:
- Change the orientation of the drive train as it relates to the handle. The perception of the tools, because of the angle, gave it “bulky” look. Now it has a less aggressive angle, delivering a better appearance of compactness.
- 35% more compact gear train over the previous model
- The 4 pole, 4 brush cam motor is 50% lighter and 35% more compact
- The newest tools have measurable durability and lifetime advantages
- Bosch used a “metal to metal” engagement gearbox (whereas much of the competition has metal to nylon)
- 50% more run-time w/Lithium-ion HC (which run longer, colder, and smarter)
So what else is there to say about the new 18V lithium-ion drills? Well, Bosch also shared with us the results of some interesting drop tests (using helicopters is apparently costly and time-consuming, not to mention impractical). And so we’re talking 12 foot drops onto solid concrete in addition to other durability testing. Bosch would consistently take more drops, by factors of 4x (or more) over the competition. I guess the “Tough” part of the name is actually meant to imply real-world jobsite durability.
Electronic motor protection (EMP) is important, and is now included with Compact Tough and Brute Tough 18V Tools. EMP shuts the tool down when the user is being too aggressive with the tool (we NEVER do that…). This saves the motor from burning up – and we’ve experienced manufacturers’ tools that don’t have this. It’s no fun to smoke a drill on a tough series of lag bolts. With this batch of 18V Cordless tools through we had a break and came back with our next presentation.