Hurricane Irma recently reminded us that we take electricity for granted. The storm wreaked havoc on our city’s electrical system, knocking out power to thousands. Parts of the grid were so badly damaged that they needed to be rebuilt rather than repaired. High temperatures created discomfort and even danger for some. Many of us got out of Dodge or stayed with friends or family who had power. Although hurricanes will probably always outgun grids, the experience underscored the importance of building the strongest electrical system possible. And how do you build a strong electrical system? In part, you make physically strong connections between components. Electricians have long used crimpers of both the manual and hydraulic to accomplish these connections. Today I’ll be using a new hydraulic type – but it’s not just any crimper. It’s the Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper.
Milwaukee’s muscular crimper packs a whopping 12 tons of force in a form factor smaller than I’ve ever seen. It’s loaded with features that that many Pros have never used – and it’s probably because tools in this category aren’t cheap. I’m sure many companies get sticker shock when they consider a $4,000 tool. But if it works as advertised, I think there’s a case to be made for the time savings, quality improvement, and safety it can provide. Let’s see if I’m right.
Battery and Motor
The Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper features the company’s PowerState brushless motor. Brushless motors generally extend tool life while supporting “smart” electronics, namely Milwaukee’s RedLink Plus Electronic Intelligence and One-Key technology. RedLink allows the Milwaukee’s RedLithium battery and tool to communicate, providing overload protection, a Pre-Crimp Battery Check, and the company’s proprietary Predictive Force Monitoring (PFM), which we’ll discuss in a moment.
Even though it’s the lightest 12-ton crimper available, it still has to be fairly hefty to produce so much force. Fortunately, the crimper’s head rotates 350˚ and allows the user to position the dies properly without hoisting the crimper in awkward ways. The dies snap securely into place in the head’s jaws and can only be removed by pressing a release button. Bright alignment marks on both the head and dies ensure that the crimp will be where the user intends.
The Predictive Force Is With It
RedLink Plus transforms an ordinary tool mindlessly following orders into a dynamic assistant providing instant feedback. Milwaukee calls this electronic intelligence Predictive Force Monitoring (PFM). It means that the Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper will only begin a crimp if there’s enough battery power to complete it. The PFM’s Auto Complete feature ensures that the crimp reaches full pressure, indicated by a green light on top of the tool.
One Key to the Kingdom
Many Pros are unfamiliar with Milwaukee’s revolutionary One Key digital platform for tool management. In fact, neither I nor Misael, my colleague on this project, had used it before. All One-Key-enabled tools allow tracking, customization, reporting, and security through a Bluetooth-based mobile app. In the Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper’s case, One-Key stores real-time crimp data, generates historical performance data, produces professional reports, and syncs all that information wirelessly to the cloud. Now that’s pretty cool. Imagine the ability to show an inspector a technical data report on every job!
Other Notable Features
The Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper accomplishes its adaptive pressure control with a fully enclosed high-speed hydraulic pump. It produces cULus certified crimps according to the UL 486A-B classification standards for #8 – 750 MCM Cu and Dual Rated Anderson, Blackburn Burndy, Ilsco, Panduit, Penn-Union, and Thomas & Betts connectors.
I suggest always using the tethering – it’s too dangerous to people and the tool itself to leave untethered when you’re working off the ground.
Milwaukee’s 100% serialized Exact Dies feature industry-standard wire size colors. Brilliantly, the dies even imprint wire size onto completed connectors. Milwaukee sells them separately, individually, and kitted in a full set as part number 49-12-KITA. We opened the kit’s case and it was like a movie scene where opening a briefcase reveals precious metals or treasure. It just looks impressive. It’s time to see if the finished crimps are just as impressive!
Crimpin’ (Typically) Ain’t Easy
As a fourth-generation electrician, I’ve been digging trenches since I was old enough to walk! I’ve also done substation and distribution work that’s quite complementary to the work we do now. Misael learned the trade in Texas – which quickly became his nickname around the company – and has been a Pro since 2005. Even with all of our combined experience, we rarely – if ever – have run into fellow Pros using hydraulic crimpers.
Certainly, the rarity is due in part to the cost, but it could also be a lack of awareness that good hydraulic crimpers exist. When you do find one, it’s heavy, awkward, and somewhat dangerous. You typically have to lift the heavy pump housing up so you can reach your wire, remove the cap, position the crimper around the wire, and somehow maneuver yourself to hit the button. It’s really a two-man job and even then it’s less than ideal. A hydraulic leak can even shut a job down.
So electrical Pros usually crimp manually with a long-handled tool resembling bolt cutters with an O- or D-die. But this still isn’t ideal. Sure, it’s the least expensive way to go about it, but there are several drawbacks. It takes at least two – and usually three – tough crimps to secure the connector to the cable. Even then, you can only tug on the connector to check snugness but you can’t know the pressure exerted. Besides being inexact, there’s a chance that wood handles could snap or splinter under the pressure of the crimp. Big box hardware stores don’t have them readily available, either – you’d likely have to go to a supply warehouse.
We’ve been installing 600-amp service to a large metal building for several weeks now. Today, the Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper will help us connect several 3/0 pin terminal connectors at the meter bank. Misael has mastered the art of neat service panel organization, so he set to work preparing all the large diameter cables. In this way, we could test the Milwaukee on individual crimps as well as serial crimps. You’ll see that he marked the phases with colored tape and bent the cable into its final direction – no easy task!
Misael was kind enough to let me take the Milwaukee for its inaugural crimps. I slid the correct die into the jaws of the crimper’s rotating head and they clicked into place. They remain secure in the jaws until the release button is depressed – otherwise, they’d fall out as head rotated! As I mentioned above, this crimper is lighter and more compact than any other tool for the job – but it’s still heavy. You’ll notice, however, that it’s perfectly balanced such that the weight doesn’t interfere with positioning.
We were both eager at the prospect of superior crimps, so I pulled the top trigger (the bottom one is a release). It’s really amazing. The motor whirred, the jaws constricted the dies around the connector, and the result was a perfect crimp leaving just a couple of metallic “ears” to be snapped off. I immediately thought that I would have given anything to have this tool when I was doing substation and distribution work. All of those connections must be pressed and this is the perfect tool for the job. The process only took a few seconds and the tool was ready for the next crimp.
It was just awesome – far less fatiguing – and you can even accomplish the crimps with one hand if necessary. The rotating head and overall balance allow you to easily keep the tool level during the crimp. It’s imperative that the crimp is perpendicular to the cable, otherwise, you have to cut it off. And if that happens, the cable might be too short!
Assurance of Crimpage
As I mentioned, the Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper has two triggers whereas many hydraulic crimpers have just one. With one trigger, you must wait for the tool to finish the crimping cycle before the pressure releases. But Milwaukee gives you the utmost control over the whole cycle by allowing you to back the pressure down at any time. Couple this with the PFM’s green light indicator showing the right pressure was achieved on a finished crimp and you can have plenty of confidence in your work.
But there’s another benefit of this crimper over a manual tool that may not be immediately clear. If you’re working in a hot panel, there’s a danger of opening/moving the manual crimper handles such that they contact some electrified element. This meter bank wasn’t hot, but I’ll feel much safer on the next live one using the Milwaukee because my work area is much smaller and more manageable.
The icing on the crimper cake? One-Key allows us to generate reports on the work we do. And if the Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper was ever stolen, we can track it on the mesh network.
The Bottom Line
The Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper is a powerhouse of crimping force and productivity for electrical Pros working with larger diameter cable. It employs adaptive force technology to produce quick, repeatable crimps under the proper pressure. Electronic intelligence will only begin the crimp if enough battery power remains and a green light indicates that the crimp is complete. It does all of this while being the lightest hydraulic crimper on the market.
The only drawback I could come up with is the price. The barrier to entry here is steep but I think the time savings, quality improvement, and increase in safety over any other method available makes it an excellent tool. Electrical Pros need to be confident in their connections and in my mind, this is the best tool for that job.
Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper Features
- Milwaukee PowerState Brushless Motor provides more power, more run-time, and longer life.
- The Milwaukee RedLithium Battery Pack is the most durable pack on the market delivering more run-time, power, and longer battery life.
- RedLink Plus Electronic Intelligence enables advanced communication between your batteries and tools, allowing for unmatched levels of performance, protection, and productivity.
- Lightest 12T Crimper
- Most Balanced with Ergonomic Grip Design
- Bold Alignment Marks aid accuracy in crimp placement
- PFM (Predictive Force Monitoring) with AutoComplete Ensures Full Pressure
- PFM (Predictive Force Monitoring) Provides Instant Pressure Verification with Green Indicator
- Pre-Crimp Battery Check Automatically Ensures Enough Charge to Complete Each Crimp
- 350˚ Head Rotation Provides Easy Access in Tight Spaces
- The Tool Records & Stores Every Crimp Made for Professional Report Building through One Key
- Longer Life with PowerState Brushless Motor & Weather Protected Electronics that Keep Dirt, Dust & Moisture Out
Milwaukee M18 Force Logic 750 MCM Crimper Specifications
- Item Numbers:
- Voltage: 18V
- Battery: M18 RedLithium
- Battery Warranty: 3 Year
- One Key Enabled: Yes
- Length: 16.0 inches
- Capacity: 750MCM Cu/Al
- Head Rotation: 350 degrees
- Adaptive Pressure Control System: Yes
- Reporting and Tool Diagnostics: Yes
- Full Pressure Indicator: Yes
- Tool Warranty: 5 Years