Major tool manufacturers were in attendance showing off their latest and greatest products at the annual STAFDA (Specialty Tool And Fasteners Distributors Association) meeting and trade show.
Bosch and Fein broke the news that oscillating multi tools (OMTs) and their blades will become a lot more specialized--and complicated--with the release of an entirely new blade fitting system in 2016. Working together, these two market leaders of OMTs have decided what the future of these tools will be, or at least the ones in the hands of professionals.
The new system is named Starlock, and it’s being implemented to make two major improvements. First, the flat tool mounting interfaces used today will be replaced by a 3D mount shaped like a bottle cap. The greatly increased surface area is designed to provide better power transmission with less wear and slippage between the blade and the tool. The second benefit is that blades can be snapped on and off without the use of tools and without having to touch the blade. This keeps the user from having to handle a hot blade coming off the tool (or a hot spindle for users of the Fein tools). Since this system is being shared between the brands, Fein is doing away with their loose spindle design and catching up to the convenience of the tool-free Bosch mount, which has no loose parts to juggle.
Starlock will take over for the range of blades that are the most common, while Starlock Plus and Starlock Max systems will offer longer and larger blades that require more torque to drive successfully. This is a departure from the one-size-fits-all approach that we’ve always relied on when using OMTs. For other tools, we know that powering larger bits requires a larger drill and that saw blades that cut deeper require stronger saws, but until now we’ve been blissfully unaware that some types of OMT blades will require upgraded tools.
Outside of the U.S. market, Bosch sells blades that are 30% longer for faster cutting (called C-Tec Speed blades), and the increased torque demand of these blades can cause some OMT motors to burn out quickly, according to a spokesman for the brand. To keep tradespeople from unwittingly wearing out their tools with bigger blades designed for increased productivity, high-demand blades will be made with a mount that will only fit on a stronger class of tools.
Each Starlock size will be cross-compatible with lower-demand accessories, but not higher. For example, Starlock blades will fit on Starlock, Starlock Plus, and Starlock Max tools; Starlock Plus blades on Plus and Max tools only; and Starlock Max blades will be reserved for use only on heavy duty Starlock Max tools. Whether Bosch or Fein will classify any of their existing tools with a Plus or Max designation or if they will have to make all new, beefier tools is yet to be seen. The heavy-duty class of Fein OMTs in their Supercut line already occupy this space in the market, so it will be interesting to see how this change will affect that product line. (Though the line is largely unknown in the U.S., it is the choice of professionals in Europe and elsewhere overseas who leave the Multimaster line to the DIYers.)
For users who rely on other brands of OMTs, the good news is that the new blades and accessories will be backwards compatible. Despite the new bottle-cap shape, the flat part of the blade shanks will still feature the “multi-mount” hole pattern which combines the 12 holes of the Bosch and the star-shaped hole of the Fein. The bad news is that just like now, the blades won’t fit the DeWalt / Porter-Cable, Dremel, or Fein Supercut blade mounts.
Stronger and faster OMT performance is certainly a promising arena. The reason most pros only use them for precision work is that they cut at a slow pace and everyone is used to that. We’ll have to wait and see if the Starlock system revolutionizes oscillating multi tools from the relatively one-dimensional tools they are today into new classes of tools with capabilities and uses beyond what current users are used to. Or if the expanded line of stronger tools and longer blades will exist only as specialty niche tools, like the Fein Supercut line is today in the US market.