If you read Tools on a regular basis, you know that for years we've been pushing the tool industry to establish performance-based testing and reporting standards that would provide tool buyers with a consistent means of comparing manufacturers' performance claims. While this hope is still a speck on the horizon, we now hear that a number of major brands are at least discussing it amongst themselves. And now one of the best-known brands, DeWalt, is implementing a method for reporting performance that, once understood, may make it easier for everyone to know just what they're shopping for.
As DeWalt representatives explained to us in late May, the company wants to dispel the belief that comparing performance is as easy as looking at a torque rating on a drill. Torque means the force to turn an object and is only half of what determines performance, the company says. What's more, there's no standard for how each manufacturer reports torque ratings to end users (some may provide "peak" ratings, others "sustained"). And, DeWalt says, because torque numbers are measured at 0 rpm, it really doesn't give an indication of how fast the tool will complete applications. So it's difficult to make an educated purchasing decision when it's unclear how each rating is reported, not to mention that the ratings may not show a tool's real-world capabilities.
So rather than basing performance evaluations on torque alone, DeWalt is now providing buyers with a rating that factors in both torque and speed. The company says that independent testing confirms that the torque required to drill a hole in a certain material and with a certain bit is the same from drill to drill, but what is different from tool to tool is how fast that hole is drilled; therefore, the key to performance is delivering the required torque at the highest speed. With this in mind, the company is implementing a measurement for its drills that it says more accurately communicates performance level than a torque rating: Speed (how fast a drill turns) and Torque (force required to turn the drill bit) = Power (Time to complete an application).
But how do they calculate all that? Without getting too technical, a drill is run while increasing torque loads are applied to provide multiple data points. This testing calculates a drill's "power"–how fast it completes job applications–reported in "unit watts out." The tool's "unit watts out" takes into account the transmission, clutch, and chuck, giving the overall efficiency of the drill system; in other words, DeWalt says, it represents what the user actually experiences. This is the tool's official power rating. If measured for all available drills the same way, in theory users should be able to compare unit watts out ratings to help with the buying decision.
"The more power you have, the faster you'll complete applications," says Brian Hendricks, DeWalt's director of product marketing. And with that, the goal of course is to get as much power into as small a package.
DeWalt has begun putting this new power spec on its drills (and will no longer be using torque ratings on packaging) and is launching a point-of-purchase and packaging educational campaign to get users used to the spec (information is also available at www.dewalt.com/power). The company hopes other manufacturers will follow suit, though it's too soon to tell if it will catch on industry-wide. We're hoping this starts the ball rolling among manufacturers with the involvement of the Power Tool Institute. And you know us and standards–we'll keep you posted.