Impact Drivers have become a must-have tool for serious professionals looking to get projects done quickly and efficiently. DeWALT's latest impact driver adds brushless technology that improves performance far beyond what has been previously possible. Host Tom Kraeutler interviews Phil Lalle, Product Manager for DeWALT Cordless.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Welcome to this edition of The Money Pit's Top Products Podcast.
Well, with the recovery in full swing, homeowners are taking on more and more projects, and having the right power tools can really help save a lot of time. And one tool that does exactly that is the impact driver.
Here to talk about the latest technology in impact driver design is Phil Lalle, the Product Manager for DeWalt Cordless Power Tools.
PHIL LALLE: Hey, Tom, how are you?
TOM KRAEUTLER: We're well. So for those that are not familiar, what is an impact driver? 
PHIL LALLE: Impact drivers are a fairly new tool to come to market within the last five or ten years or so. And it is similar to a drill driver but, generally speaking, they're a bit shorter, lighter, and create a lot more power and torque than a drill driver.
TOM KRAEUTLER: So what kind of applications would you use it for?
PHIL LALLE: Yeah, so a drill driver is great for drilling a hole, boring a hole, whereas an impact driver is better suited from driving a fastener, either in like a concrete, wood, metal – you know, great for any type of fastener up from a self-tapping metal screw all the way up to a lag bolt in pressure-treated lumber; really great for a wide range of fastening applications.
TOM KRAEUTLER: So impact drivers – is it fair to say that they generate more power than drills and more torque than drills?
PHIL LALLE: That's definitely a fair statement and probably what has helped in making them so popular in recent years and start to show up in a lot of guys' toolboxes over the last two, three, four years or so.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And, you know, this is a great tool for serious DIYers as well as the pros. And it is an example of a tool that, if you've not had on before, perhaps your only experience with impact drivers is hearing the impact driver that is used to attach a wheel to a car, for example – you know, a very, very typical sound.
This is a tool that can really be very, very helpful around the house, around the job site, especially when you have to do repetitive things. And the size is quite compact today. It seems like they've gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. Is that right, Phil?
PHIL LALLE: This Brushless Impact Driver that we just recently launched is our shortest brushless impact driver ever. It is 5-1/4 inches in length from front to back.
I remember back when we launched our first impact driver; they were up around six, 6-1/2 inches, so we've been able to take some considerable length out of impact drivers over the last couple years.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Yeah, and all without giving up features and power. Right?
PHIL LALLE: Yeah. And I think that's just another reason that makes them such a popular tool, is just 'cause they're just so powerful and so compact.
TOM KRAEUTLER: All right, so the story today is brushless. You guys have brushed designs and you have brushless designs. Why is brushless the way to go? What kinds of qualities does a brushless motor design bring?
And let's just start, for those that are unaware, of just sort of defining what "brushless" is versus the traditional way motors are constructed?
PHIL LALLE: Good question. Yeah, there is a lot of misunderstand, I think, out there when it comes to brushless motors and what the real benefits of a brushless motor are.
First of all, I'll keep it kind of high-level, but for people not familiar, a traditional brushed motor transfers current, so from – which starts in the battery pack. It transfers current up to the motor, through the use of things called brushes. And brushes are stationary, and they make contact with a spinning commutator. So the very thing that is transferring power to the motor is also kind of creating drag and inefficiencies and, ultimately, some run time loss there.
So brushless motors have started to appear on the street in the last couple months because they really do offer significantly longer run time. For example, we've compared, we've done our own internal testing where we've compared the run time on our brushless impact driver versus our brushed impact driver – same exact application, same exact battery, all things being equal – and our brushless impact driver is able to do 57 percent more work on a battery charge than the brushed equivalent. So, at the end of the day, a brushless motor with not using brushes to commutate doesn't create that friction and is able to last a lot longer on a charge of a battery.
TOM KRAEUTLER: So much more efficient, and you're not giving up any power. What about weight? How does it compare?
PHIL LALLE: Yep, it is definitely a bit lighter and shorter. But, really, the ultimate benefit, the real reason why users should be interested in brushless tools is because it offers dramatically longer run time. It can vary from application to application, but, generally speaking, it is up around that 50-percent improvement range versus a brushed tool.
TOM KRAEUTLER: We're talking to Phil Lalle - he's the Project Manager for DeWalt Cordless – about the new Brushless Impact Driver, the 20-Volt MAX Impact Driver.
You guys have a great video on your website, at DeWalt.com/brushless. It is kind of fun to watch because we see the test that you did with a number of fasteners, to see how many you could get into one set of boards versus the other, using brushed versus brushless. And pretty impressive, especially when you speed it up and you see how many screws that that guy had to drill in. Was that you?
PHIL LALLE: That was me. Yeah, that is the exact application that I'm referencing. That is a fairly common application. That is three-inch deck screws in a composite decking material. So it is an application that we felt was, you know, pretty representative of what an impact driver is used to do.
And, yeah, that's the application right there. We were able to do 57 percent more work with our brushless tool than our brushed tool.
TOM KRAEUTLER: That's pretty good. Do you get to take some time off for carpal tunnel relief or something?
PHIL LALLE: [Chuckles] I'll tell you – I was a little slower eating dinner at the end of the day that – (I'm a righty) – and, uh…
TOM KRAEUTLER: I bet. [Chuckles]
PHIL LALLE: …A little bit more work getting the fork up to the mouth that night.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Yeah, I bet.
So let's talk about some of the other features that the Brushless Impact Driver design brings to the market. Let's talk a bit about the battery system, because I know that that's key to making sure that the tool can do what it needs to do.
PHIL LALLE: One of the things that DeWalt has always kind of prided ourselves on is having a wide breadth of systems, so – meaning you can take, you know, the battery out of one tool and put it in another tool. And our 20-Volt MAX System is a new and rapidly expanding system.
We've got drills, impact drivers, saws - pretty much any tool you can imagine, we've got that system, and it is rapidly growing, too.
TOM KRAEUTLER: And the Impact Driver also has a multiple-speed functionality – correct? – so it is not just one and done.
PHIL LALLE: Yeah. So, in recent years, as impact drivers have gotten quicker and quicker, and more and more powerful, there have been some users. And DeWalt, when we're designing a new tool, one of the things we pride ourselves on is getting out with the user and conducting live interviews.
And one of the pieces of feedback that we got was that, as impact drivers get more and more powerful, and quicker and quicker, they kind of have lost their ability to provide the control when working with smaller fasteners. So think, in your cabinets, the hardware, the hinges – impact drivers could sometimes break those fasteners, those smaller, delicate fasteners.
So what this multi-speed switch enables a user to do is kind of dial the speed back and the torque back so they're in more control; they have more control over the tool. And when working with smaller fasteners, they are not going to be at risk of breaking those fasteners or messing up their application.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Yeah, and speaking of the smaller fasteners and the tight spaces, this design seems very, very flexible 'cause it is kind of stubby, isn't it? You should be able to get into most places, including working inside cabinets, quite easily.
PHIL LALLE: Yeah, we were able to shave some length out of the unit with a new feature that we've put on this tool – our push-button chuck. So, on traditional impact drivers, users typically had to use two hands to both insert and remove an accessory bit from the tool. With this tool and the new chuck design on it, it takes some length out of the tool, but it also makes that accessory-changing process easier for users to do.
TOM KRAEUTLER: Cool tool. Great innovations.
Phil Lalle, the Project Manager for DeWalt Cordless, thanks so much for stopping by The Top Products Podcast and filling us on this very interesting new product from DeWalt – the Brushless Impact Driver.
Check it out at DeWalt.com/brushless. And make sure you take a look at the video of Phil driving all of those screws, to see how long this thing can last.
So great job, Phil.
PHIL LALLE: Thanks a lot, Tom, for having me on. It was a pleasure.