Power line workers need crimping tools that help them get the job done as efficiently and safely as possible. Whether you’re talking about a hand-operated ratcheting crimper, manual hydraulic or battery-powered hydraulic, the best crimping tools include a variety of features that make the utility worker’s job easier, such as:
- Rotating heads and interchangeable jaws for versatility
- Ergonomic handles for user comfort
- Weather-resistant designs for reliability
While there is a time and place for each type of crimper, a battery-powered hydraulic crimping tool has become a power line worker’s go-to solution.
“When we launched our first 6-ton battery crimper in 2015, we also launched a manual tool — simply because manuals were still very prevalent,” says Troy Marks, senior manager of product marketing for Milwaukee Tool. “Now we see manual crimpers almost as backup tools for a utility worker. The market has definitely shifted toward battery-operated hydraulics as the primary crimping tool.”
“When power line workers are up in the air, they need something that delivers big compression but isn’t too clumsy to handle,” says Ryan Berg, director of product management at Greenlee. That’s where the cordless, battery-powered hydraulic crimper comes into play.
Berg says Greenlee first invented a hydraulic battery crimper system in 1994. The product continued to evolve over the next 20 years, resulting in the introduction of the Gator Next Gen line in 2016, followed by an insulated version of that crimper in 2019. An insulated crimper is ideal for utility workers operating on the ground around transformers or in vaults when they are not properly insulated like they would be while working in an aerial lift.
Which style and size should I choose?
When it comes to battery-powered hydraulic crimpers, power line workers can choose from a variety of sizes to match the task at hand.
According to Marks, a 6-ton crimper is the most common in the utility industry on distribution trucks. When you start talking about underground applications, those cable sizes start to require a crimper in the 12-ton range. Grounding connections and substations generally require a 12-ton tool as well. Really large connections require a 15-ton crimper.
There are also two styles of crimpers to choose from: inline and pistol-grip. In many instances, an inline crimper is the most productive choice. However, a pistol-grip configuration is an even better option in certain applications.
“Most of the higher-tonnage tools are pistol-style crimpers,” says Mike Guarrera, senior product manager for Burndy Tools. “Due to their size, a pistol-grip configuration is a more ergonomic solution.” Burndy’s Patriot 750 Series is a 12-ton pistol-grip C-head crimper to be used with U-dies. Burndy also makes a 15-ton tool for especially large conductors.
Milwaukee Tool actually offers a lower-tonnage (6-ton) pistol-grip utility crimper. “This solution is really focused on those line connections that need to be made at chest height or higher,” Marks says. “An overhead primary is the best example. Pistol crimpers are also useful in underground applications, like when you have a padmount transformer and have to make a lot of connections at chest height.”
In certain applications, a dieless crimper can also provide a line worker with a welcomed advantage.
“Typically when working on overhead splices, multiple conductor sizes need to be spliced together — and they all require different die sets,” Guarrera says. “By moving to a dieless solution, a utility worker simply puts their trust in the tool. Burndy is the only company that makes an 11-ton dieless crimper for the utility market that meets the ANSI standard for full-tension overhead splices. We also offer a dieless jaw on a 6-ton inline tool.”
Technology drives quality and consistency
Regardless of crimper style, proper compression is a major issue for line workers.
“You need enough compression force that the connection is strong enough to keep the line in the air,” Greenlee’s Berg explains. “So it’s important that you don’t under-crimp. At the same time, you don’t want to over-crimp, either. Too much compression could cause material to become exposed, creating a fire hazard.”
Technology is giving line workers some assistance.
Greenlee hydraulic crimpers, for example, have a pressure sensor. “It’s the policeman … the magic that helps create a really great connection,” Berg says. Greenlee’s Intelli-Crimp technology takes 32 pressure readings per second, monitoring each cycle of use to ensure that correct crimping force is achieved. If it isn’t, the tool provides an audible and visual alert, and the OLED screen shows a description of the problem.
Stanley Infrastructure’s InteLED System works similarly. According to Devon Zahm, brand marketing manager for Stanley Infrastructure, it is a thoughtful balance of technology and durability that helps create the best crimping tool for a power line worker.
Milwaukee Tool’s technology is called Predictive Force Monitoring. Essentially, the crimper’s electronics and motor talk to each other. For example, if the pump starts slowing down and needs the motor to speed up, the electronics will sense that and send more power from the battery. At the same time, the system is constantly monitoring pressure throughout the crimp cycle. “As soon as full pressure is hit, the system shuts down and the operator is notified with a green LED light,” Marks says. “Also, the jaws automatically reset to the opening position.”
Leading crimper manufacturers are also developing technologies to help utilities better manage tools and crews.
Greenlee crimpers with Intelli-Crimp technology can communicate with Greenlee’s mobile app called i-Press. This allows utility workers to view battery charge, last service date, the last five pressure measurements, tool temperature and cycle counts.
Milwaukee Tool’s tracking technology is called One-Key. Data on every crimp is stored on the tool. That data — which includes date, time and pressure reached — can be uploaded to the cloud and analyzed with the One-Key app. This data can help utilities make smarter decisions regarding crimper deployment; because all crimps are time-stamped, a utility now has an accurate picture of tool utilization, crew by crew.
Burndy’s larger pistol tools feature T3 technology, which stands for track, trace and transmit.
“Every time you pull the trigger to make a crimp, T3 takes a GPS reading and time stamp, and lets you know if the tool met the correct operating pressure,” Guarrera explains. “Imagine that you’re putting in a new distribution line in a neighborhood. Now you’ll have a record showing all of the crimps a given tool made — complete with location, date and time. T3 also allows the user to take photos and add notes. All of this information is collected in the cloud. The really nice thing is that the utility worker doesn’t need to be connected to the cloud all of the time. The tool gathers the information in the background as the work is being done. Later on, the user can connect the tool to his or her phone and app to send that data to the cloud.”
Ergonomics, safety and standardization
As exciting as new technology is, sometimes the best crimping tools come down to straightforward design approaches that make things easier, safer and more convenient for the power line worker.
Within Burndy’s battery-powered offering, a popular choice for utility workers is the 6-ton PATMD-LW inline crimper. It has recently been redesigned to reduce weight by 14 percent and size by 11 percent. This crimper also features a larger on/off trigger, reduced-slip grip and integrated safety switch. “Our inline tool has a physical trigger lock switch,” Guarrera explains. “If you happen to have a cutting jaw on the tool and accidentally hit the trigger, you could have a loss time incident. Our trigger safety lock helps prevent that kind of thing from happening.”
Another safety consideration relates to interchangeable jaws. “To change them out, you have to pull a release pin,” Guarrera relates. “With some crimpers, the jaws can fall once you pull that pin. With Burndy crimpers, there are positive locking tabs. So you can pull that pin and shake the tool around, but nothing will fall out. You physically have to squeeze the jaw together to slide it out. If you’re up in a bucket truck with a crimping jaw but need to cut some conductor, it’s so much easier and safer to switch out the jaw.”
Standardization is also important to a utility company. The ability to equip crews around one battery platform helps simplify things on the truck and in the field.
Milwaukee’s crimping tools run off of the company’s M18 battery platform, which also powers a long list of additional power tools from Milwaukee. Both Stanley Infrastructure and Klein Tools crimpers run off of the DeWalt 20V system. Greenlee and Burndy utilize Makita’s 18V battery system. Both DeWalt and Makita batteries power a long list of common power tools, as well.
Along with a versatile battery platform, interchangeable crimping and/or cutting jaws can also boost efficiency.
“When everything can be cut and crimped from the same base tool, the line worker has to take less weight up into the bucket,” Marks says. That’s because several jaws are much smaller and lighter than several dedicated tools. “You also need considerably less storage space on a truck,” Marks adds.
You can put your hands on all of the best crimping tools at the 2021 Utility Expo. CLICK HERE for registration information. And check out a few top products below …
Burndy Tools is a maker of hand-operated, manual hydraulic and battery-powered hydraulic crimping tools. Its Patriot 750 Series is a 12-ton pistol-grip C-head crimper to be used with U dies. Key features include:
- Rubber over-molded ergonomic handle
- 355° head rotation
- Manual release trigger allows partial retraction
- Conformally coated PCB protects electronics in bad weather
- Patented T-Track Alignment Guide for HYGROUND as other asymmetrical connectors
- Accept 18V 2.0Ah and 6.0Ah Makita lithium-ion batteries
- T3 technology gathers crimp data and GPS locations for enhanced quality control
Greenlee is a maker of hand-operated and battery-powered hydraulic crimping tools. The company’s latest generation of battery-powered hydraulic crimpers — the Inline Quad Point Crimper, the 6-Ton Underground Indenting Crimper and the Inline ACSR — are designed to optimize durability, productivity and ease of use. Other key features include:
- Single trigger activation for enhanced efficiency
- Enclosed, impact-resistant housing to block out debris
- Over-molded grip for easier handling
- 18V lithium-ion battery platform from Makita
- OLED screen displays instantaneous tool performance
- Intelli-CRIMP technology (on the Inline Quad Point Crimper)
Milwaukee Tool is a maker of hand-operated and battery-powered hydraulic crimping tools. The company’s 6T Linear Utility Crimper was introduced in September 2020, joining its 15-ton predecessor to give power line workers another battery-powered hydraulic inline crimping tool. Features of the 6T include:
- Slimmer grip and larger trigger for enhanced usability with Class 3 gloves
- M18 Force Logic battery
- Predictive Force Monitoring delivers consistent speed to prevent bog-down in larger connections
- Pre-crimp battery charge check
- 340° head rotation
- Eight interchangeable jaws
- Sealed electronics block out moisture and debris
- One-Key technology tracks tool location, crimp history and other data
Stanley Infrastructure is a maker of battery-powered hydraulic inline crimpers and pistol-grip crimpers. The company says its IBC600 Inline Crimper is its most popular among utility workers. Key features include:
- 6-ton crimping force (12-ton also available within the IBC Series)
- Weather-resistant design allows air to the motor but blocks out moisture and dust
- Application-specific handles and head styles for added versatility and efficiency
- Quick-release pin allows for easy jaw changes
- Rocker trigger system with integrated lockout saves time and enhances safety
- 360° head rotation
- Powered by sister company DeWalt’s 20V Max battery
- InteLED System provides illumination when crimping, as well as visual feedback regarding crimp quality
- Cycle counts and crimp quality data can be analyzed with Stanley’s crimp software
Klein Tools is a maker of hand-operated and battery-powered hydraulic crimpers. The company’s BAT207T14H battery-powered inline crimper is popular among utility workers.
- 7-ton compression force
- Green light indicates a successful crimp
- Two work lights enhance illumination at the point of crimp
- Powered by DeWalt’s 20V Max battery
Many of these products, and many more, will be on display at The Utility Expo, being held September 28-31, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky. CLICK HERE for registration information.
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