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The start of something big
Atlas Copco’s EBB26 is the company’s first-ever battery-powered drill. But its sustainability, ergonomic design and smart data capture make it just the first step in an exciting product journey.
Power drill operators in the aerospace and automotive industries can be drilling hundreds if not thousands of holes a day into hard materials. Until recently, most drills on the market have been pneumatic tools powered by compressed air since there’s been a widespread assumption that this provides the ‘punch’ needed.
But air-powered units, especially when they stall, can cause arm, hand or nerve injuries. The air cable can also lead to tripping hazards on the shop floor. And the CO2 emissions caused by compressed air means drilling with these tools is unsustainable also in environmental terms.
Atlas Copco’s answer to this industry challenge is a battery-powered drill, the EBB26.
“Other standard tools on the market don’t compare as they’re really not made for industrial aircraft manufacturing like this one is,” explains Lars Burkhardt, who is Global Business Manager for Aerospace, and based in Hannover. “The ergonomics and quality stand out. We have operators telling us that they have drilled 100 holes in a row and it’s a completely different process for them. They’re not so worn out like they are with air-powered units. You can see that there is a higher quality of the countersinking area in the process, too.”
His Stockholm-based colleague, Jonas Mann, Vice President R&D, Tools & Assembly systems, picks up the thread.
“The simple fact of it being battery-powered means the EBB26 addresses the environmental sustainability issue. We know from transforming other industries that it’s very easy to calculate the benefits of lower energy consumption when going from air to electric. But sustainability also means taking care of people. This operator-friendly product can make a big impact by protecting the operators, making them safe and enabling a better working life.”
Jonas and Lars have worked with the project since it started in 2017, with launches in 2019 and 2020. Both admit that developing the EBB26 had its challenges, not least due to the team of marketers, mechanical engineers, electronic engineers, industrial designers and UX designers basically having to start from scratch with a brand-new concept. There were a lot of product iterations.
“It all started with a customer meeting in Spain where we discussed the impact of going electric,” says Jonas. “After that we did what we always do – a very thorough study to really understand the customer needs, including design, performance and quality aspects.”
“We collaborate very closely with our big aviation customers to deeply understand their future challenges and what their assembly process looks like and it was a continuous process,” adds Lars. “Even at a late stage, we made major improvements in terms of heat dissipation through the support of the R&D team.”
Meet our innovators
Jonas explains those changes: “We had understood from the beginning that without the air to cool it there would be problems with heat in the device. But we had to try it out for real with customers to get an understanding of the requirements on productivity and durability in different applications.”
However challenging the journey has been, the result is impressive.
“We’ve used our many years of experience with assembly tools to inform the materials and design of the tool,” says Jonas. “With the EBB26, you have increased control and you can configure the speed setting, so you can replace several air tools with one, battery-powered tool. That’s groundbreaking. We’ve actually generated a couple of patents from this.”
“And what we’ve done follows today’s Lean production principles,” adds Lars. “Where you have fewer tools on the line it means less storage and fewer inventory numbers to take care of. The more tools you have in your assembly stations, the more potential errors you have, so this product is a real benefit.” The product’s development process hasn’t stopped. The Industry 4.0 megatrend towards smart, data-driven tools is firmly in Atlas Copco’s sights.
“We feel that the EBB26 is a steppingstone to Industry 4.0,” says Lars. “All of a sudden we have a battery-driven electric drill that can already store some local user data, with the possibility in future of gathering report data. That makes this product a really key innovation for us.”
EBB26 battery drill
Main feature: User-friendly, ergonomic and lightweight with powerful performance and accuracy. Designed for narrow areas where delivering a perfect result is crucial
Super power: Its battery technology saves 93% of CO2, compared to traditional, pneumatic technology.
Used at: Aerospace industries around the world.