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Avoid Limitations of Powder Actuated Tools

Sponsored Feature by MAX USA Corp.

Facing Safety and Efficiency Challenges

OSHA standard 1915.135 sections b and c outline the general precautions concerning the use of Powder Actuated Tools (PAT). These standards include 16 regulations that must be adhered to when using PATs on job sites. Skip a step and you could face a fine (varies state to state) or risk the shutdown of your job site.

Due to these safety concerns surrounding PATs, their manufacturers offer certificate and licensing programs to train operators on proper operation and maintenance of the tools. A key point to remember about PATs is that they function like loaded guns. When their highly explosive powder propellants actuate, the tool fires a pin. But what happens if it doesn’t? In the event a PAT misfires, the explosive cartridge needs time to cool off to reduce the likelihood that the unused cartridge will explode or accidentally discharge. After 30 seconds, it is safe to discard the load in a bucket of water as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

While antiquated and potentially explosive, powder actuated fastening tools are still an extremely common solution for a range of construction activities, such as commercial framework, residential waterproofing, fastening subflooring and many other applications. Contractors need to be careful and aware of the use of these tools on active job sites as they carry special requirements and safety protocols.

Powder residue remains in the tool body of PATs, so the tools must be completely disassembled for cleaning. Every part—piston, fastener guide, piston guide sleeve and magazine accessory—needs to be cleaned with a wire brush to ensure the tool can perform as expected. PATs require maintenance at approximately every 5,000 shots.

As for gas tools, cold fuel cells will need to be warmed to the correct temperature as they lose the required propellant force to properly maintain functionality of the tool. (Fuel cells must be used between 20 degrees F and 120 degrees F). Overheated fuel cells can internally combust and release flammable gas.

Another problem faced by gas tool users is that the tool takes in fine dust and concrete powders from the floor when they’re shot. The tool’s cylinder can get damaged by this type of debris. Maintenance on gas tools is required every 25,000 shots, at which time, O-rings, cylinders and driver blades will likely need to be replaced.

A More Efficient and Safer Solution

Engineered to perform at a higher standard in cold temperatures, during low voltage scenarios, or as a replacement for tools that have strict operational protocols, PowerLite® system tools have the ability to easily fasten steel to concrete and steel to steel as well as engineered woods such as LVL and LSL. The system is also effective in fastening wood to concrete, and wood to I-beam.

PowerLite® tools are extremely powerful, yet their size is up to 40% smaller and up to 30% lighter than conventional 100 PSI tools. The MAX PowerLite® system provides a hassle-free pneumatic solution for which no license or certification is needed to operate. Because air is used to power the tools, there is no need for warming or cooling of the environment in order to maintain PowerLite® system performance.

HN25C Concrete Pinner Fastens Drywall Track to Concrete without Gas

One notable tool from the PowerLite® product line is the HN25C Concrete Pinner. Ultra-lightweight at only 4.4 lbs, this safety equipped tool is lighter, faster and more efficient than gas tools without sacrificing driving power.

A high-capacity magazine, which can hold up to 100 fasteners, helps to save on reloading time. The HN25C is the lightest and most powerful tool alternative for drywall track installation. This powerful nail gun shoots between 5/8" and 15/16" pins (an optional washer attachment is available). Its slim contact nose helps to consistently drive pins when fastening metal studs, which results in a better stick rate than gas tools or PATs. A shorter contact stroke takes less effort to shoot pins and places much less strain on the body. The tool’s depth adjustment dial allows operators to effortlessly drive nails into hard materials and also control depth of drive when fastening soft materials for a consistent performance.

HN120 Concrete and Heavy Gauge Steel with This Pneumatic Tool

Another tool in this line is the HN120 concrete/steel pinner. With a driving force of 2,231 in-lbs the HN120 drives .307" head pins into concrete or steel. The MAX HN120 can shoot a variety of fasteners, and its sequential trigger adds a layer of safety preventing the nail from firing unless the trigger is pulled and the nose is depressed simultaneously. MAX recommends disconnecting the air hose when the tool is not in use.

The HN120’s additional efficiencies include:

  • Faster shooting speed for production work.

  • No powder loads required. This saves on the cost of powders.

  • Less reloading time.

  • Less maintenance required.

PowerLite® Special Tool Features

  • The HN25C and HN120 tools have a self-cleaning end-cap filter that traps any dirt that enters the tool and expels it when the hose is disconnected.

  • Both tools require service approximately every 200,000 shots, a period that is 40 times longer than PATs and 10 times longer than gas tools.

  • PowerLite technology pulls in air from the compressor, not the environment, decreasing the probabilities of pulling dirt into either tool.

A Wide Variety of Pins

Very versatile, the PowerLite® system shoots a wide variety of pins. PowerLite® fasteners come in 50 or 100 pin coils, which require less reloading and save the operator’s time. Reference the chart on page 3 to review the various applications PowerLite® pins are manufactured for.

One special pin for fastening track to concrete is the MAX AccuEmbed™ .157 pin. AccuEmbed™ pins are used for structural exterior metal track fastening into concrete primarily found in commercial buildings. The .157" designation indicates the shank diameter of this pin series. At one time, .145" pins were the standard fasteners for exterior metal track application, but .157" pins are becoming more popular in this industry. Unlike powder actuated tools or other systems, the PowerLite® system works pneumatically. Eliminating powder and fuel cells saves money. Less time reloading speeds up productivity. Overall, the AccuEmbed™ .157" pin is a safer, labor-saving and cost-effective way for contractors to shoot .157" pins into concrete or steel I-beams.

AccuEmbed™ Special Features

An extra shank length of .079" is added to the AccuEmbed™ Pins, which helps to achieve Accurate Embedment depth into concrete when fastening 14-gauge steel track. The extra shank length makes up for the thickness of the top fastened material.


Overall, the PowerLite® system boasts several benefits including versatility, efficiency and safety when compared to gas or powder actuated tools.

Speak to a local MAX Sales Executive to learn more about the PowerLite® system or to ask about joining one of our weekly webinars. You can also schedule a complimentary jobsite demo of the PowerLite® system.

About the Author

Denene Williams is the marketing manager at MAX USA Corp., a Japanese tool manufacturer with an 80-year history of technological innovation.

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