It's no surprise that test and measurement instruments occupy a coveted spot in many an electrician's tool bag. In an effort to capture a piece of this estimated $1 billion market, Brookfield, Wis.-based Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., a subsidiary of Techtronic Industries Co., recently formed an electrical test and measurement unit, launching a family of disposable alkaline battery-powered devices. Introduced to market after an approximately 18-month development period, the product line presently consists of a voltage detector, laser-based thermometer, digital multimeter, two fork meters, and two clamp meters.

“We designed these tools with specific end-users in mind, particularly electricians and HVAC/R technicians,” says Mike Jones, Milwaukee Tool's vice president and general manager of test and measurement. “Because we realize that price point, size, and weight are significant to these groups, we felt it was important to develop an alkaline-based series in addition to a lithium-ion-based product line.”

According to Jones, the battery-powered instruments incorporate several features that set them apart from the competition.

“Unlike similar devices, our Laser Temp-Gun thermometer, clamp meters, digital multimeter, and fork meters include a large, high-contrast white-on-black LCD display that is easy to read, especially in the low and moderate lighting conditions that many electricians often encounter,” he notes.

To further assist those who work in dimly illuminated spaces, the company incorporated a light-emitting diode (LED) into its 90VAC to 600VAC non-contact voltage detector, 200A fork meters, and true rms clamp meters, meaning these tools also double as flashlights.

“I'm a 51-year-old electrical contractor, and I've been in the business for 24 years,” says Bob Brinkman, a state-certified master electrician with Colgate, Wis.-headquartered Eveready Electric. “Although I hate to admit it, my eyes are getting bad. These tools not only have a nice bright display, but they also eliminate the need to balance a flashlight in my mouth or hand while I'm working in poorly lit spaces. To me, that's huge.”

In addition to their enhanced LCD display and LEDs, the majority of Milwaukee's alkaline-powered test and measurement devices contains embedded non-contact voltage detectors.

“Our battery-run voltage detector, clamp meters, and fork meters all feature this relevant technology,” says Jones.

Highlights of the Laser Temp-Gun thermometer include a -20°F to 932°F temperature range, a 12-to-1 distance-to-spot ratio, and a K-type thermocouple for contact temperature. The tool also offers user-configurable high/low alarm limits, a rugged over-molding for enhanced durability, and an ergonomic pistol grip design. In fact, Jones says ergonomics played a key role in the entire product line's design.

“We studied how test and measurement tools affect end-users from an ergonomic perspective,” he explains. “We noted how certain applications forced them to bend their wrists in an awkward position. Thus, we designed our clamp meters so that they allow users to clearly view the tool's display as well as comfortably reach a variety of locations — up high, down low, and in tight spaces — without sacrificing comfort.”

Keeping its electrical end-users in mind, the fork meter electrical model and the digital multimeter both feature Lo-Z measurement, which the company says eliminates ghost voltages, while the clamp meter electrical model includes frequency measurement as opposed to the DC microamps and contact temperature measurement found on the HVAC/R model.

Although most of the tools' design considerations aren't overly complex, Jones says incorporating them into the instruments proved to be one of the product developer's biggest challenges.

“We had to find a way to add the unique LCD display, extra-bright LED, and non-contact voltage detection features while limiting battery drain,” he notes. “In the end, we succeeded.”

According to the company, pricing for the tools is comparable to similar high-end products. For more information on Milwaukee Tools disposable alkaline battery-powered test and measurement instruments, visit www.milwaukeetool.com.