Imagine considerably cutting down on tool weight, yet gaining a ton of power. No need to imagine, as that's precisely what the MAX USA Corp. PowerLite System offers. The first of its kind, the PowerLite system features ultra-lightweight pro-grade tools, powered by high-pressure air compressors. No batteries, no powder. Just big, big power.

Using the PowerLite HN120 Nailer from MAX

What is the PowerLite System?

PowerLite tools rely on 500 PSI air compressors, as opposed to the standard 100 PSI load. The idea is that by forcing more air into the tool, you can both increase power and decrease tool size. MAX states that PowerLite tools are 40% lighter and 20% smaller than comparable tools. That makes for a marked difference, particularly when you’re working for any length of time.

Created for continuous fastening, the PowerLite range is made up of two 15-degree coil framing nailers, a 21-degree stick nailer, two concrete pinners, a metal connector nailer, and a siding nailer. The “monster” HS130 full-round-head framing nailer, for example, is 30% lighter than conventional 8-bar stick nailers and it’s certainly slim at 3-3/8” wide.

The system isn’t entirely new. PowerLite was initially launched in Japan in 1994, where it has “revolutionized the construction industry," says MAX. In 2006, the system was finally launched in America. With time to test their durability, they’ve proved themselves worthy contenders. 

The heart of the PowerLite system is its air compressors, here the 5-tank AKHL 1260EX

The Heart of the PowerLite System

MAX PowerLite air compressors run on DC-brushless motors. The oil-less compressors are really the heart (or lungs, perhaps) of the high-pressure system. They feature an inverter circuit that adjusts RPM, providing maximum performance at varied voltage levels. They start right up in cold temperatures and can operate on low electrical supply (down to 70 volts without popping a breaker, according to MAX).

The 500 PSI compressors have an easy-to-use lever that quickly releases air and water from the tanks. They also have a smart LED indicator that signals when it’s time for maintenance (1,000 hours of operating time), when service is needed, when voltage is too high or low, and when the motor/control circuit are running hot.

The PowerLite compressors include the AKHL1260EX air compressor, with five tanks and a 5.7 gallon capacity, and the smaller capacity AKHL1260E compressor, with two tanks and a 2.3 gallon capacity. Both compressors are portable, weighing about 50 and 35 lbs, and they have four outlets; two for high-pressure tools and two for standard 100 PSI tools.

Graphic that compares the PowerLite Compressor output with standard compressors

How PowerLite Stacks Up

In the graph above, you can see how the two PowerLite compressors compared to standard compressor output. The AKHL 1260 EX was able to drive 800 nails as opposed to 290 nails with the 100 PSI compressor. The smaller AKHL 1260E drives 330 nails when compared to the 100 PSI’s 110-nail output. The test segment was done driving 2-3/8” ring shank nails into 3/4” plywood and 2X4 floor decking.

The PowerLite compressors are uniquely adaptable. For increased air capacity, the smaller compressor transforms to a 5-tank unit with the AKTH13 accessory. The 5-tank compressor can be converted to a 2-tank unit by removing four bolts and detaching the three lower tanks. This manufacturer video details how to easily convert the AKHL1260EX to AKHL1260E.

As you might have guessed, there are proprietary air hoses for the system; the 50-ft MAX KH50FT and the 100-ft. KH100FT. Designed to withstand 428 PSI, they feature high-pressure quick-connect fittings, and are made of flexible, high-endurance material that stays flexible in cold temps.

One thing the graph above doesn't illustrate—the noise level of the PowerLite compressors versus standard. These truly quiet compressors are rated at 67.5 dB. For comparison, a 2 HP standard air compressor is rated 79 dB. And that's on the "quiet" side.

Using the MAX PowerLite HN120 High-Pressure Nailer

Why Choose the PowerLite System?

For the DIYer, there’s really no need for so much power in a tool. But for professional contractors who do high-volume framing or concrete work, the system really is a time- and back-saver. For fastening wood or metal to steel or concrete, this system brings much-appreciated efficiency. For an example of the HN120 concrete pinner's performance, check out this "Real User Review" video from ToolSelect.

Consider that the concrete nailer weighs just 6.4 lbs and drives .300" head pins into concrete with 2,231 inch lbs of driving force. That’s nothing to sneeze at.  Whether nailing into concrete, LVL or LSL, the MAX PowerLite system brings a respectable combination of power, lightness and overall cost effectiveness.


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