Chainsaws - Improving performance

Battery chainsaws offer many advantages while innovative technology shelps the latest petrol models meet emissions standards, writes Sally Drury.

Makita: vibration-dampening technology on premium saws reduces risk to operator - image: HW
Makita: vibration-dampening technology on premium saws reduces risk to operator - image: HW

Chainsaws must give the power and performance needed for the job. For operators, that means a saw with rapid acceleration, high torque and fast chain speed. For many users, it will mean petrol power.
Manufacturers are focused on delivering petrol saws with innovative features and engine technology that ensures they meet stringent emissions standards.

But most manufacturers are also investing vast amounts in battery research and development. Do they consider battery chainsaws to have a future? And who will use them?

"Absolutely," says Stihl GB marketing and product manager Paul Hicks. "With the developments of cordless technology, batteries and motors, more powerful battery chainsaws will start emerging onto the market and we anticipate these will play a large role in the industry."

EGO specialises in battery tools - image: EGO Power+

Popular choice

The most popular cordless chainsaw from Stihl is the MSA 200 C-BQ. Boasting the greatest power rating
in the company’s PRO range, it works with the specially developed Stihl ¼in PM3 chain to give optimum cutting power and smooth running performance.

Other features include Stihl’s quick chain tensioning mechanism and Ematic chain lubrication. The latter is reported to provide maximum lubrication, longer wear and up to 50% less oil consumption than conventional methods of chain lubrication. This chainsaw weighs just 2.9kg without battery and is compatible with both the Stihl AP and AR batteries.

Husqvarna also firmly believes that battery chainsaws have a strong future. "With the pace of development in battery technology, we will be seeing more and more power from smaller and smaller batteries, giving larger chainsaws battery capability. We will also see smaller saws operating for
longer periods," says Husqvarna Professional UK manager Kevin Ashmore. "We believe that the
new very low-noise saws will be operating in public spaces, next to living or working space and leisure areas. These are a perfect place for this technology as the operational times are much less governed by
the impact of disturbing noise."

Makita UK outdoor power equipment division business development manager Mark Earles agrees. "Without question, the battery chainsaw is here to stay as an integral part of the arborist’s inventory," he insists. "Whilst battery powered machines may not yet be the core felling machines in daily use deep in the forest, they are certainly capable of most other timber tasks and are a key tool for the grounds maintenance role required by landscapers, commercial contractors and in horticultural operations."

The latest battery chainsaw from Makita is the twin 18V (36V) DUC353Z. With brushless motor, it is described as setting new standards for cordless chainsaws and is said to match the logging performance of similar sized petrol chainsaws. 

Its rated output is 1,000W, similar to a 32cc petrol machine, while it offers the many values of cordless units — zero emissions, super-quiet operation, total control and high levels of efficiency and safety. Its ready-to-work weight with both batteries fitted is 5.2kg – less than a fuelled up 32cc machine, which typically weighs around 5.6kg.

Husqvarna: more power being delivered by smaller batteries for cordless chainsaws - image: Husqvarna

Good performance

"The Makita 36V chainsaw has all the performance required for park and street tree maintenance and removal," adds Earles. "Its performance is matched with reliability, it has emissions-free operation and is virtually silent. The latter two are especially important in urban areas and around schools, hospitals and large audience locations. No one wants to hear the high pitched whine of a two-stroke when strolling around a National Trust property.

"Furthermore, above-ground operations are markedly safer with a battery chainsaw, which stops the instant you take pressure off the trigger, and they are lightweight too. Premium products have perfectly adequate battery runtimes and with intelligent fast chargers can keep a saw running all day."

Of course, specialising in battery tools, EGO Power+ fully expects the future to be cordless. European marketing director Steve Roskell says: "We definitely see battery as the power source of the future, particularly for professional users.

A key benefit is the low vibration, which makes a real difference for those using products for extended periods. Likewise, the eradication of fumes and the need to refuel, as well as lower noise levels, make it an easy choice. The portability factor is also key for professional arborists, as well as the ability to have multiple interchangeable batteries charged and ready to go. Our 56V system and products offer impressive runtimes and can make up to 450 cuts so have all the power to get the job done."

Petrol innovation

While the advantages of battery chainsaws really do stack up, for many tasks professional tree and forestry workers continue to look for the power that petrol delivers.

It is not surprising then to find that manufacturers are not slacking when it comes to bringing more innovation to their petrol models.

"There will, of course, be a drive to improve and expand our range of petrol chainsaws along with continued focus on reducing emissions and increasing power whilst reducing the overall weight to provide a better power-to-weight ratio and improve the handling of the saws," says Stihl’s Hicks.

"Some of these changes have already been seen in the MS 261 C-M and MS 362 C-M in late 2015. New professional models will become available in 2018 with electronic fuel management [M-Tronic] and we will also continue to update our current range of chainsaws."

At Husqvarna, petrol chainsaw development continues to focus heavily on the areas that affect health, safety and productivity. "We are continually working to lower weight, increase power and at the same time improve the operator’s working environment by lowering HAV [hand/arm vibrations] and emissions levels," says Ashmore.

"Underlying those areas, much like the automotive industry, we are developing solutions to keep the technology running at its peak performance with self-analysing engine capability that constantly measures and adjusts itself during the working day."

The latest petrol chainsaw from Husqvarna is the 562XP. Designed for full-time intensive use in demanding conditions and classed as an advanced high-performance, mid-range XP chainsaw, it is said to offer excellent ergonomics. Targeted at forestry and arb applications, the 562XP has been developed for professional loggers, tree-care workers and skilled landowners.

Loaded with innovative solutions for efficient, convenient operation, it offers a high power-to-weight ratio. It is supplied with a 3/8in large bar mount and 18in X-Force guide bar as standard. X-Force allows operators to standardise their cutting equipment rather than carrying multiple options and provides more flexibility by allowing the use of much larger guide bars on a smaller, lighter power unit.

A 59.8cc X-Torq engine provides more power where needed. It also reduces fuel consumption by 20% and exhaust emissions by 75%. A centrifugal air-cleaning system reduces wear and gives longer operation between filter changes, so increasing long-term durability and reducing downtime. Yet another feature is AutoTune, whereby automatic adjustments are made to the engine for optimal operation no matter what the environment or fuel type.

Further Husqvarna innovation is seen in the LowVib optimal ergonomics, RevBoost — a feature that provides rapid and smooth acceleration — and a lighter flywheel with higher chain speeds for instant acceleration. What more do you want? Heated handles? Yes, the 562XP has them. The price is £870 including VAT.

Health and safety

Health and safety issues, along with performance and productivity, also strike a chord at Makita. Earles says: "Future models of petrol chainsaws must meet ever more stringent exhaust emission regulations with lower vibration and reduced noise requirements, whilst all the time meeting increasing performance demands from operators.

"Vibration reduction has been in focus for years and our M2M vibration-dampening technology on premium saws greatly reduces the transmission of HAV risks from the motor/drive unit through the handles to the operator. Fulcrum mounts that effectively separate the power pack from the grip controls reduces this factor."

On emissions technology, Earles adds: "Our Stratified Air Scavenging and Scavenging Losses Rejection technologies clean exhaust output by reburning the overflow mixture from the two-stroke inlet port design, and improved exhaust systems are an integral part of this feature while at the same time directing the output away from the operator and reducing noise."

Makita has had a prototype four-stroke chainsaw running for several years, as well as a four-stroke disc cutter. But Earles is cautious. "Whilst the flatter torque curve of the four-stroke engine has additional plus points for a disc cutter, such as lower noise and better fuel economy, the weight/chain performance ratio is not ideal," he admits.

Technological advances

So what does the future hold for chainsaw development? What additional features can technology bring to make the chainsaw the perfect tool, whether working in gardens, parks, streets or forests?

"Battery chainsaws already benefit from the performance indicators on modern batteries showing charge status, which equates to runtime," says Earles. "Vibration recorders have been fitted to chainsaws to monitor levels during real-time operations and such features may become integral to ensure operator safety.

"Similarly, runtime recorders can be seen to enhance maintenance programmes, making certain that the saw has been maintained at the correct intervals. This may be driven by the rental industry, where regulations may require machines tested prior to the next hire in the same way that currently electrical-powered machines require an up-to-the-minute PAT [portable appliance testing] tag before they are released."

Thinking ahead, Ashmore has the last word: "For the future, we believe that ‘connectivity’ will feature in saws as it is doing throughout our everyday lives. A product will communicate both back to the operator and fleet operator with data for running, operational productivity and health and safety.

"Wouldn’t it be great if a product informed you automatically of a pending failure or that you have hit a certain productivity target or HAV exposure? You could think of it as a Fitbit for your saw." 

Image: © Blount Europe

SpeedCut: chain and guide bar system

SpeedCut is a new chain and guide bar system from Oregon. Designed for professional users, the guide bar is lighter, stronger and longer-lasting than previous models.

Features include laminate bonding to reduce flex, aluminium core for lower weight, a redesigned and more robust nose plus LubriTec for optimum oiling. A new heat treatment has been used to provide a longer rail life and a new ultraviolet paint process ensures an accurate gauge.

The SpeedCut chain has a reshaped cutting surface and narrow kerf design for faster, easier cutting. It is sharper, with a more durable cutting edge from a precision grind and optimised cutting angle, and easier to sharpen with the cutting surface matched to the file and filing indicators on the chain itself.

Latest chainsaw models introduced onto the market for professionals

The DUC353Z 36V — twin 18V batteries — direct-drive cordless chainsaw (above) from Makita features a brushless motor with 1,100W output to match the logging performance of similar sized petrol powered saws. See chainsaws review.

A new 6.0Ah battery in the Oregon cordless tool range makes the units more attractive to professional users. The CS300 self-sharpening chainsaw (above), which can sharpen the saw in seconds by pulling an integrated lever, will now complete up to 600 2-3in cuts using the 6.0Ah battery.

The CS1600E 40cm cordless (above) is new from EGO. See chainsaws review.

The 18V ONE+ cordless chainsaw (above) is among the latest gardening tools from Ryobi. With a suggested selling price of £149.99, it has been designed with high-performance brushless technology for increased runtime. Features include a mechanical chain brake, automatic oiling system and full wrap-around handle. The saw is fitted with a 30cm Oregon bar and chain. It has a chain speed of 10m/s to cut small trees, branches and logs.

The new range of petrol chainsaws from Cobra Garden includes the CS40 42cc (above) with 35cm or 40cm Oregon bars and Oregon chains, suitable for pruning work and cutting firewood. Also new are the 52cc CS520 with 45cm bar and 62cc CS620 with 50cm bar. Prices start from as low as £154.99 including VAT.

The MTT-2500 25cc pruning saw (above) is new from Efco. The most distinctive qualities are its ergonomic design and balance. Features include an Always-On switch with auto-reset for rapid engine stopping, Easy On for effortless starting, tool-less filter cover access and a Snap Hook. The aluminium, automatic oil pump gives zero flow at idle. The saw has a 0.19l oil tank, 0.22l fuel tank, 25cm (sprocket/carving) bar and 3/8in or ¼in chain. It weighs 2.7kg. The MTT-3600 (below) should also appeal to tree-climbing professionals. A compact unit offering an excellent power-to-weight ratio, it features the same Always On switch, Easy On starting, Snap Hook and tool-less filter access as the MTT-2500 but has a 35cc (2hp) engine and comes with 25cm or 30cm bar with 3/8in chain. Oil tank capacity is upped to 0.23l and fuel tank to 0.28l. Weight is 3.8kg.

Aimed at climbing professionals, the CS-2511TES (above) is Echo’s lightest and most compact top-handle chainsaw to date. Dry, and without bar and chain, it weighs just 2.3kg and is designed to be highly manoeuvrable, even in tight spaces. For performance, it has a stage 2-compliant 25cc engine producing 1.1kW of power. Other features include oil adjustment on the top for easier access, swing-out lanyard ring, wide opening to the 0.19l fuel tank and 0.14l oil tank, a starter grip than can be used to open the cap, captive nuts and G-Force engine air pre-cleaner.

The new 562XP advanced, high-performance chainsaw from Husqvarna (above) is designed for intensive, full-time use in forestry and arboriculture. See main copy.

The new 45cc CS450 Elite from McCulloch (left) is an all-rounder that boasts 2kW output. It has an OxyPower engine for low emissions, decompression valve, Soft Start, purge, fuel-level window, automatic oil pump and integrated start/stop controls. Chain tensioning is tool-less and there are easy-access clips for the filter and spark plug. Bar length is 18in. Chain speed at maximum power is 23m/s. It has a 0.46l fuel tank and 0.3l oil tank. The saw weighs 5.3kg.

Sally Drury

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