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I need a hammer action drill capable of masonry drilling but also for my workplace, (plastics).

I keep on coming across references to 'professional' ranges

e.g.

If your Bosch drill is a professional range then it will more likely be better than these budget Makita tools. Makita make some real quality gear but these B&Q are real budget non LXT so proper Makita batteries will not even fit them.

All I have been looking at is torque and hammer action. I don't want to buy rubbish that will wear out in a few months.

What exactly does professional range mean?

  • generally, pro gear is meant for higher duty cycles than consumer gear. This entails additional cooling, power handling, and better parts and materials. Consider a mixer: your Kitchen Aid is strong, but it can't run 8 hours a day without melting, while a Hobart can. "Pro" is something used 9-5. – dandavis Dec 1 '17 at 18:30
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What exactly does professional range mean?

We can't say exactly because it almost certainly depends on exactly which manufacturer or brand-owner is involved. It is also worth remembering that these terms are invented in the first place by marketing departments not by engineering departments and so a lot of the differences are in non-technical areas. For example, how they are advertised, how they are decorated externally, what claims are promoted in the marketing, how support is delivered to the end-user and so on.

Tools that are taken out a few times a year and used for an hour or so at a slow pace don't have the same requirements as tools that are used eight hours a day five days a week for years.

That means that tools labelled professional are expected to be more durable for intensive continuous use. They probably wear out quicker in the hands of a professional worker simply because they are used more heavily and treated more roughly and in more challenging conditions.

Bosch are an interesting case as they often sell very similar tools in both their home-owner (green) and professional (blue) ranges.

Their professional range is typically guaranteed three years. The consumer stuff has (in the EU) only the one year warranty against manufacturing defects.

I guess that some of the differences are likely to be in areas that mostly affect durability more than performance, such as choices of materials (e.g. how much glass reinforcement/fill is in the plastic); size, type and choice of bearings (shielded, sealed etc); bushings vs bearings; quality of switches; potting or laquering of PCBs, etc.

Photo of pro drill Photo of DIY drill

"Pro"                                      "Home"
18V Li-ion                                 18V Li-ion
45 / 19 Nm                                 46 / 25 Nm
0 – 500 / 0 – 1450 rpm                     0 – 400 / 0 - 1340 rpm
10 mm in steel                             10 mm in steel
29 mm in wood                              30 mm in wood

At the bottom end of the market is stuff that is very poorly manufactured, with parts that don't fit as they were designed to, poorly assembled and not quality-controlled in any meaningful sense. You're lucky if it works out of the box and doesn't fall to pieces the second time you use it. Store-brand tools are usually from a mixture of low-bidding untraceable manufacturers in low-wage countries and are often copies of copies of generic designs that are poorly understood by the maker. There's no incentive for the manufacturer to make anything that lasts beyond delivery to the end user.

  • I agree based on brand the pro models have bearings not bushings and usually a higher amperage armature. I repair drill motors, grinders and saws for my millwrights regularly and this is what I see. Also things on pro models that tend to be better are the switches and cord strain relief. Some of the cheap ones are throw a ways where the pro models I can usually get every part needed. – Ed Beal Dec 1 '17 at 14:29
  • Good Dewalt batteries are +$80 a pop, so there is some incentive. Also, Milwaukee (and Bosch) has never sold me a tool that gave me buyer's remorse; I know what I'm getting when I buy a cheap Saws-all from them, and when I buy their expensive one. Makita used to really suck; ok now, but they're a day late and a $ short. It doesn't really matter what it says, if it's less than $200 for a HD, it's junk. – Mazura Dec 1 '17 at 23:13
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It doesn't "exactly" mean anything (other that "it's a marketing term meaning we'd like to charge you more for this one.")

It MAY mean real metal bearings that can be replaced, as opposed to using the plastic housing as a bearing, for one example. But it may not, too.

Any of hundreds of design choices can be made in a way that's cheaper and probably less reliable on a long-term basis or more expensive and probably more reliable on a long term basis. Slapping a "Professional Range" term on there is supposed to make you think that more of them have gone the latter way. But many (even most?) "real professional tools" use no such terminology.

  • ... they use dollar signs that make you gag. That's how you know. No amount of marking can justify quadruple the price over some crap you can get from Grizzly's. – Mazura Dec 1 '17 at 23:14
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The question asks specifically about drills, but the information applies to tools in general. As others have mentioned, "professional grade" is a marketing term with no standard meaning. It tends to be used mostly on prosumer, and even consumer-grade, tools because pros don't buy tools based on that designation.

However, the tools that professionals buy are substantially more expensive than the cheapest consumer grade equivalents. Pros invest the extra money because those tools have characteristics that make it worthwhile for someone who uses the tool day in and day out. So it's more useful to look at the tool characteristics that attract pros to the tools that they buy. These fall into a few categories:

Performance

  • Power delivered is often higher. Aside from sometimes inflated specs on consumer grade tools, pro tools often have more powerful motors.
  • Motors and other parts of pro tools tend to be higher efficiency, so more of the input power is delivered as output. This is especially important for battery powered tools, allowing them to deliver more output for more time.
  • Battery powered tools are often designed around better batteries -- more and longer power output, energy-dense, rapid charge.
  • Battery run time is often longer for the above reasons. Pro tools are also often purchased with additional battery packs and chargers to support all day usage, which may not even be available for some cheap consumer grade equivalents.

Ergonomics

  • Even though pro tools are able to deliver serious power output, they are often surprisingly light, which makes them less tiring to use. This is accomplished by using strong, lightweight materials as well as high-efficiency components.
  • Pro tools are usually very well balanced, with a lot of attention to weight distribution, which makes them less tiring to use for long periods.
  • Controls are well designed and well located.
  • Things the user needs to move or adjust, like chucks, controls, and adjustments, have a solid feel that reflects heavy-duty construction and precise fit, and they work smoothly and easily. That is often not the case with consumer-grade tools.

"Prosumer" tools copy as many of the pro features as can be implemented at a lower price point.

Service Life

  • Pro-grade tools are designed to hold up to rough handling and long use with less susceptibility to breakage (stronger housings, better shock mounting, heavier-duty components).
  • Pro tools are generally repairable, with availability of repair parts. Consumer grade tools generally follow a model of inexpensive construction, with disposal and replacement when they wear out or get damaged.
  • Pro tools don't wear out as quickly (generally heavier duty components, better bearings or bearings instead of bushings, better switches and cords, etc.).
  • Pro tools run cooler than consumer tools due to higher efficiency motors, better heat dissipation, etc., so they experience less long-term deterioration from heat.
  • Pro tools tend to be better sealed against dust and moisture. They are also often more easily cleanable internally.

The characteristics that make a tool more valuable to a pro cost money to implement. For a typical consumer who might use the tool for a few minutes a few times a year, the price difference is usually hard to justify. Even a cheap tool is good enough and can last for years of occasional use. If you have a major one-time project that you are going to tackle yourself instead of hiring a professional, pro-grade tools may speed up the job a little.

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