Each year, it’s exciting to see all the new products announced at various industry trade shows. In keeping with our tradition of reporting on Drywall Innovations, here is a handful of new or enhanced products released specifically for the drywall market. Whether it’s actual board, compound, treatments, tools or the like, these are all aimed to help drywallers with productivity and ergonomics, among the other benefits.

W&C spoke with several companies to see what’s new in the field and have them tell us in their own words what’s new or different.

These products all meet the demands of today’s drywall subcontractor. Many have differing functions, but they should all help you save time and money.

Fire-Resistant Drywall

American Gypsum Co. LLC

The 1/2-inch M-Bloc Ekcel Type X gypsum panel is a fire-, mold- and moisture-resistant wallboard that is part of a patented area separation firewall system used in multi-family housing projects.

The product was introduced to meet the needs of the multi-family builder, when there was, and is, a limited supply of 1-inch thick by 2-foot wide shaft liner panels for multi-family housing projects. The drywall panel is 1/2-inch thick and 4 feet in width, and replaces 1-inch thick shaft linerboard that is 2 feet in width.

Its key features include:

  • 1/2-inch thick by 4 feet wide by 10 feet in length.
  • Mold- and moisture-resistant.
  • An essential part of a patented 2½-hour fire-rated ME area separation firewall system.

The company’s Director of Systems Development, Bob Ek, says the current building situation is on course. “In many areas of the country, 1-inch thick shaft liner panels can be in short supply, while the M-Bloc Ekcel panel has been readily available,” he says.

For more information, please visit americangypsum.com.

Brush Cut-out Tool for Drywall


The GCU18V-30 18V Brushless Cut-Out Tool is the latest drywall innovation from the tool manufacturer. It provides efficient professional cutting, allowing for better productivity across projects. This compact tool is ergonomically designed with straightforward handling and a slim-grip design. It has a brushless motor, which provides corded-equivalent performance in a cordless format. When paired with the CORE18V 4 Ah Advanced Power Battery, this tool can cut up to 300 linear feet on a single charge. Made for users to have complete control, the convenience brake quickly stops the tool. The adjustable footplate provides depth adjustments for easily controlling depth of cut.

Featuring soft-start technology that reduces startup torque and an LED light on the cut-line to illuminate dark work areas common on interior finishing applications, the GCU18V-30 can work for a variety of projects. It also features an IP 5X-rated dust-resistant switch to help prevent dust from getting into the switch.

“The team at Bosch is committed to making workers’ lives easier through our advanced R&D process, including having our engineers attend job sites across the U.S. to gather feedback and information on how products perform on-site and determine any pain points,” says Group Product Marketing Manager Corey Hinkel. “This allows the R&D team to design industry-leading tools to make job site tasks more efficient and meet the needs of today’s tradespeople.”

Through field tests, the R&D team identified common job site challenges, including workers’ frustrations with the standard switch on a cut-out tool that usually collects dust. Additionally, workers expressed the need for better dust control overall, along with a comfortable grip on the tool for long cutting applications and worktimes. Worker feedback translated to key features incorporated into the GCU18V-30, including the IP 5X-rated dust-resistant switch to prevent dust from entering the switch, the dust hood and the ergonomically designed handle for worker comfort. The feedback is a vital aspect of Bosch’s R&D process, which leads to greater efficiency, power and more ergonomic design in their tools and for the worker.

The key features include:

  • Cordless design that provides power, easy handling, long runtimes and convenience.
  • Compact build with ergonomic handling and a slim-grip design.
  • Brushless motor with corded-equivalent performance and efficient runtime.
  • Adjustable footplate, allowing easy depth adjustments.
  • Convenience brake for quickly stopping the tool as needed.
  • LED light that illuminates cut-line in dark work areas.
  • IP 5X-rated dust-resistant switch to prevent dust from entering the switch.
  • Dust hood that can attach to a vacuum to contain drywall dust while cutting.
  • Soft-start technology to reduce startup torque.
  • Belt clip allows tool to hang off the belt or other objects while on the job.

For more information, please visit boschtools.com.

Worker-controlled Finishing Arm


Certainly a buzz at this year’s BUILD23, the Canvas system is a worker-controlled machine that uses a robot arm to mud and sand drywall panels to paint-ready finishes. The machine uses AI and machine learning to deliver precise profiles of joint compound and has several advanced technology features, such as LiDAR, for wayfinding and wall detection. The machine can telescope to 16 feet.

The machine is capable of delivering expert-quality Level 5 finishes, in which the machine sprays one layer of joint compound (over wet tape) and the entire wall. After drying, the machine sands the entire wall. The machine can also deliver “Level 4 Targeted Spray,” a process in which the drywall seams are detected by the machine and sprayed with one layer of joint compound (over wet tape). When dry, the taper sands the wall manually.

With demand for its worker-controlled robot exploding, Canvas recently announced that it has partnered with global construction equipment manufacturer HILTI.

With a footprint in 120 different countries and experience manufacturing construction robots, HILTI will manufacture Canvas’ next generation of machines. The HILTI/Canvas partnership bolsters the reliability and robustness of the Canvas system while enabling Canvas to scale much faster.

The Canvas system was created to help the drywall trade solve some of its biggest challenges. Those include:

  • A severe labor shortage (>90 percent of contractors cannot find enough skilled labor).
  • The need for a safer work environment (one in four tapers will develop a musculoskeletal injury).
  • Inconsistent and/or unpredictable quality.
  • Schedule overruns, including project fragmentation.
  • Cost overruns.

“The next-generation Canvas machine is in response to user demand, which continues to exceed forecasts,” says Jill Lonergan, marketing director at the company. “Canvas’ Robots-as-a-Service leasing model, implemented last year, was so successful that the company exceeded its FY 2022 goal by 110 percent, with 2023 looking equally strong. In fact, Canvas sales just announced that it had doubled its first quarter 2023 target.

“With HILTI now manufacturing the machines, Canvas can meet global demand as well as offer important new features,” she says, adding that the current training schedule is five days. The machine is very simple to learn and operate. Its in-house engineers will test the next-generation Canvas machine prior to its field release.

The new machine will have tracks instead of four wheels, making the machine faster, easier to maneuver and able to work in smaller spaces.

This had attendees at BUILD23 very interested. The greater maneuverability of the HILTI-manufactured Canvas machine will increase utilization (smaller rooms) and make it even easier to operate. Further down the road map is one of the most-requested and highly anticipated features: the Canvas machine’s ability to mud and sand ceilings.

Canvas services the robots as needed, as well as provides periodic software upgrades.

To convey the deep interest in this machine, the company has all of its available robots in the field and contractual commitments through 2026.

For more information, visit canvas.build.

Firestopping Tape


The company’s Fire Gasket—and its suite of compatible pre-formed firestopping solutions—have changed the way architects, designers and contractors install firestop. These innovative products provide a fail-safe installation to minimize liability while providing long-term performance.

“Architects love it because it looks good. Developers love it because it saves money,” says Don Pilz, director of Product Development at CEMCO. “Inspectors love it because it’s easy to inspect and reduces delays, and installers love it because it’s simple to install.”

Traditional firestopping can provide a short-term solution for a long-term life-safety need. It is labor intensive to install and hard to inspect because it’s difficult to know if the joint has been filled to the proper width and depth without a thorough inspection.

“My construction defects background showed me how closely the installation can be scrutinized,” Pilz says. “Plus, after the 2012 IBC code revision gave way to third-party special inspections, every inch of the joint will now be closely inspected. That’s when we realized the need for a brand new fail-safe firestop solution. So, we developed a line of pre-formed firestop products that won’t break down, won’t shrink or crack.

“If you’ve used double-stick tape, you can learn how to install Fire Gasket,” Pilz says. “Simply remove the release paper, compress the bubble gasket against the adjoining substrate and adhere to the framing member.”

Further installation guidance can be found on the website so both installers and inspectors are on the same page.

All testing has been conducted at UL, including testing per UL-2079 for fire and smoke, and sound testing has been conducted in several third-party sound laboratories per ASTM E90. In addition, field tests on productivity have proven that Fire Gasket installs three to four times faster than fire sealant.

The product has a double-sided tape that allows the installer to attach the device directly to the framing member before the drywall is installed. Once installed, the Fire Gasket provides a permanent flexible seal. The product is a fire-rated drywall accessory, which allows the builder to install the accessory with the firestopping in a one-step installation to reduce labor.

Because these firestop products don’t dry out, harden, shrink or crack, they’ll provide a sustainable life warranty. In addition, because no maintenance is required, it will reduce long-term servicing requirements of any type of building.

Contractors have reported a 30 to 40 percent savings of their overall costs, while also allowing them to complete their projects faster. The products have become the fastest-growing segment in joint firestop protection.

For more information, please visit cemcosteel.com.

Fire-resistant Tape

E-Z Taping Systems

The company’s Flame Fighter Fire Tape allows workers to finish a Level 1 firewall with no mud and meet all current building codes. The product was introduced as a better and more cost-effective way to create a firewall. The product is very simple to use. Just apply the tape to the wall with pressure and cut.

“The tape saves time because anyone can apply it and it makes it easier for those areas that are hard to get at,” says the company’s General Manager Chris Wirth. “It also has a red color so that it can be easily detected by the inspector and he can tell what it is.”

If the tape is applied to a clean wall with pressure, the tape will bond with the paper of the gypsum board and will not fall off.

“Once contractors hear about it and use it once, they use it over and over again,” Wirth says. “Of course, there are the initial questions by the inspector because they have not seen it before, but once we go through everything with them, they are good with it from then on.”

The product can be found at almost any local drywall supplier.  For more information, visit e-ztape.com.

Cordless Mobile Dust Extractor


The company’s cordless mobile dust extractor, the CTC MIDI, is designed to offer powerful, portable convenience with zero interruption. It’s the manufacturer’s largest and most powerful cordless dust extractor to date, providing professional tradespeople the freedom and convenience of cordless dust extraction.

The tool was introduced to the market to provide professional tradespeople, including drywallers, with a solution that is equipped with performance-enhancing features that improve efficiency.

The tool is a companion for professional tradespeople doing off-site project work. It is completely cordless, with 18-volt battery packs for ultimate power throughout the day. For sanding, sawing and drilling, the CTC MIDI is compact for easy transportation.

The tool features a 36-volt turbine, three levels of extraction power and a compact footprint for easy transportation. Its features include:

  • The large internal hose garage makes the suction hose storage-safe for clean transportation.
  • The flat storage area on top of the hose garage can be used as a shelf for tools or materials, and the integrated T-LOC interface allows the extractor to combine with the Systainer-based system.
  • Equipped with an exterior-accessible filter drawer, enabling quick, easy and tool-free filter replacement. The included HEPA filter means ultimate filtration for clean air.
  • Features integrated Bluetooth technology, so the extractor switches on automatically via the Bluetooth battery pack.

The HEPA filter is easily cleaned with a manual cleaning lever that enhances the suction action for quick cleaning, helping to ensure full suction. The filter can also be accessed from the outside of the machine for quick replacement without opening the lid.

The self-cleaning filter bag is replaceable when full and acts as a pre-filter, filtering particles down to 5 microns, which helps prolong the life of the main HEPA filter.

“The CTC MIDI has been well-received in the market so far,” says Rick Bush, senior marketing manager. “With seeding to professional tradespeople ahead of public launch, the company has received positive feedback and appreciation for a product that enables easy transportation from shop to site. It provides the ability to work from anywhere, with no loss of power or performance.”

The company is hosting a “Festool Experience” tour in the U.S. this spring and summer, where it will make more than 50 stops at dealers across the country to display its brand-new and existing power tool solutions. A full list of locations and dates, and more information, may be found at festoolusa.com/experience

Color Line for Joint Compound

Fresco Harmony 

Fresco Harmony is a color line for drywall joint compound. The company offers a cost-effective, efficient system for finishing interior walls, aside from paint and texture.

“Paint and texture (smooth finish) has dominated interior wall surfaces for the last 50 years, and I felt it was time the industry offered an alternative,” says Nick Harmon, owner of Fresco Harmony. “I tried plaster and very quickly realized it was priced too high and way too difficult to be conceivable for reinstitution. There’s a reason they went to drywall, texture and paint. Not only is it cost-effective and efficient to apply, but can simply and effectively be inserted into an already existing drywall finishing market.”

Builders have a product that will dramatically set their company apart from their competition by offering an affordable alternative to dramatically improving 85 percent of the visual space in a home.

“For years, finishers have been getting beat up on pricing and material cost,” Harmon says. “[Here’s] a product that is taking the same materials and skills they’ve taken years to acquire and inserting a sales possibility that didn’t exist before.”

The color match from unit to unit is perfect and thus can be implemented into any existing drywall sales model.

The product is available in 48 states with nine locations, including Canada.

The company offers a 40-color “Signature Color Series,” accompanied by a color chart designed specifically for joint compound. The Topcoat Sealer comes in satin and gloss sheens. It’s available in quart and gallon sizes. Last year, the company also launched a line of colored sealer available in warm silver, gold, pearl and smoke. A silica sand additive for specific finishes is also available.

“The popularity of Fresco Harmony has exceeded my expectations,” Harmon says. “In a market as challenging as drywall, developing and marketing a product that creates any sales seems like a daunting endeavor. Professionals who are buying the product are having success, and we’re seeing a growing number of people purchasing product multiple times.

“Drywallers are making money with Fresco Harmony, but also I think they are having fun and it’s forcing them to utilize skills they’ve never used,” Harmon added. “I have clients who are even branching out into using various plaster methods.  

For more information, visit frescoharmony.com.

Optimized Fastener Pattern

National Gypsum Co.

The company introduced the MaX 16 optimized fastener pattern at BUILD23. The industry’s only 16-inch on center optimized fastener pattern for single-layer, one‐hour UL fire‐rated assemblies on metal framing.

Applicators will no longer need to discern between non‐rated, single‐layer partitions and most one‐hour fire-rated steel stud assemblies with metal framing spaced 16 inches on center. The new 16-inch x 16-inch screw pattern is applicable for both horizontal and vertical applications

The combination of the pattern with the company’s GridMarX installation guide marks will make installation simple and save time and money. A recent time/motion study conducted by RSMeans data from Gordian identified that when compared to the industry standard pattern, using MaX 16 with GridMarX will save more than 46 percent in installation time and more than 24 screws per 4-foot-by-12-foot board when applied in a vertical orientation.

“Using MaX 16 with GridMarX will result in immense savings in installation time, labor cost and material cost,” says Matt Gallagher, gypsum systems product manager. “The implications for increased fastener accuracy, enhanced installation quality and easier assurance of compliance are enormous—helping both the contractor and code official.”

The installation guide marks are printed on the surface of all 4‐foot‐wide gypsum board products manufactured by Gold Bond Building Products. Guide marks run along the board lengthwise every 4 inches along both edges, at 16 inches from each edge and down the center 24 inches from each edge, to help quickly identify fastener lines for studs and joist framing. Cuts can be made without having to draw lines.

“Labor and materials are among the most significant construction costs,” says Jay Watt, director of marketing. “We are continually seeking innovative ways to help our partners increase productivity and efficiency on the job site. We expect MaX 16 will provide even greater value than what our customers have already realized with both GridMarX and MaX 12.”

MaX 12 was the industry’s first 12-inch o.c. optimized fastener pattern for single-layer, one‐hour UL fire‐rated assemblies on metal framing spaced 24 inches on center.

National Gypsum’s new MaX Calculator provides an opportunity to determine the savings of using MaX 16 or MaX 12. The user can simply enter their labor and fastener costs, square footage of the job, and labor type to calculate the potential amount of labor and materials saved on their next project.

To learn more, including detailed results from the RSMeans data from Gordian time/motion studies, visit gridmarx.com.

Sound Attenuation Drywall

PABCO Gypsum

QuietRock 545 provides maximum sound attenuation across a broad frequency range. It is ideal for projects requiring high STC performance at low frequencies that is often difficult to achieve. Architects, contractors and dealers that work on projects such as high-end home theaters, recording studios, and commercial theaters as well as for reducing noise from mechanical rooms. 

Extra care is needed for the product because of its weight. A saw is required to cut the board, but it otherwise installs and finishes like standard gypsum board.

LemonTree Studios in California used the product for their recording studio and did some field testing. PABCO Gypsum is also doing its own field testing for the product using advanced equipment, including acoustic cameras.

Its key features include:

  • 1 3/8-inch sound damped panel with added mass for low-frequency attenuation 
  • Highest performing sound-reducing gypsum panel available, delivering maximum sound isolation across a broad frequency range for both high and low frequencies 
  • Highly reliable sound control that cannot be easily short-circuited like resilient channel, even when fixtures are installed 
  • Ideal for high-end home theaters, studios, commercial theaters, mechanical rooms, and other situations where low-frequency noise and vibration require sound isolation 
  • Outperforms other sound attenuation methods, including multi-layered assemblies, resilient channel and soundboard

The product has been well-received and has been used in many recording studios and hotels across the country. PMC selected Lemontree Studios to house its state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos studios in Los Angeles, of which there are only a handful in the world, based on the construction materials used in Lemontree’s studios, which includes QuietRock.

For more information, visit pabcogypsum.com

Flexible and Fast Installation Cornerbead


The Fast Edge Roll is the new wave of cornerbead, known for having quick installation while using the least amount of mud. It is now available in a convenient, highly flexible rolled form in four widths: 2¾, 3¼, 3¾ and 4½ inches. Drywall finishers can tackle off-angle inside and outside corners faster than ever, while its patented mud locks featured on the bead’s paper-covered vinyl core provide unmatched bond strength and durability.

“For years, our customers asked us to make a paper-covered corner bead. And we listened, introducing Fast Edge Paper in 2019,” says Marketing Content & Technology Lead J. Michael Osborne. “But many drywall workers who loved Fast Edge Paper wanted a version they could carry around in a conveniently sized box and roll out for all kinds of angles—inside corners, outside corners, off angles, sharp angles, you name it. With 100 feet of bead in a single box, Fast Edge Roll takes everything contractors love about Fast Edge Paper and puts it into a highly handy rolled form.

The paper is a smoother, rolled cornerbead tape solution, making it easier to work with, and the Mud Lock Technology featured on the bead gives it a far superior bond strength. No mechanical fasteners are needed; just mud and done.

Its key features include:

  • Easily tackle any inside or outside corner, sharp angle or off-angle, short run or long run — all your angles are covered.
  • Flexible and versatile, but sturdy enough to hold its shape for those long runs and rigid enough to correct for bad framing or uneven drywall.
  • Available in four widths, helping you flawlessly finish just about any drywall joint with ease.
  • Mud Lock Technology featured on the bead provides three times the bond strength over other rolled products.

For more information, please visit trim-tex.com.

Drywall Suspension System for Ceilings


The company has unveiled an engineered system designed for wallboard ceilings that installs faster than traditional framing methods. The system is available for flat or curved ceilings, arches and domes for maximum design flexibility. The Drywall Suspension System is engineered for framing both interior and exterior flat ceilings and more complex shapes, such as stepped soffits and coffers. It is available in pre-engineered custom shapes for framing curved drywall ceilings, such as vaults, valleys, domes and arches. It is also fully compatible with all Donn Brand Acoustical Suspension Systems for easy transition from wallboard ceilings to acoustical tile ceilings.

The company has unveiled an engineered system designed for wallboard ceilings that installs faster than traditional framing methods. The system is available for flat or curved ceilings, arches and domes for maximum design flexibility. The Drywall Suspension System is engineered for framing both interior and exterior flat ceilings and more complex shapes, such as stepped soffits and coffers. It is available in pre-engineered custom shapes for framing curved drywall ceilings, such as vaults, valleys, domes and arches. It is also fully compatible with all Donn Brand Acoustical Suspension Systems for easy transition from wallboard ceilings to acoustical tile ceilings.

Its features and benefits include:

  • System simplifies the design and construction of curved drywall ceilings.
  • Project-specific main tees produced for efficient installation and less material waste.
  • Pre-engineered, factory-curved main tees for consistent, uniform radii.
  • G30 hot-dipped galvanized system suitable for most interior and exterior applications.
  • ICC-ES Report ESR-4358.

The main T’s and cross T’s are punched to easily frame for nominal 2-feet-by-2-feet and 2-feet-by-4-feet type G and F light fixtures. USG manufactures 15/16-inch faced cross T’s to accommodate type G fixtures, and 50- and 26-inch cross T’s to frame openings for type F fixtures.

The company has more than 60 UL designs where drywall suspension systems are listed. In fact, the system can be used in place of cold rolled channel and furring channel in any UL fire-rated design.

Flat ceilings constructed of gypsum board that are screw-attached to suspension members that support a ceiling on one level extending from wall to wall are generally exempt from acoustical seismic construction requirements, such as perimeter end wall clearance, perimeter hanger wires, horizontal restraint and vertical splay bracing. This is due to the diaphragm strength achieved by screw-attached gypsum board. Gypsum board ceilings that have multiple levels or do not extend perimeter to perimeter may require seismic bracing, depending on the local code interpretation.

Although the components cannot be bent at the job site, the company offers complete factory-curved components for curved ceilings, domes and vaults. Ceiling designs can be submitted, and all of the parts and pieces for the installation will be manufactured and shipped out as a kit for faster and easier installation.

For more information, visit usg.com.