I was working on another post when I started thinking – we sure have seen a lot of innovations these past few years, most of which would have been unimaginable just a few years earlier.
Could you imagine ever going back to the NiCd-powered cordless tools you used before Li-ion battery tech rolled out a few years ago?
Following are some of the innovations that have come out in recent years, or are coming out very soon. While some of these new technologies won’t benefit all users, they still represent step forwards.
High Capacity Li-ion Battery Packs
Today’s 5Ah battery packs have around DOUBLE the capacity of the highest capacity NiCd battery packs, while weighing around the same or maybe even a little less.
While some brands offer 6Ah batteries, most are jumping to larger form factor cells, and thus slightly larger battery pack sizes, to bring us 6Ah packs, and beyond.
Dewalt’s new FlexVolt battery tech and tools have shaken things up with a few “world’s first” tools, such as the world’s first cordless table saw, and the world’s first cordless 12″ sliding miter saw.
It’s impressive technology, and it will be quite interesting to see where things go from where.
The best part is that Dewalt’s FlexVolt battery packs are backwards compatible with their 20V Max tools. FlexVolt battery packs can work with 20V Max tools, the new line of 60V Max tools, and in pairs to power 120V Max tools.
With all of the new tools coming out, and the backwards compatibility of the new FlexVolt battery packs, Dewalt is sure to see a surge in sales by both current 20V Max users and converts.
Milwaukee High Demand Batteries
Milwaukee has been working on their new M18 High Demand 9.0Ah battery pack, which features an extra row of battery cells to boost charge capacity, but also to increase the power available to heavy duty tools.
It’s with the new battery pack in mind that Milwaukee designed their M18 Fuel 10″ brushless sliding miter saw.
The HD battery pack is designed to power the brand’s heaviest duty tools, and is backwards compatible with all M18 tools, with few exceptions.
Milwaukee’s One-Key technology offers inventory control, reporting capabilities for certain tools, and tool customization options.
We’ve seen performance benefits, such as with their new M18 Fuel Sawzall with One-Key, and remote control capabilities with their upcoming LED worklights.
Some contractors have sung praise for One-Key’s tool tracking feature, which can help find missing tools. If a tool is lost or stolen, any smartphone with One-Key app installed (and opted in) can send the owner a location update when within 100 feet of the tool.
Brushless Motors and Milwaukee Fuel Tools
Milwaukee has quite the lineup of M18 and M12 Fuel brushless tools, and often leads other brands whenever they come out with new Fuel products.
Brushless motors are more efficient than brushed motors, offering more power, longer runtime, or a balanced combination of both.
See Also: Brushless Motors 101
But it’s not just about power and runtime; brushless tools often offer advanced features as well – things like adjustable speed and torque settings for impact drivers, anti-kickback sensors in high power drills, and special speed sequences that benefit certain fastening applications.
Milwaukee of course isn’t the only brand to offer brushless tools, but they’ve been shaking things up the most.
Makita Smart Impact Tools
Makita was the first – to my knowledge – to experiment with special tool profiles designed to improve the performance of a particular application.
Their Quick-Shift mode starts the tool off in high speed, and then finishes driving fasteners at a lower speed, to help prevent stripping or overdriving.
The new additional mode works in the opposite manner, starting at a slow speed to prevent stripping or camming out, and finishes at a higher speed once the fastener starts to tighten.
I think that Makita’s next step should be to allow for customization, similar to what Milwaukee’s One-Key tech allows for. That would be a nice extension to the practical and useful modes built into their most premium impact driver.
Bosch Wireless Charging
Bosch’s wireless charging system is quite amazing, and I still think it’s our best chance at seeing a universal charging standard.
While designed primarily for users who work at a station (think industry), or out of a van or truck (think technicians), Bosch’s wireless charging base and holster holds great potential.
Imagine putting all of your tools away and having them charge automatically, regardless of brand.
Dewalt and Black & Decker Gyroscopic Tools
You turn them, and they respond by spinning a bit in the same direction. Turn the driver slower, and the bit turns slower.
Many people have grown accustomed to gesture-based activations. Swipes, shakes, and tilts have replaced button presses, and they quickly become second nature.
Certain tools would certainly benefit from advanced methods of control, such as LED worklights.
Anti-Kickback and Other Sensors
But we’re also seeing sensors being used in powerful new ways. Several brands now offer kickback protections in their high powered drills. Some utilize current sensors to detect jamming conditions, others use gyroscopes or accelerometers to detect the fast counter-rotation that occurs when a bit jams.
The cost of positional sensors have also dramatically decreased these past few years. The only limitation now is the imagination of tool designers and engineers.
It’s been hinted that Metabo is working on user-following LED worklight quadcopter drones. That’s within the realm of possibility these days.
Did We Miss Something?
Are there any other recent tool innovations that you would consider game-changers?