Original electric power tools held their place for a long time, encouraging us to put up with the tripping, tangling and unplugging frustration that was part of the experience. When battery technology finally allowed us to cut the cord, the power tool horizon began to broaden quickly.
Today’s cordless power tools are impressive, powerful and affordable, thanks to many fantastic ideas and innovations over recent years. Even though we called them cordless tools when they were first invented and we still call them the same, the technology has far eclipsed that of the originals.
The biggest innovation has been the battery. Lithium-ion is the current technology in power tools, as well as almost all portable electronics. These batteries have a high energy density, meaning they pack a punch for their size. They have an almost non-existent memory effect, meaning they can be charged at any time without remembering a lower capacity and they have a very low self-discharge rate.
There’s plenty of science involved if you really want to dig into it, but we’ll leave that up to you. To keep it simple, lithium-ion batteries are smaller, lighter, more powerful and longer lasting than cordless batteries have ever been.
An added bonus is that internal battery pack electronics have improved to the point where some will automatically switch voltage output to the tool you are using. With this technology, all the frustration of different voltages, different batteries and different chargers is wiped away; one battery, one charger, as many tools as you’d like.
It’s All About the Options
Early on, thinking “cordless” meant “cordless drill.” The tool industry is way beyond that, and if it used to come with a cord, there’s almost certainly one without.
A quick scan of any tool truck or hardware store reveals drills, lights, impact drivers, impact wrenches, screwdrivers, ratchets, band saws, hack saws, reciprocating saws, grinders, vacuums, grease guns, rivet guns, metal shears, die grinders, polishers, staplers, fans, caulking guns, circular saws, blowers, hedge trimmers, chain saws…the list goes on and on, but I think you get the idea.
I know we’ve named a few that fall into the home repair/construction category too, but if you’re like us, your love of tools extends far beyond just what you use at the shop.
Not only do you have options when it comes to cordless tools, but you have ergonomic choices as well. The latest generations of cordless tools are designed to fit your hand and adjust to normal working positions. Cushioned grips are comfortable and reduce vibrations, while pivot points and articulated designs are found on some tools to allow an efficient working position without fatigue, and they can help you get into some tight areas as well.
Improving on innovations is technology and mobile connectivity — you can connect to your tools with an app on your smartphone. This is one of the latest trends that is available with some cordless tools, allowing you to remotely lock and disable your tool, track its location, view its usage and performance data and customize tool performance right from your phone.
Auto-shut-off modes are featured on many tools to enhance safety and longevity by monitoring tool performance and temperature. They are programmed to shut down the tool at predetermined parameters to prevent overheating and damage.
Power output is another facet on these new tools. The primary reason being the use of brushless motors that can operate at a higher speed, develop more power and allow more precise speed control. The brushless advantage also includes a much longer service life with no wearing electrical components.
Technology has weighed in on the overall construction of cordless tools with stronger plastics and high-strength alloys that are allowing them to become lighter, more durable and easier to use.
Now that we have all these cordless tools, where are we going to store them? The popularity of cordless tools has increased dramatically over the past few years and the need for storage solutions has resulted in toolbox innovations to match. Toolbox hutches initially gained popularity as a way to secure your personal workspace. The originals were bare, but built-in lighting and power strips soon followed and became the norm to keep all those cordless tools charged.
Electrical outlets and USB ports are now built into the front of some toolboxes for those who don’t want a hutch, and special cabinets and drawers are also available to not only store your cordless tools, but to keep the batteries plugged in and charging while everything remains safely locked away.
It’s no surprise that cordless power tools are becoming more popular by the day. I’m sure there are many veterans of the industry who wish these tools existed years ago. Technology and performance has converted them from a personal preference to a must have, and this type of innovation just might have a good place in your toolbox.