10 Years of Cordless Tools – What’s Next?
Reflection On The Evolution Of Cordless Tools – What Does 10-years Do?
I’ve been working in the trades about 24 years. When I think about starting out in the trades I had little money, and very few tools. Damn, I framed my first house by hand and I did EVERYTHING with:
- Circular saw
- Reciprocating Saw
- Hand tools and levels
It wasn’t until I got to the roof sheathing that a friend dropped of his gas compressor and a coil roofer for me to try – I was sold!!
Finding Pneumatics and Better Tools
Just like that…hand- banging was over! I had found pneumatics. BTW – I still get tingling in my finger tips for hand-banging! Right around that time I started looking at what “other tools” were on the market that would make my job easier, more efficient and maybe be less stress on my body. So I splurged and bought my first chop saw, and portable table saw, MAN I thought I was “all that!” And WOW were those tools heavy!
Now we have light weight, cordless miter saws, table saws, impact drivers, framing and “Tico-nailers,” lasers, and a slew of niche tools.
Finding Ni-Cad Tools
Ok so…. Fast forward to the late 90’s on Father’s Day when my wife bought my first t-handle 12-volt NiCad drill – WOW that thing was amazing.
It stayed amazing until my brother, a plumber, bought me a 14-volt impact driver. An impact what? Really? I’ve heard / read about them in trade magazines – man was I sold!! I hit the ground and took off running. That impact driver heard me say many times, “I can’t believe we used to do it that way….”
By the turn of the century [that sure sounded old – right?] I was using some cordless Ni-Cad tools:
- Cordless drill
- Impact driver
- Reciprocating saw
- Maybe a jigsaw
- Horrible flashlight
Everything else was corded! Cordless tools were interesting but weren’t worth the hassle. When you stop to think about it I needed a hole drilled, not a fancy cordless drill that had a dead NiCad battery every time I used it.
Then the corded multi-tool came out and again I found myself saying…. I can’t believe we used to do this with a knife, chisel and Japanese pull saw.”
Lithium-Ion Battery Powered Tools
Then around 2005 Milwaukee Tool invented lithium-ion powered power tools. It was an achievement that marked a turning point for me as a contractor.
Right around that time I started writing about tools, and remember thinking:
- What other battery powered tools could they come up with?
- Where is cordless going?
- What does the NEXT 10 years look like?
We’ll we know what those 10 years were like, we just lived through them. Cordless power tools transitioned from nickel cadmium (Ni-Cad) battery packs to Lithium Ion and never looked back. Hell, it didn’t take long before I was nearly cordless on the jobsite with WAY better performing cordless tools. I even had a cordless multi-tool!
What’s Next In Cordless Tools?
What could possibly be next? Core trade tool platform build-outs and better batteries for sure.
Advancements in battery technology have allowed us to use powerful tools in the same size, or smaller than their corded brethren. Not to mention, with longer runtime on one charge, and faster charging capabilities. But that’s only part of the story, then came brushless motor technology, which gave us more tool efficiency and performance over brushed motors. Which meant a more reliable motor, extended battery run-time and more power overall.
The Advent Of Tool Storage
What about Tool storage?
Hell, I was using milk crates, 5-gallon buckets, and heavy metal tool boxes for tool storage. Man has that changed. I’m a tool storage and efficiency fanatic now – and I love it!
Hand Tools Redefined
Or, how about those “suck to operate,” hand tools, we all hated to use that are now cordless? Like these tools:
- Cordless caulking
- Cordless grease
- Cordless rivet gun
- The amazing cordless Milwaukee copper tubing cutter, that saves many plumbers from carpal tunnel.
- M18 Hackzall
Cordless LED Lighting
Shoot – I almost forgot cordless lighting!
From flashlights to headlamps and job site spotlights – did you EVER in your wildest dreams think that LED lighting was going to take over like it has? I had two LED spots running today.
So What’s on the Horizon?
Bigger batteries, faster tools, robots?
No doubt, manufacturers will continue to think of new and innovative ways to improve the use of their tools. Along with smartphone integration, cordless power tools will continue to see advancements in battery technology, overall performance and new features to help us work safely and more efficiently.
So how will this affect the job site of the future? What’s next for us?
Milwaukee MX Cordless Tool Line
I think if Milwaukee has anything to do with it, then their MX FUEL Equipment System may be the next game changer.
The MX FUEL Equipment System is designed to replace gas equipment that contractors have depended on for years. This system eliminates emissions, noise, vibration, frustrations of gas maintenance and eliminates tripping breakers, voltage drops, and trip hazards.
There are five MX FUEL tools coming:
- MX FUEL™ Handheld Core Drill
- MX FUEL™ 14” Cut-Off Saw
- MX FUEL™ Breaker
- MX FUEL™ ROCKET™ Tower Light/Charger
- MX FUEL™ CARRY-ON™ 3600W/1800W Power Supply
MX FUEL™ Handheld Core Drill
Coring is, arguably, one of the least exciting applications electrical contractors face – and quite possibly among the most challenging. The sheer power of the machine and unpredictability can make for hazardous situations, particularly when coring handheld. Milwaukee implemented a patented clutch designed to engage sooner, the MX FUEL™ Hand Held Core Drill sends back less torque to the user which means they can maintain control even in the toughest bind-up situation. Additionally, Milwaukee engineered the drill with AUTOSTOP™ Technology that helps maintain control if the bit is bound.
This drill also can deliver the same drill rates contractors have expected from AC corded products without tripping a breaker!
MX FUEL™ 14” Cut-Off Saw
The MX FUEL saw has a 5” cut depth to cut through asphalt or concrete, all with less vibration, no gas, oil or fumes.
MX FUEL™ Breaker
The MX FUEL™ Breaker hits harder than most other breakers and delivers a faster BPM for the fastest demolition rate with no air compressor or fuel to run it. Not to mention weight, vibration, lack of portability, potential to trip breakers, and hassle of extension cords
MX FUEL™ ROCKET™ Tower Light/Charger
Outdoor lighting has been limited too tower lights and balloon lights that rely on generator power. The MX FUEL™ Tower Light/Charger provides light in areas where it’s difficult to get tower lights due to their massive size. Delivering up to 27,000 lumens and standing 10 ft tall, the light can be set up in seconds and has outriggers for leveling.
MX FUEL™ CARRY-ON™ 3600W/1800W Power Supply
5000W+ generators are loud and heavy, and while 2000W suitcase inverter generators certainly address the size issue, they still have the same problems as any gas generator. This includes noise, fumes, and long extension cords strewn out to the work area (which can likely cause voltage drop and trip hazards). Milwaukee identified they could not only deliver 1800W continuous power.
The Future of Cordless
The ability for cordless technology to now eliminate emissions, noise, vibration, gas maintenance, and overall safety risks associated with current gas and corded light equipment will undoubtedly have a profound ongoing impact on the safety and productivity of contractors over the next 10 years.
What Do You Think – Please Comment Below
What are the most notable changes you’ve seen in power tools? On your job sites?
So what does the next 10 years look like?
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