My team and I have logged some frequent flyer miles the last two weeks, traveling across the country to take part in press events put on by the big tool manufacturers. These meetings allow us to review hundreds of tools and accessories developed specifically for the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, and DIY markets, including saw blades, drill bits, hole saws, levels, tape measures, hand tools, test & measurement instruments, and power tools — to name a few. It’s a great opportunity for us to get a sneak peek at some cool new products these companies are just getting ready to launch or currently have in the early design/development stages of production.

As a self-proclaimed tool junkie and avid home remodeler, taking part in these events is right up my alley. I mean, who wouldn’t love the opportunity to get paid to play around with a bunch of cool new tools, right? But as I sit at my desk now and reflect back on these recent visits, one realization stands out in my mind. The evolution of cordless power tools in recent years is really quite impressive. In fact, I think the technology developments we’ve seen in these tools over the last few months will finally allow you to “cut the cord” for most, if not all, of your routine drilling/driving tasks.

A quick look back shows the first big shift on the cordless power tool front occurred when Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries hit the market a number of years ago. These batteries offer a number of advantages over their nickel-cadmium (NiCd) counterparts. For one, they are much lighter than NiCd batteries. They also offer a shorter charge time and feature a constant discharge rate. They do not suffer from memory effect and offer a longer life than NiCd batteries. Finally, they’re more environmentally friendly when it comes to their eventual disposal. For those of you non-chemists out there, Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal, so please take advantage of approved recycling channels when disposing of your old NiCd batteries.

However, more recent developments on the power electronics and motor technology front have really pushed the performance of these tools into uncharted territory. Like most everything else you use today, these newest-generation power tools feature solid-state circuitry, which acts as the brain of the tool. Couple this “smart technology” with the recent introduction of brushless motors, and the result is a tool that delivers more power, a longer battery life, and longer motor life than its brushed motor counterpart. The power, torque, and run time of these newest generation tools is pretty impressive.

So what’s next on the power tool development front? In addition to the more general drilling/driving applications noted above, I think you’ll see additional tool options pop up in the battery-powered metal punching, cable cutting, and terminal crimping categories. I think you’ll also see the more progressive manufacturers continue to attack the traditional hydraulic and pneumatic tool category, and develop battery-powered tools for a number of field, shop, and production line applications. If they play their cards right and are successful, my next recommendation will be to “just go ahead and cut the hose.”