SmartTools: The Evolution of Power Tools
Tools have been evolving on this planet for thousands upon thousands of years. From the beginning of construction of the Egyptian pyramids up to Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 spacecraft, tools are becoming smarter, safer and more efficient. The evolution of tools in construction has lead our engineers to create better power tools, like some of the powerful, cordless and Bluetooth enabled tools on the market today. Milwaukee just released One-Key that enables custom tuning on the digital controls of your tools, all from your smartphone. DeWalt just released their FLEXVOLT system of cordless tools with their new powerful battery that automatically changes voltages when you change tools. Building and construction is becoming insanely competitive and it is critical that we supply our workers with the right tool for the right job.
Milwaukee One-Key is the first digital platform for tools and equipment to hit the market. One-Key enables you to control, track and manage inventory of your tools.
- Custom Control: Custom Drill and Custom Drive Control are two presets that enable you to totally customize the output of your drills. Custom Drill Control presets have high and low speed setting as well as kickback control (and no clutch). The kickback control setting controls the torque of the drill. You can set this control from low (1) to high (10) depending on the requirements of your job. Custom Drive Control presets allow you to set either a clutch torque range or a fixed clutch torque. This setting allows you to adjust the output of the 1-13 clutch settings in drive mode. Clutch torque ranges can be both wide and narrow with the ability to set maximum speeds in both low and high gears. Once again, you have total control of how your tools perform.
- Inventory System: Milwaukee One-Key has a great platform for keeping track of your Red tools as well as any other tools you may have from other manufacturers. Each tool can be tagged with serial numbers, categories, trade, location, and person. This system allows you to import an existing Excel sheet containing your tools inventory for users planning to make a switch in tool tracking software. It’s also easy enough to hit the ground running for new users. And of course, it is all free to users, which is a huge plus for smaller companies.
- Bluetooth Tracking: Milwaukee One-Key allows you to track your tools via Bluetooth. Inside of the mobile app, you can identify every One-Key tool within a one hundred foot radius of your smartphone. You can also view the last known location of each tool as well as be notified once the tool has been discovered from anyone using the app within one hundred foot of the lost tool. The tools themselves have a Bluetooth chip embedded in them so no battery is needed to enable syncing.
DeWalt Tool Connect
DeWalt just released their new Tool Connect app that enables users to connect to Bluetooth enabled 20V MAX batteries to receive alerts and control your tools.
- Virtual Fence: A “virtual fence” for you DeWalt tools can be created. Alerts can be sent to your mobile device when a tool leaves the virtual fenced in area. Imagine setting your battery up to disable once the tool has left the area.
- Battery Control: With Tool Connect a user can completely control their battery by monitoring its charge status, current temperature and enabling or disabling the battery at any time from your connected mobile device. Having the control to disable a tool’s battery could serve well in unsafe situations.
- Lend Battery: When lending your battery out to others, you can set a time for how long the battery will be usable. When the time has expired, the tool will be unusable until it is returned.
- Alerts: The Tool Connect’s most impressive feature is its alerts. Alerts can be configured in most of all situations, when a tool is almost out of Bluetooth range, when a battery is about to die and when a tool has left a virtual fence.
DeWalt just released a new cordless tool system, FLEXVOLT, and it is worth knowing about. The FLEXVOLT battery is the first battery on the market that automatically changes voltage when you change tools.
- The FLEXVOLT Battery: The FLEXVOLT battery is made up of fifteen cells that can be ran in two modes, parallel and series mode. In parallel mode, three sets of five cells (containing 4V each) can be connected parallel to produce 20V at 6Ah. This means that the new battery is backwards compatible with their 20V MAX series giving these tools a runtime four times higher of its previous runtime. Series mode connects all fifteen cells together to produce an output of 60V which is the power of a corded tool. New tools such as the 12″ sliding miter saw can produce up to 120V by utilizing two of these batteries.
- The FLEXVOLT Tools: With the new FLEXVOLT system comes a brand new line of tools available for users. These tools run on 20V, 60V and 120V. For all of you carpenters out there the new miter saw, circular saw and table saw are tough to beat. All of the new FLEXVOLT tools are brushless which enhances the tools runtime even longer compared to the older brushed motors. The 12″ miter saw can run on up to 120V powering 239 cuts per charge. The 7-¼” circular saw can run up to 60V powering 339 cuts per charge with a brake. The 8-¼ table saw can run up to 60V powering 302 linear feet of cutting per charge with a 24″ rip capacity. The new FLEXVOLT tool system cannot be beaten for users needing a more powerful, cordless tool system. If you have already invested in the 20V MAX tool system, the FLEXVOLT battery boosts that system as well.
Drill Comparison: Milwaukee M18 vs. DeWalt 20V
Although there are quite a few of comparable lines of drills on the market, the two that will be getting the attention today is Milwaukee and DeWalt.
- Brushless vs Brushed: When comparing these two systems, the first thing that pops out is the breadth of brushless motors Milwaukee has over DeWalt. DeWalt, however, is starting to invest more into the brushless motor technology and will eventually catch up to Milwaukee.
- Battery Life: When comparing battery life, Milwaukee has the best 18V battery on the market and DeWalt has the best 20V battery on the market. Milwaukee’s M18 red lithium high demand battery runs on 18V and 9Ahrs and powers more than 100 cordless Milwaukee tools. Milwaukee utilizes the fast charge technology with their chargers as well. DeWalt’s new FLEXVOLT battery runs on 20V and 6Ahrs and is the only battery on the market to automatically change voltages when changing tools. The FLEXVOLT battery powers all of DeWalt’s 20V MAX series and the new FLEXVOLT tool system. Although Milwaukee’s 9Ahr battery life, DeWalt’s FLEXVOLT 20V battery probably wins in runtime due to the changes in voltage per tool.
- Comfortability: These two differ in feel quite a bit. Milwaukee’s Fuel M18 drill is powerful, but the large battery pack makes this drill heavy. Stepping down to the smaller M18 battery pack would solve the weight issue, however, you would suffer substantially in battery life. DeWalt’s 20V MAX drill are powerful and light weight. Using the new FLEXVOLT battery with one of these drills would increase the weight substantially but stepping down to the 20V MAX battery is not as big of a loss.
- Innovation: Both of these companies are innovating rapidly. DeWalt with their new FLEXVOLT system and Milwaukee with their free One-Key software platform, each being the first to market with both evolutions. FLEXVOLT brings a whole new paradigm of powerful, cordless tool use to the table while Milwaukee is making it easier for the industry track and manage their tools for free.
About the Author:
Steven Spann is a developer on the JBKnowledge Research & Development Team (JBKLabs), which is dedicated to disrupting and accelerating the architecture, engineering, and construction industries by building solutions with emerging technology. Steven is a woodworker and a former college baseball player with a degree in mathematics from Northwestern State University in Louisiana. JBKLabs is available for advisory, research, and custom software development services. Learn more at jbknowledge.com/labs.