Convenience and safety behind global power tool boom

Amateurs and professionals are benefitting from improved electric tools

By Morand Fachot, Antoinette Price

In an age of innovation and constant technological evolution, a wide variety of affordable, easy-to-use power tools allow many people to maintain their homes and gardens themselves rather than calling in a professional. At the same time, professionals are also making the most of the improved and new electric tools.

Hedge trimmer
Hedge trimmer

Huge and growing global market

According to a February 2015 report by the Freedonia market research company, “worldwide demand for power tools is forecast to increase 4,8 percent per year through 2018 to USD 32,9 billion”. The main growth areas are set to be cordless power tools owing to “steady improvements in cordless battery technology, such as the adoption of lithium-ion batteries, which has increased the power and run time of cordless tools”. Additionally, the construction sector will boost demand for professional tools, which account for the largest share of global sales of power tools.

Improved technology, better tools

Technology advances have made power tools faster, lighter and more efficient as well as easier to use, even by amateurs. These tools produce lower noise and emissions. Anti-vibration features give users more control and balance while working. Revolutionary brushless motors allow tools to stay cooler when they run and deliver more runtime at less cost.

Added to this is the improvement of lithium-ion batteries which power a new generation of cordless products. More and stronger power means more working time and less recharging. Some batteries also allow tools to be operated in extreme heat or cold down to -18°C.

A charged future

In the past, the motor was the most expensive part of electric tools. Today, power tool batteries have become the costliest part of cordless tools, and this despite all the improvements that have been achieved. The work of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 21: Secondary cells and batteries, helps manufacturers increase battery efficiency, while making them more affordable to the public.

Producers now offer individual tools or kits of several tools, such as a hammer driver-drill, a circular saw, a jigsaw and an angle grinder, and even garden tools, which all use the same battery pack.

Wireless charging is quite common for a whole range of power tools. They generally use induction charging stations, which save time by charging faster. Additionally batteries are generally smaller.

Another innovation in the power tool world includes improved ergonomics thanks to slide-style battery packs.

Covering all the safety angles

The wide range of components and parts used in the production of electric tools and gardening appliances means that they rely on a multitude of IEC International Standards for their design, manufacturing, and safe use.

IEC TC 116: Safety of motor-operated electric tools, was established in 2008 to manage the expanding scope of International Standards for the safety of hand-held motor-operated electric tools, transportable motor-operated electric tools, and garden appliances, while keeping pace with new technologies.

TC 116 work comprises a suite of 90 International Standards, including the IEC 62841 series which covers general and specific safety requirements of electric motor-operated hand-held tools (part 2), transportable tools (part 3) and lawn and garden machinery (part 4).

Safety measures for tools that cut, for example, hedge trimmers, usually require the user to press two contacts simultaneously, often using both hands. If one of the contacts is released, the device stops. Residual current device (RCD) sensors react to changes in the flow of electricity and are managed by IEC Subcommittee (SC) 23E: Circuit-breakers and similar equipment for household use.

However, dust and water can also harm the tool and put the user at risk. That’s why all new power tools are tested against IEC 60529:2013, which rates their dust and water resistance using the IP (Ingress Protection) Rating code. The Standard is prepared by IEC TC 70: Degrees of protection provided by enclosures.

Bosch sander Sander
Hedge trimmer Hedge trimmer
Makita 18 V cordless jigsaw (Photo: Makita) Cordless jigsaw