The market may be down and contractors may have more time on their hands, but tool manufacturers are betting that they are still looking for products that are better than the previous generation.

“When we talk to end users, it is expressed loud and clear that durability, battery run time, and tool performance continue to be critical,” says Shane Moll, senior vice president and general manager for tools at Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. in Brookfield, Wis. “Expectation levels for power tool performance continue to increase. Even as technology continues to improve, satisfying the demands of the jobsite is an everlasting journey and not a point-in-time solution.”

In an effort to satisfy those jobsite demands, cordless tool manufacturers have made huge advances. The industry has gone from producing heavy tools with marginal run times to offering durable lightweight pieces that can last for hours on a single charge. You can thank the development of lithium-ion battery technology for that.

Considered the most significant tool innovation in the last 15 years, lithium technology allows tools to use power more efficiently, resulting in lightweight products that run longer between charges. For this reason, it’s not unusual to see 18- or 36-volt cordless products able to handle heavy-duty jobs that corded products once performed.

But the industry is determined not to stop there. Towson, Md.–based DeWalt, for example, in June launched a new 20-volt MAX* lithium-ion system, saying the line is designed to be high-performing, long-lasting, and comfortable. “We are dedicated to continually optimizing our tools so that they meet the needs of professionals in a variety of trades,” says Chris Keffer, director of marketing. “As part of our 20-volt MAX* development process, we conducted extensive research and uncovered a need for cordless tools that offer performance in a compact, lightweight profile.”

Other companies are going even farther in their development efforts. Last year, Cincinnati-based Senco Brands unveiled the Fusion line of finish nailers, a line the company says combines the best of cordless and air technologies.

The 15- and 18-gauge tools use an 18-volt lithium-ion phosphate battery that can reach an 80 percent charge in 15 minutes, while Reflex Shot technology provides an instant trigger response. Powered by a self-contained air cylinder, the tool eliminates the cost associated with traditional gas-powered nailers, but it also provides an almost instant shot without the “ramp-up” time associated with battery-powered nailers, the company says.

“Fusion’s unique design is ideal for trim crews, remodelers, punch-out teams, and serious DIYers who don’t want to deal with the hassle of a hose and compressor but still want the benefits of a pneumatic tool,” Moore says. The company intends to expand the Fusion line in the coming years.

“We wake up every morning focused on the end user,” Milwaukee’s Moll says. “Whether it is our power tools, power tool accessories, hand tools, or test and measurement business, the focus is unwavering.” This is the main reason the company is staking its future on its newly developed Red Lithium batteries. It’s “an indication of where Milwaukee Tool is heading,” he explains.

The battery platform provides up to 40 percent more run time, 20 percent more power, and 50 percent more recharges than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Says Moll, “This is not a temporary focus, but a long-term commitment to not only be the leader in technology, but more importantly, relevant technology which makes a difference in how end users get the job done.”

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Milwaukee, WI.