New "category" of tools

I had an interesting thought the other day. Are there any tools that haven’t been invented yet?

I don’t mean cordless versions of corded tools or other “upgrades” to existing tools. I’m talking in a much broader context. For example, the invention of the nail gun in the 1950’s was the first of its kind. Or the jigsaw in 1946. What is the next major “category” of tools?

I’m sure we’ll see new tools pop up from time to time, just as we’ll find new uses for existing tools. I mean, the pulse driver is pretty new, and the Porter Cable Restorer was also recently released. Of course, the former is an evolution of impact drivers and the latter merely a new take on a sanding tool, but they are still innovative tools. Also, keep in mind that impact drivers themselves weren’t around two decades ago and the oscillating multi-tool, while invented fifty years ago, only took off in popularity in recent years.

When it comes to power tools, there will always be room for something new that fills a niche. Some people think that a saw is a saw and a driving tool is a driving tool. They are perfectly content with having only a drill and a circular saw. Others of us (I imagine 99% of Toolguyd readers) see the need for a couple of different drills, an impact driver, screwgun for decking or drywall, and reciprocating, jig, circular, miter, and table saws. Seeing the right tool in action can change one’s opinion of what they’ve made due with as well. My father-in-law has an old blue Ryobi 18v drill–he’s had it for well over 15 years and is so out-of-touch with tool technology that he cussed the new lithium batteries because the two he bought a few years ago stopped working. He had never upgraded his charger, though, so it killed the batteries (better than the alternative). Yet, a few days after watching me fasten some drywall with my DeWalt screwgun with collated screw attachment, he was asking what it was called so he could order one. He’d never imagined such a tool existing, and doesn’t really understand the specialized nature of it, but he’s dead set on getting one to drive the handful of screws he may set in any given year.

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I’m sure something new and innovative will come along. Can you believe we actually used to turn screws by hand?!?!? Then we used to trun screws with a drill, insane, I know. I’ll use my impact thank you. Wait what’s this oil pulse thingy?!?!? That’s a little illustration of the evolution of how such a basic task has gotten so much better.

The OMG I can’t believe I lived without it is the OMT. That was one of those tools that seemed to come outta nowhere. Yes there will be more new cool tools, just think for all of human history we’re only had smartphones for 10 years.

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I think one of the next revolutions in tools is going to be 3D printing. It’s not ready in it’s current form, it’s still in the briefcase sized cellphone stage.

There’s a lot of materials you that you can use now – concrete, metal, and I’ve even seen wood fiber. Maybe we’ll see the plumber have one in the truck to print out the exact abs fitting they need. Or they might be in the stores – they’ll carry less stock. You put in an order on the way to the store and it’s done when you get there.

Like any new technology I can’t predict how it’ll be used, but it is definitely going to play a role.

Maybe to take over the world or other evil plans lol.


I think you’re spot on with the 3D printing idea. It’s only a matter of time before materials strong enough to be used in tools (carbon fiber, metal, etc) are printable in some form.

I also think the idea of printing a part in your van and then installing will take off at some point.

I personally haven’t used a 3D printer- but assuming the software is user friendly and intuitive; I see no reason either of the above scenarios wouldn’t take off

This is not exactly a “tool” but as I have read about this invention over the years I cannot but think that some day in the not too distant future it will be available for commercial sale. I’m talking about the “exoskeleton”. I understand they are being developed for military use right now but I’m guessing in forty, maybe even twenty years one will be able to go to Lowes or Home Depot and pick out a set for the legs or a set for the arms or the deluxe set that contains both. Imagine putting on a pair of “arm enhancers” and cutting and splitting wood for the fire place. How much easier to hustle around a three quarter inch 4 by 8 sheet of plywood. I can’t wait but alas, I probably won’t be around when the exoskeleton goes commercial.


Maybe some sort of robot assistant, not just carrying stuff but holding pieces in place like an assistant. You know, a guy who doesn’t know much, doesn’t get paid much (at all) but is totally reliable. Let that “guy” wear the skeleton usually.

There you go! I hadn’t thought of that!

Sometimes its evolution and sometimes revolution.

The OMT - patented by Fein and first introduced as the Multimaster - seems to me to have been an adaptation of the Stryker oscillating saw invented by Dr. Homer Stryker in 1943 for use in removing plaster casts. The fact that Fein recognized its potential for woodworking - having made their version of the Stryker saw since 1967 - was what was inspired… When the Fein Multimaster patents expired in 2008 - that resulted in the OMT becoming really popular - but many were using a Multimaster from its introduction in 1995. I bought my first one fro my home shop in 2001 having bought a few for the business a few years earlier.

The Porter Cable restorer - invented by an independent (Wellington Tool) looked to me to be a homeowner version of tools from Metabo and Fein used in the metalworking trades - and not unlike the Makita Wheel Sander that had been out for many years.

A more recent addition to my home shop was the Festool Domino machine. I bought their XL version when it came out - and its changed my way of working. Portable power tools for doweling had been out previously (I tried one by Freud - which had serious precision issues) and a new one from Mafell looks promising - but the Domino system works efficiently and precisely - much easier than earlier jigs to create floating tenons. I predict that once the Festool patents expire we’ll see more options for this tool.

Back on topic of what tools are likely to be invented - I agree that 3D printing offers lots of potential. Perhaps the adaptation of waterjet machining to a handheld (or small portable) tool might also offer options we don’t have now for cutting metal and concrete in the field. A compact (maybe even handheld) rail gun for breaking concrete and stone would also be nice. At the other end a compact tool for pumping concrete and grout would be nice.

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I know I’m going to get flack for this… And I probably deserve it…

I think the “Next Revolution/Evolution” of tools is going to be in a Human Prosthetic. Something that replaces a human body part, and is capable of enhanced tasks within the tool use user space. Although I can’t predict what will come first, I CAN tell you for certain that it will start with someone using their own, old-fashioned, prosthetic in a way that is unexpected or unintended. It will then lead to an actual design addition to the original that makes it all-new, and dedicated as a tool for use in the trades.

Maybe it will be a Wood or Metal Worker, perhaps a Machinist, whatever the trade it originates as, it’s going to come out of anger and frustration. Then, we’ll look back ten years later, and wonder how we ever lived without the plethora of Enhanced Prosthetic Devices that we’ve developed. Glass Eyes? Try Thermal Vision Camera, linked to a Google Glasses style device that feeds the data overlay to the other eye. Or, the old robot joke, where there’s a hex driver under a fingertip, and the user can command the finger to spin the driver.

Yes, there’s the idea of lift-enhancing motorized exoskeletons, but I genuinely believe we’re far enough along the trend of Home-Prototyping, that thermoplastics, Arduino/Raspbery Pi programmed devices, and whole-home Semi-AI control devices may well be a path we’re headed toward augmenting OURSELVES as tools, rather than having the tools becoming increasingly automated outside ourselves.

And this is the point where I should shut up before people start thinking I’m crazy, or paranoid. And, for the record, I’d agree with that assessment. But, I don’t mean any of this as a threat or danger to any of us, or our trades. I’m talking about people who have survived injuries being the people who come up with ways to go BACK to the work they did, with augmented prosthetic devices to empower them to do so. With just Human Will driving it all, Trades people just refusing to be benched due to accidents, then using all this tech around us to make their injuries work for them again. Yes, to the crazy and paranoid… but No to them being part of what I’m seeing the trend to be. The corporate sales divisions will step in after a few years, buying up home prototyping companies, like Makerbot, and all the 3D printing/Laser Cutting device manufacturers, and releasing them under their own names, so what comes out of them carries their brands, and their technology.

“The New DeWALT GyroFinger Driver! Just turn your hand in the direction you want the finger to spin!”

Shutting up now. Probably going to get yelled at now.

precision computer controls moved from the large machinery to your hand drill I think are probalby coming.

you see it now with programmable torque tools on production floors. It’s a electric screw driver with RPM and Torque sensing that BT connects to a computer on the end of the production line so it records all the screws/bolts driven in during the making of your new TV set.

So that exists today though spendy - tomorrow it’s on your new impact drivers for when you putdown that deck on your next job. Now you can record via your mobile and BT - all the screw and lag bolt drives on the ____ deck build job. 3 years from now when someone falls though and the boards have popped off - you can sit in court with your insurnace company and say "according to the Dewalt job site tracking . . . . . whatever we installed 1540 SPAX number _______ screws to the recommended torque of __________. So the boards didn’t loosen up due to improperly installed screws . . . .

I figure some flavor of that is coming quicker. I made 1845 cuts on the job site with saw number ____ using diablo ________ blade. It was then replaced due to wear as indicated by the Milwaukee Job boss ZXL _______.

etc etc.

Little surprised you don’t see this already in tire shops on impact wrenches. again though - it’s coming.

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Yeah, thinks like the Shaper Origin and Shopbot Handibot and Goliath CNC are interesting early examples.

The big thing is, it’s easy to count revolutions / measure resistance, and for many things that’ll be good enough.

The big question is, when is the next breakthrough in sensor technology and what is it and what can it be used for?

Another recent innovation I’m gonna point to is the Rockwell BladeRunner. It’s a jigsaw turned upside-down in a little table. Heinously loud because of cheap construction, lacking in adjustment for blade straightness, hobbled by a lot of misfeatures, but still shockingly useful. I use it in a lot of the same ways I’d use a bandsaw, but without the throat dimension as a constraint. If someone made a pro-grade version of this tool, I’d probably buy one.

To @WillAdams’ question about sensor technology, I think we’ll see some thermal AR glasses soon. I tried to build some with an early Google Glass and Lepton module but lacked the software chops to make it go. But just owning a thermal camera and being able to see everything in heat, totally changes the way you work. You see the blade heating up, you see the wood before it starts to burn, you see the epoxy curing in the cup, you see the drywall mud evaporating. You see the battery actively charging, and the other one on the charger next to it that’s gone idle. Some of these things you smell, but only after it’s too late. Seeing them early is transformative. A handyman with Predator-vision will work much smarter.

I hope the in-wall radar products move from toy status to really-useful soon. I got a Walabot and was totally disappointed, but it shows promise. A studfinder-and-then-some would save a lot of strife. (Everyone who’s drilled into a wire, raise your hand!)

Torque sensing is coming to low-end brushless drivers soon. Because of the way brushless motors work, the controller has intimate knowledge of the energy (torque) required to move every step of the rotation. Adding a torque limit or even a time-torque profile curve is just a matter of software and UI. (i.e. “go to 75 foot-lbs and then a quarter-turn more” could literally be a button.)

There are some jobsite security products that really show promise, but their prices and features aren’t worthwhile for most of us yet. I mean, one of these giant 18v 6AH batteries can run a hell of a telemetry package for quite a long time, why don’t we all have motion-sensing video-transmitting bluetooth-proximity-tracking GPS-logging jobsite-minders strapped to our gangboxes? Because nobody’s developed one that doesn’t suck yet. Get on it!

I want a fan that uses a little camera to point the air where I am, so a smaller battery can keep me cooler for longer. Don’t oscillate. Designate!

Someday, someone will make a multimeter that charges from USB or Qi instead of eating 9v batteries. I will give them my firstborn.

Speaking of multimeters, I think there’s a market need for a decent portable oscilloscope that doesn’t suck. The DSO Nano was such a cool idea, but totally flubs every spec that matters. The solution here might be to lash an 18v battery nest onto the back of a DS1102E, but is that the best we can do? I think not! Gimme a netbook-sized MSOX3k, Keysight! With wifi!

Cameras suck. The SeeSnake is enormous, too big and too stiff for most of my needs. I can get 5mm-diameter USB UVC “endoscope” cameras on eBay for five bucks, but the cellphone software side sucks. A sold-together kit with good connectors and software that Just Works™ would be worth a good chunk of a paycheck…

The ES120 screwdriver needs to spawn a family. I don’t need screw-snapping torque, I need fine control and speed. Gyro control like the DeWalt DCF680 would be nice, but I refuse to buy a special-snowflake tool whose battery is good for literally nothing else. Hey Milwaukee, where’s the M12 version of that, eh?

USB power-banks are long overdue. My first DIY Ryobi 18v-to-USB charger is over a decade old now, and they’re just starting to hit the market en masse. The Milwaukee 48-59-1201 just came out last year, and it doesn’t even do USB-C. Hello, hello? Is anybody in there? Also it doesn’t do passthrough charging. C’mon, guys. The aftermarket is eating your lunch on this.

I’ve begged and pleaded Brady to come out with a labelmaker that takes power tool batteries, sick to death of feeding rechargeable AA’s to my BMP21, whose idle current draw makes me think the power circuit was designed by a first-year EE who’d never heard of FETs. It makes the best printed labels on the market, but the tool itself is an abomination against every form of ergonomics. Isn’t it made for electricians? Hello, Milwaukee? You. Brady. Milwaukee. Kiss! Also, Bluetooth and ZPL emulation. It’s not 2002 anymore. C’mon.

Speaking of running silly things on power tool batteries, did you know with nothing more than passive adapters, a Ryobi 18v battery can run and charge a modern Thinkpad? Boy, I’d love if that was an official product.

Also, power tool batteries are starting to have enough grunt to run serious tools; the DeWalt DCB1800B is a portable inverter that runs from 4x batteries, and can drive a laser printer if you so feel like. (Laser toner doesn’t run when it gets wet, so I think it’s more appropriate on a jobsite than inkjet.) This needs to be a lot more common; some of us aren’t willing to invest (heavily! yikes!) in a new battery system for one cool tool.

Speaking of inverters. Where the [expletive] are the hybrid work trucks? We got our hopes up back in 2006, hopes that were then dashed: – seriously? I threw an aftermarket inverter in my hybrid because nobody’s supporting power-export as a native feature. It does yeoman service but it could be so much better if it talked to the rest of the powertrain. There’s roughly 30kW sitting in a Prius waiting to be tapped…

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I need a small machine that I can give it the plastic part of my tools from one end and from the other end it gives me a metal version of that plastic piece, I should only provide the piece for the machine, all the calculation should be done by the machine, I should not need to learn the machine or a specific program to be able to work with.