Cool Tools: Battery-Assisted Tools

As hand tools evolved, they have made some routine manual tasks easier with the incorporation of small batteries. Battery-assisted crimping tools and cutters are examples that come to mind. These and other battery-assisted hand tools can help make workers more productive, and they provide ergonomic benefits.

According to Bob Klaviter, product manager, Panduit Corp.: “Ergonomics remains a top-of-mind issue for manually operated tools. Repetitive-motion injuries to the hand and wrist continue to be one of the most frequent lost-time injuries. Battery-powered tools eliminate such repetitive stress injuries that can be caused with manually operated tools. Termination tools that incorporate controlled-cycle mechanisms ensure the tool, not the operator, controls the termination and are preferred by many users. Tools with this feature provide high quality terminations consistently. Such tools also offer proven reliability with life cycles up to 50,000.

“Numerous other tools are available today in battery-assisted versions, and other stand-alone hand tool products using the latest battery technologies speed work previously done by hand and offer capabilities only recently available in a compact tool.

“Battery-powered tools have been in existence since the early 1990s. Originally, tools were powered by nickel-cadmium batteries. Next came nickel metal-hydride batteries that eliminated the memory effect that prematurely shortened the life of nickel-cadmium batteries. Today, battery-assisted crimping tools with lithium-ion batteries provide up to 135 percent more crimp cycles and up to 30 percent faster crimping speeds than nickel metal-hydride batteries. In addition, lithium-ion batteries weigh half as much as nickel metal-hydride batteries, making the tools much lighter and easier to use.

“The design of battery-powered crimping tools has also made them more ergonomic and easier to use. Inline crimping tool configurations provide versatility for use in restricted spaces to increase productivity. This also allows for one-hand operation and reduces operator fatigue to enhance workplace safety.

“With the advent of battery-powered crimpers, demand for battery-powered cable-cutting tools is growing. As with battery-powered crimpers, installers seek to improve productivity for the overall tasks involved with cable terminations. Installers are also requesting the need for safer and more efficient wire-stripping tools. Many electricians use wire-stripping knives to strip insulation from wire, which has resulted in installers suffering from lost-time injuries from being cut by these knives.

“Battery-powered tools also have very fast crimp cycle times, less than three seconds in some cases, making them more productive than manually operated tools. Initial cost of a battery-operated tool is much higher than a manual tool. However, for operations that require medium to high levels of crimping, the ROI for a battery-powered tool as a result of labor savings can be achieved in a relatively short period of time.

“Datacom applications have turned to the same quality-control requirements as used by telecommunications companies related to crimping operations. Typically, telecommunications companies specify the use of die-type crimping tools where the crimping dies used in these tools are designed to terminate a single barrel size connector to a single size conductor. Thus, many electrical contractors that provide installations for data centers as well as other industrial applications will use die-type tools for both applications,” Klaviter said.

According to Bob Poirier, segment sales manager, Burndy: “Battery-actuated­ crimping and cutting tools offer an advantage over hand-operated hydraulic and remote hydraulic tools. Battery-actuated­ tools are faster and do not require the operator to do the work. Manual hand-operated tools require the operator to pump the handles to generate hydraulic pressure within the tool to crimp or cut. Battery-actuated tools only require the operator to insert a battery and pull the trigger. The tool does all the work and much faster and with less risk for work-related injuries.

“Self-contained battery-actuated tools also offer an advantage over remote hydraulic crimping and cutting tools, which require the operator to carry hydraulic pumps and hoses around the job. Also, many hydraulic pumps require electricity to operate them; this may not be available on the job. Battery-­actuated tools are self-contained and do not require pumps and hoses. One common battery is used for all Burndy crimping and cutting tools,” Poirier said.

According to Ryan Berg, Greenlee’s termination tools product manager: “Battery-assisted crimping, cutting and punch-out tools offer several benefits:

“Battery-powered hydraulic pumps are becoming increasingly popular in the electrical industry. Modern battery-pumps make dumb tools smart. These versatile devices can be used with a wide range of single-acting heads to cut cables, crimp connections, punch holes, and bend conduit,” Berg said.

According to Dave Mueller, senior product manager, Klein Tools: “Long known for its line of quality hand tools, Klein also offers battery-assisted tool products.

“Small, noncontact voltage testers automatically detect and indicate low voltage and standard voltage and are designed for noncontact detection of standard voltage in cables, cords, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, switches, outlets and wires. They also are excellent for noncontact detection of low voltage in security, entertainment, communications, environmental control and irrigation systems.

“Lighted electrician’s levels are visible in dark areas or at any time users need maximum clarity for bubble mark readings. Lighted levels allow electricians to view bubble vials without having to constantly reach for a flashlight. Impact-resistant and laser-etched rule and markings facilitate readers. Rare earth magnets allow hands-free work.

“Illuminated fish rod tips attach to the top of fish rods for maximum visibility in dark plenum spaces, walls and above drop ceilings and help users find a feeding path and provide easy retrieval on the receiving end. The bright white, omnidirectional LED light is long lasting, and the tapered end provides easy pushing and pulling.

“Video borescopes with video, audio, photo recording, file playback as well as video output capabilities allow users to view inaccessible areas to detect problems. They are useful for both electrical and voice/data/video applications.

“Battery-powered hydraulic pumps are becoming increasingly popular in the electrical industry. These jack-of-all-trade devices can be used with a wide range of single-acting heads to cut cables, crimp connections, punch holes, and bend conduit,” Mueller said.

According to Corey Dickert, group product manager, Milwaukee Tool: “The high power density of lithium-ion has allowed manufacturers to challenge conventional wisdom about what types of products can be powered by batteries, sometimes providing new powered solutions to tools once used for manual tasks. Milwaukee offers many tools in this category for electricians. They include cable cutters, shears for cutting nonmetallic conduit, palm nailers and voltage detectors. In many cases, battery-powered tools offer better ergonomics and safety, limiting the injuries caused by repetitive use of hand tools.

“Our battery-powered cutter for large-diameter cable is one of the most valuable to an electrician. With a compact design and powerful cutting mechanism, it eliminates two of the most difficult aspects of installations: fitting the cutting tool in panels/boxes and generating enough force to get the job done. In the past, users have been forced to use hand tools that require a tremendous amount of force and can be extremely awkward to use in crowded panels. Battery-powered cutters generate powerful cutting force and are small enough to fit in tight places.

“Several battery-operated products often are overlooked in discussions about tools because they don’t do the work but provide essential assistance or information needed to complete jobs. In this category are lithium-ion powered inspection cameras, thermal imagers and portable lighting of several types, including stick and flood lights, and including products using LED technology,” Dickert said.

About the Author

Jeff Griffin

Freelance Writer
Jeff Griffin, Oklahoma City, is a construction journalist specializing in the electrical, telecommunications and underground utility construction industries. Contact him at .

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