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When I think Colman I think gas stoves and sleeping bags — not power tools. Recently, though, Colman teamed up with a company called (wait for it) Team Products International to introduce the Flashcell screwdriver, a light-duty cordless screwdriver that draws its juice from a capacitor rather than a battery, allowing it to fully charge in just 90 seconds.

Of course, the capacitor only holds roughly half the power capacity of a similarly-sized screwdriver, but considering its 90-second charge cycle, you’ll still drive more screws per hour than a traditional battery-powered device — as long as you stay in the general viscenity of the charger.

Other benefits: it’s ready to go right out of the box, there’s no “battery memory” and Colman Claims a whopping 500,000 charge cycle lifespan. The 5.4V screwdriver delivers 35 in-lbs of torque and a 220 RPM top speed — so you’re not going to be installing a deck with it, though it’d work fine for computer case screws.

It ships with a charging base complete with a needle-style gauge that shows the charging status as well as ten bits for various jobs. Street pricing is around $100, though it looks like you’ll have to order it directly from the official site if you want it now. But keep a lookout for it in stores before Christmas.

Flashcell Driver [Official Site]
Team Products International [Official Site]
Flashcell Video Demo [YouTube]

 

16 Responses to Coleman’s Screwdriver: Look Ma, No Battery!

  1. This has the potential to be a cool product, but I find it suspicious that they don’t mention the runtime anywhere I can find. Where did you find that “the capacitor only holds roughly half the power capacity of a similarly sized screwdriver?” Are you talking about torque or Watts? I can’t seem to find any spec on how long the screwdriver lasts on a charge. If it lasts long enough to drive in two screws between charges it is useless. It would need to drive 10 to 25 screws per charge not to be severely annoying.

    High capacity (Super) capacitors have been around for a long time. I haven’t heard of any new technology that would give you longer then 10 seconds of run time with very little load. Typically they are used in electronic devices in conjunction with a real battery. They are low voltage, typically 1 to 2V so you would need about 4-5 cells in parallel to get 5V. They also only store have a fraction of the capacity for their weight compared to regular batteries.

    For more info Wikipedia seems to be pretty accurate in this case.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercapacitor

  2. bryce says:

    http://www.edn.com/index.asp?layout=blog&blog_id=1470000147&blog_post_id=820014682

    ” For example, the lithium-ion-powered 3.6V iXO cordless screwdriver from Skil gets 37 screws per charge while the FlashCell gets only 22. But the Skil’s charge time is on the order of hours, not seconds.”

  3. The more I think about this product, the more I see its merits. Heck, even if the driver requires frequent 90 second recharges, the time can be used for water breaks. If the work is so demanding that 90 seconds cannot be spared, then a pro-grade tool such as the Bosch PS20 is a better tool choice.

    Hopefully the price will drop below $100 since for that price you can instead purchase 2 or more mid-end drivers to rotate between charges.

    Folks who have one or more drivers already may be reluctant to purchase another. While a lot of people do put their work on hold while waiting for a driver to recharge, there’s always the option of purchasing an extra battery or driver, whipping out a cordless drill, or whipping out a manual driver.

    Still, I think that this product has much potential. Given the nature of Coleman’s other product lines, I’m thinking that they’ll release a 12V car adapter accessory or bundle.

  4. Bryce, The link to the original article is:

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/blogs/technology_news/4223118.html

    The blog posting you linked to provided links to the wrong PM article. I wish they would have given some real numbers, but here’s the heart of their findings (Quote from above Popular Mechanics link, we want to credit our sources)

    “In our tests, the 90-second number held up, and although it ran out of juice relatively quickly, as an around-the-house screwdriver, the Flashcell has a lot going for it. Similar low-powered drivers last longer per charge, and lose power less quickly when not in use, but they can also take hours to recharge. Team Products claims that the Flashcell should retain about 85 percent of its charge when sitting on a shelf for three months. But, again, we’re talking 90 seconds.”

    I will still remain skeptical until I see some real test numbers under real loads, but I like the idea of a tool that isn’t useless after the batteries finally die in 1-2 years. I think that is almost more important then the fast recharge time. Ever try to buy new batteries for a tool after the battery is dead? You end up paying a high percentage of the tools original price, sometimes more.

    I’ll be watching this technology a little closer.

  5. Hello Moto says:

    “Folks who have one or more drivers already may be reluctant to purchase another. While a lot of people do put their work on hold while waiting for a driver to recharge, there’s always the option of purchasing an extra battery or driver, whipping out a cordless drill, or whipping out a manual driver.”

    I don’t necessarily agree, if they can get this technology to create a full-strength drill/driver then I could see these becoming very popular. Most people want a cordless model today yet still work within a few feet of an outlet, as such you really only need to be able to run 25-50% as long as a standard driver because you can just put the tool in the charger between uses an thus use it indefinitely, and since caps can be cycled nearly forever it’s not really an issue where putting the battery back on the charger will reduce its lifetime. I work on a FIRST FRC team and while we’re working we use 2 drills with 5 batteries in rotation and by the end of last season bought another drill with 2 batteries, even so the corded drill still had to be brought out because batteries get used in the first hour or two and then power is still needed for the next 4 hours.

    On the other hand battery powered devices will probably still be needed I remember working on a house where the only power was back in the shed which was housing main tools, table/miter saw, joiner, etc. where you wouldn’t be able to get to an outlet every 15 minutes, having a full battery (several actually) would still be more convenient.

  6. Simon says:

    IMHO, with the advent of lithium ion tools like the Bosch which recharges in 30 mins and lasts for almost a day of work, this seems like a “makes a perfect father’s day gift” type of tool. In other words, not hot.

    If you really want a cheap drill, get a corded version.

  7. About time! I’m totally getting one of these and replacing the motor with a gonzo flashlight head. :) The other benefit of a capacitor over a battery is amazingly low internal resistance, so all that power is available at once. I bet this sucker makes some serious torque relative to the size of its motor!

    The flashlight would be even cooler if the charger were inductive, so the case could be totally sealed. (You can’t do that with batteries, which generate gas as they charge, but capacitors are viable in such an application.) Hmm, $100 is a bit much for a hack project, but I’m sure they’ll come down. By which time someone else will have done the project and I won’t have to…

    So, am I the only one who read the headline and saw the pic, and thought “flywheel energy storage has finally arrived!”?

  8. Ben says:

    Isn’t a “needle style” charging indicator kind of old school for such a “high tech” item? For $100, I think one would be much better off with the Bosch PS10-2 i-Driver. You can get a reconditioned one with two batteries for only a little more that what this Coleman thing costs and it’s got more than twice as much torque, electronic clutch, and a multi-position head. Yes, the batteries take 30 minutes to charge, but they last a long time.

    Coleman just licensed their name to Team Products International. Quality-wise, their past products have been only a little better than the stuff you can buy at Harbor Freight. In other words, I wouldn’t rush on this one.

    Also, I’m confident that if this capacitor technology was so awesome for power tools, the big tool companies would have already experimented with it. The fact that it’s coming from a “budget” brand says a lot about it. I imagine you’ll be seeing this product being featured on late-night infomercials and QVC before long…

    But that’s just my impression…has anybody actually tried one?

  9. tooldork says:

    I’ll admit that I have my fair share of tools and a lot of them require a battery or a cord, but REALLY???

    Use a regular screwdriver. I can’t see spending $100 for a screwdriver that sinks 22 screws and only lasts 90 seconds before needing to re-charge, even it only takes a few seconds.

    Look Ma, I just flushed 100 bucks down the toilet.

  10. SouseMouse says:

    Casual speculation follows…
    I always thought the big problem with capacitors is that voltage is so directly proportional to charge. So even if it could hold as much energy as a battery, you’d have to have electronics forgiving of a very wide voltage range. Even then I’d expect performance to decrease rapidly below full charge. Perhaps they’ve addressed this by just using a bigger capacitor and only draining it partially.

    I like Nate’s idea of flywheel screwdrivers. I imagine fighting precession to line the tool up when the bearings crap out and the whole tool goes spinning out of your hands and across the floor. Way more exciting than a worn-out battery pack!

  11. The way I picture it, there’s an electrical stage between the flywheel and the motor, so you let it precess and just lock the gimballs when you need something for the field windings to push against. Magnetic flux acts as a torque converter to solve the speed differential, and again, you can recharge it as quickly as your windings can dissipate the heat.

    A flywheel’s not gonna keep a charge very long on the shelf unless the capsule is evacuated, but I’d still pick one up just to play with it.

    As for capacitors and voltage, switchmode converters are pretty good now. Incremental improvements in MOSFETs over the last decade, combined with smarter control electronics, have brought efficiency over 90% in many cases. Some hybrid electric car prototypes are using capacitors for regenerative braking now, because they can absorb energy far faster than current batteries can charge, and the sophisticated motor controllers are adept at shuffling voltages around.

  12. We can most certainly guarantee the product does everything that is claimed because we are the inventors of the technology called Flashcell.
    Yes its true that it is a capacitative technology but they are not the kind of capacitors everybody is familiar with. They are patented Flashcells(TM). Its important to ask the question “what are the the screws you are driving in in the example and what kind of material?” The example is 3/4″ (20mm) No 8 screws driven with no pilot holes into non structural pine. The two major numbers that blow away the conventional screwdriver are that when compared to the market leaders who charge in typically 5 hours, the Flashcell screwdriver has already put 1660 screws (in this 5 hour period) while the others have done absolutely NONE. The other major point is that the output torque is 5.8Nm compared to around 4Nm of the “old tech” LiIon and NiCad screwdrivers so the screws are driven in faster with more force. Flashcells are more environmentally friendly, do not explode and unlike LiIon batteries they are still working after 3 years! Yes its true, most LiIon cells (if you use them or not) have a shelf life of no more than 3-4 years so guess what? Your tool/battery pack with LiIon cells will not work/dies at the end of this period. The other point that needs to be clear is this Coleman tool is not a low end product. It is designed for workshop use and its performance is spec’d at medium to high end so it is definately worth the $99.00. How do I know all this? We invented, designed it and took years to develop it and during this time we compared it to all of its competitors, which incidentally, are not is the same league. Flashcell is one of the most amazing leaps in power tool technology for many many years….use one and you will never go back! http://www.demain.com.au

  13. Marvin McConoughey says:

    Thanks David Scrimshaw. Your pride in your innovative new product comes across clearly. I look forward to seeing the tool and any future developments. The tool has real potential for the many householders who seldom do more than a few screws at a time.

  14. jamesjohnson says:

    With all the talk here… I just found the website and ordered one of these flashcells. The video on their webpage sold me on it.. but then again, I guess it was designed to. I fell for it. If it works as well as they advertise.. I will be happy for around the house functions. I would like one in a 14v instead of just the 5.4 volt though.

    their website: http://www.colemanflashcellscrewdriver.com

    JJ

  15. So true, with so much to stay on top of though how do you balnce it all?

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