How Does an Electric Screwdriver Work?

Written by henri bauholz
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Along with the circular saw, the electric screwdriver has become one of the most common electrical tools found in the home builder's toolbox. Over the years, several varieties of these popular items have become highly developed to better aid many different job requirements to a variety of trades. From the heavy-duty screw gun that the sheet rock installer uses to a lightweight battery-powered screwdriver that the electrician carries into nearly inaccessible places, the electric screwdriver or screw gun is here to stay.

Nearly all electric screwdrivers are fitted with a standard shutoff mechanism that controls the operation of the tool. When the trigger is not engaged, the tool remains idle, but once the trigger is squeezed or "turned on," the tool comes to life and performs its specified task. Once the trigger is released, the tool quickly ceases to function. This is the standard shutoff mechanism at work that is so basic to most all electrical tools.

Some of the simplest electric screwdrivers have a locking function, where the electric shaft of the tool with a simple turn of a switch can be locked into place, and the screwdriver can now be used as a hand tool. This duality can be very handy for an electrician or electronic technician who installs alarm systems or garage door openers.

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Electronics

Electric screwdrivers vary quite a bit in their complexity. At the low end of the spectrum is the low torque controlled screwdriver and the slip clutch screwdriver. These are the tools that greatly resemble a flashlight. On the other side of the coin is the right-angled screwdriver and pistol grip screw gun. These tools can draw a lot of amperage and were originally designed to run off of standard 110-volt wall current. However, today many of these "guns" run off battery packs that get recharged every night. The advent of battery packs is a relatively recent development that allow workers to roam "cordless" around a construction site.

The more advanced electric screwdrivers have several technical developments that aid in the difficult task of driving screws into solid wood that necessitate a little further discussion. The complex physical requirements of such a task have necessitated the development of a highly-evolved modern tool with some very new and innovative features.

The first and simplest new trait is the advent of a variable speed control. Actually, variable speed is not so new, but still its development is very important in aiding the worker to begin operation of his tool at a very slow speed and then with a simple squeeze of the trigger progress to a higher rate of operation. The variable speed function is derived solely from the development of better electronic components such as resistors and capacitors.

Gears

The other important technological improvement that has aided the advent of the modern screw gun is the placement of gears inside the tool, which adds more power to the mechanics that drive the tool. Now you have an electric power tool that on the outside resembles an ordinary electric drill, but on the inside it is more closely equivalent to a well-engineered sports car. At last, your power screw gun can perform the same demanding task that would quickly burn out a cheaper drill; it can do it over and over again without any abnormal wear and tear to the tool.

The key to this improvement is the addition of gears to the tool. Gears work best in combination of two or more. Basically, a smaller gear spins and engages a larger gear. Overall, less effort or mechanical energy is required to drive the larger gear when it is combined with the smaller gear. This basic mechanical operation is so common in today's modern world that we could hardly function without the gears. Now it has been linked up with a very basic tool, the screwdriver, to produce a much more powerful electrical device.

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