Repurposing the Tool Upgrades
The current tool upgrades are simple speed changes that don't really do all that much.
My plan is to convert them from having four steps to the twofold basic/advanced system that the other blocks tend towards using (see normal/advanced rotors, light/heavy armor, basic/normal (refinery|assembler), renewable/reactor, debatably small/large ships and gatling/rocket).
The basic tools would only use the basic components and resources, as defined by the basic refinery and assembler's capabilities, while the advanced versions would work faster and have access to the full range of abilities.
Note that both tiers of drills would be able to RMB through voxels without resource gain, for convenience, while only advanced grinders would be able to damage advanced blocks.
I think that this would be an easy way of creating significant progression while avoiding the pitfall of artificial or obvious content gating. As an added bonus, it makes suicide grinding just a little harder and more annoying by adding a cost to each attempt on a well-defended base.