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Sawstop Inventor Still Struggling to Save Fingers
7/12/2011

Stephen Gass's Sawstop system reportedly has saved more than a thousand fingers that have touched the saw blade.  Source: Sawstop LLC
Stephen Gass’s Sawstop system reportedly has saved more than a thousand fingers that have touched the saw blade.
Source: Sawstop LLC

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Alexander Wolfe
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Blogger
The way of all safety improvements
Alexander Wolfe   7/12/2011 2:31:30 PM
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This important safety story reminds me of seat belts, shoulder-harness seat belts, and air bags. All of those developments were around years before they were widely adopted. Of course, as you point out here, there's a little bit more involved in terms of retooling. Still, you'd think the prospect of spare digits (not to mention, prevention of deaths) would be something that'd get customers crying out to the vendors to implement this great feature. (Everyone should see that video.)

Timmmy49
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Iron
safety
Timmmy49   7/12/2011 3:00:09 PM
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This should help prevent accidental injuries and hopefully there is a measure in place to prevent tampering of the safety device.  This article should be tied into the common sense article.  Safety is only as good as the person using the tool.  Engineers can always design safety into the equipment, but in the end it comes down to the operator.


SoCalPE
User Rank
Gold
All in the numbers?
SoCalPE   7/12/2011 3:35:49 PM
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I have been following SawStop news for years.  This is great technology for industry and the home wood worker!  It's good to know that he may be gaining more acceptance.  Besides the litigation aspects, I imagine that this comes down to the numbers, 30,000 injuries a year may be very small compared number of saws sold annually.  As in the pharmaceutical industry, a new drug is not worth developing unless profit can be realized from millions of new customers.  Perhaps in the near future Mr. Gass can reduce the cost of the system to make it more appealing to the masses.


Beth Stackpole
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Blogger
Acquisition target?
Beth Stackpole   7/12/2011 4:22:00 PM
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Given the attention the Sawstop and Stephen Gass has gotten over the years for this exciting invention, is it a stretch to think that power tool manufacturers might jump on acquiring or licensing the technology? Especially if there are signs of possible regulation pending that might mandate similar safety functionality. I would think there would be plenty of opportunity there unless Gass prefers to hold out.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Acquisition target?
Rob Spiegel   7/12/2011 5:15:03 PM
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Yes, I've followed this story as well, and I'm surprised some manufacturer hasn't grabbed this technology to give its products a competitive edge -- especially since this story is getting around and there is likely some pent-up consumer demand. Maybe that's the push is needs, a producer willing to incorporate the technology and test it on the upper end of the saw market. I've heard $99 quoted as the additional cost of incorporating Gass's technology. And apparently it works.

Greg Stirling
User Rank
Platinum
Keep track of your fingers...
Greg Stirling   7/12/2011 5:29:58 PM
I work around a 15 inch cold saw with 100 whirling carbide teeth.  There are also numerous other wood working and metal working saws on site.

When I was a kid, we had a small project and my dad set me up on a radial arm saw.  He told me "This saw will take off your hand of before you know what hit you."

In high school I worked for a large structural steel fabricator with steel flying all over the place and in my adult life have been around all types of moving automation.

Over the years I develpoed a policy of keeping my hands and fingers at least a foot away from any saw or moving machinery.  I use a piece of wood or clamps to hold the workpiece.

I remember the Sawstop, it is a fantastic idea, and I am sure very difficult to perfect.  But as was said earlier, if the safety measure is applied to this saw then it needs to be applied to all saws.  

(Do we want to teach people that it is ok to stick your fingers into "certain" saws. - knowing human nature, probably not)

This is impracticle with all the different saws and cutters out there.  Additionally that would send mixed signals about the danger with saws...

Kind of like looking both ways before crossing the street...

 

 

Tim
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Platinum
Saw safety
Tim   7/13/2011 2:14:13 AM
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Sharp blades spinning at a high rate of speed are dangerous. This is key to any cut off fixture design. For manufacturing, the two main focuses are the cut off operation and then protecting the operator from the cut off operation. There should be no reason why this mentality should not carry over into the consumer market. The standard (cheap) solutions from saw manufacturers have been splitters and saw covers. These are cumbersome and block view of the blade. They are also easily removed which defeats their purpose. Upgrading to the Sawstop technology will put a non-removable safety technology on a very dangerous piece of equipment.

BobGroh
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Platinum
Random thoughts on Sawstop
BobGroh   7/13/2011 11:24:41 AM
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Two somewhat contradictory comments from an engineer and amateur wood hacker. First of all, what Stephen Gass and Sawstop have done is fantastic. Not only does his invention work (have you seen the demo where someone actually places their finger on the line!  No - not the hot dog but someone (Mr. Gass?) actually puts their finger in front of an operational blade!) but the tablesaw itself is a darned good one. IF I had the money and the space and the need for a new table saw, I would certainly buy one. 

So the saw itself is a darned good saw and the blade stopping safety mechanism works and works well.

BUT (you knew there had to be a but) should all saws be required to have this type of technology? I'm not at all sure. A lot of accidents where folks lose a finger or two to a spinning blade are their own fault because they don't use the saw the way they should.  They defeat/remove the saw guard, they get zero training on the saw, etc. It is truly amazing the number of ingenious ways people think of in order to get their fingers down there in the danger zone.

By mandating a 'stop the blade' mechanism, we will be increasing the cost of a table saw rather substantially.  I'm guessing that if the Bill of Material cost went up by $100, the selling price would go up $200 - a big jump for a $400 table saw and prohibitive for a $200 table saw. If I had my druthers, I would pay the price but I think a lot of people would be a bit unhappy.

None the less, the sawstop technology is fantastic and the gumption of Stephen to produce a new saw (actually a line of saws) incorporating this technology is wonderful.  A great saw and a great accomplishment.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Long process
Charles Murray   7/13/2011 11:40:22 AM
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I understand the arguments against this technology. But this is a technology that should come down in price and spread to more types of saws in the coming decades. It's still in its infancy today. When I talked to Gass last week, he said, "I like to imagine that 30 years from now, people will tell their kids about how saws could cut your fingers off back in the old days. It will be comparable to talking about how bleeding people was once an accepted medical treatment."

Dave Palmer
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Platinum
Re: Acquisition target?
Dave Palmer   7/15/2011 8:20:17 PM
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One application I could see for this product would be in aluminum foundries.  Traditionally, band saw operator is one of the first jobs for new employees.  It's also one of the more dangerous.  Installing a Sawstop would be much cheaper than a robotic cut-off cell, and the savings in terms of lost work time, workman's compensation, insurance, medical costs, etc. would easily justify it.  Plus, it might just help a foundry win some goodwill from OSHA.

Maybe instead of focusing on home power tool manufacturers, Gass should focus on industrial users.  As T.J. pointed out in another thread, under the U.S. legal system, the employer as well as the equipment manufacturer are liable in industrial accidents, since the employer has the responsibility to provide a safe workplace.  If the equipment manufacturers are resisting this technology, maybe the employers will be more receptive.

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