A great invention and some manufacturers are using it. As a woodworker, I thought it was a great idea but:
When the invention first came out, Mr Gass tried to get a mandate that all manufacturers must use his technology which gave the appearance that he was not really interested in personal safety, he was just trying to force all manufacturers to pay him licensing fees.
The early version could false detect and Sawstop destroyed your saw. Cutting green or wet wood could result in a destroyed saw. Most woodworkers loved the concept but not the implementation. If these issues have been fixed, I would choose a saw with Sawstop. The operative word is choose. An invention should go to the market, not to the legal system, for acceptance.
I don't believe this technology works for metal cutting applications since it is sensing the change in capacitance created by the blade touching a water filled object (you). If you are cutting a metallic object then the blade is already grounded through the metal object and there will be no change to measure.
About the issue of mandating this on new saws. There is a perverse effect of unintended consequences. The most menacing wood working shop tool would have to be the shaper, yet they tend to have the lowest injury rates. Why? Two-fold, for starters only the more experienced woodwork is willing to invest in a shaper so hopefully being more experienced he is also more careful. But I believe the most important reason is that by their very design shapers scare the crap out of the user which makes them a lot more cautious and deliberate in their use.
The same effect happens in traffic. A wider, safer looking residential street encourages speeding which in turn increases car/pedestrian accident rates. That is why the current trend is to restrict (narrow) streets that have a lot of car/pedestrian accidents to make drivers less comfortable and slow down. If adding sawstop technology makes a table saw seem less dangerous to the user then it will most likely result in increased injury rates rather than reduced injury rates. While blade cuts from table saws are common they are mostly superficial. The most common serious table saw injuries are caused by kick-back.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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