High Tech Saw Stops Before Cutting Your Finger
28 August 2018
Finger-saving SawStop has been around for a decade, but tool companies aren't interested. Why?
Every day, more than 10 Americans suffer amputations on what is by far the most dangerous woodworking tool: the table saw. Upwards of 30,000 people wind up in emergency rooms with lesser injuries.
"I was just out in my shop one day, and I happened to look over at my table saw and thought, 'You know, I wonder, if you ran your hand under the blade, if you could stop it quick enough that you wouldn't get a serious injury" the company inventor Steve Gass said
Gass is a physicist and he designed the saw that can tell the difference between when it was cutting wood and the instant it started cutting a human finger or hand.
The technology is beautiful in its simplicity: Wood doesn't conduct electricity, but you do. Humans are made up mostly of salty water — a great conductor.
Gass induced a very weak electrical current onto the blade of the saw. He put an inexpensive little sensing device inside it. And if the saw nicks a finger, within 3/1000ths of a second, it fires a brake that stops the blade. Gass demonstrates this in an epic video using a hot dog in place of a finger. The blade looks like it just vanishes into the table.
He called all the major power tool companies telling them about his breakthrough, but none of them wanted to buy his safety brake. He says one company told him "safety doesn't sell."
Gass started his own saw company
But established makers of power tools vehemently object. They say the mandate could double the cost of entry-level table saws and destroy jobs in the power-tool industry. They also point out that Gass holds dozens of patents on the technology. If the CPSC makes the technology mandatory for table saws, that could give Gass a legal monopoly over the table-saw industry until at least 2021, when his oldest patents expire.
Yes, the established makers of power tools are pretty much of if you lose a finger or worse. Money is so much important (sad).
At the same time, table-saw related injuries cost society billions every year. The CPSC predicts switching to the safer saw design will save society $1,500 to $4,000 per saw sold by reducing medical bills and lost work.
Despite greedy tool makers, federal regulators are considering whether to make Gass' technology mandatory in the table-saw industry. The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced plans for a new rule, and the rules could soon take effect.
Gass told the commissioners that history has continued to prove his technology effective. To this day the company says SawStop has never been involved in a serious table saw accident and has documented more than 5,000 "finger saves." He estimates his saws are "99 percent" effective at preventing injuries.
BUT, money-power always wins and Congress, influenced by its investors (lobbies), has thrown up a roadblock against safer saws.
Meanwhile, established toolmakers started working on safety technology of their own, based on Gass's idea. In 2015, Bosch introduced the first SawStop competitor, a table saw called the Reaxx. SawStop accused Bosch of infringing its patents. In January, the International Trade Commission sided with SawStop and blocked sale of the Bosch table saw.
|Written by: Charlie Fischer|