We mentioned SawStop’s skin-sensing auto-stop table saws a while back, but we weren’t aware of the ongoing legal wranglings in the industry as a result of their product introduction until today.
According to this article in Design News:
Vindication arrived for Stephen Gass on the afternoon of June 28, 2006, when someone finally agreed with him. It had been nearly seven years since Gass invented his skin-sensing table saw, and in that time he’d begun to wonder if anyone would truly see the wisdom behind his device. Over the years, the responses he received from the power tool industry graduated from indifference to hostility. He’d gone from being a rejected outsider to a festering industry sore. And by 2006, Gass himself had considered quitting many times.
But on that June day, everything changed. Someone understood. Acting on a petition from Gass, engineers at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommended that the government begin a “rulemaking process” that could result in mandatory safety standards for table saws. Days later, the agency’s commissioners shocked the power tool industry by concurring with the recommendation. They saw the wisdom in his petition. Suddenly, the ultimate outsider joined the game, and now he was holding a strong hand.
We were under the impression that high cost and lack of brand-recognition was limiting SawStop’s sales, and we wondered why other more notable manufacturers hadn’t licensed the technology. Apparently liability concerns — and, of course, Gass’ request for an eight percent royalty on each mechanism — factor into the equation.
Now it seems each side is seeking federal legislation to require/not-require the safety technology on all applicable products. Design News’ writers suggest that such regulation may mean little to SawStop in the short run, but could help to firmly polarize the industry toward developing or not developing the technology.
Personally, we’d like to see SawStop’s gear — or a similar, non-patented technology — made widely available. Maybe our kids’ll grow up to believe shop teachers really do have 10 fingers.
From Reader Comments: Michael, a cabinet maker, points out that he sometimes cuts wet wood on his saw, which would trigger the SawStop. (And as the SawStop’s cartridge has to be replaced after each incident, that’d get expensive.) He also sagely points out, “Nothing will compensate for lack of common sense on the part of the operator.”