12

SawStop sells table saws with a safety feature which causes the blade to descend and stop if it makes contact with someone's skin.

Are there other options, similar to a SawStop system, available on the market today? Specifically, I'm looking for a product that:

  • allows me to operate my table saw without any guards over the blade*
  • prevents the blade from cutting through my flesh
  • is not affiliated with SawStop

* not a recommendation

  • I like the idea of sawstop a lot, and would like to see more trends in convenient tablesaw safety. If the measures taken to ensure safe use are too cumbersome, they're more likely to be ignored or removed. (and rendered useless). Tablesaws are the biggest offender in workshop related injuries (wwgoa.com/shop-accident-statistics-and-woodworking-safety) including my father's thumb, and I would love to see them made safer. – Daniel B. Apr 8 '15 at 16:43
  • While we're at it, until such machines are (affordably) available ... wwgoa.com/video/… Some tablesaw safety for beginners. – Daniel B. Apr 8 '15 at 16:44
  • I consider this dangerous rather than helpful. Power tools, saws and routers in particular, are powerful high-speed machines which, by their very nature, are brutally dangerous (they have to be!). That's why you wouldn't allow your 6 year old near the table saw, too. You must respect them, and you must be careful at every moment. Having a tool that is marketed with a "safe" stop mechanism means you are more likely to get injured because you inevitably pay less attention. 5 ms at 3500RPM is a 1/3 turn of the blade. This is enough to lose several fingers or have a serious wound. – Damon Apr 9 '15 at 7:53
  • Even the mere thought "allows me to operate [...] without guards over the blade" is telling. This is just the kind of thought you're led to have, and it's not a good thing. Be wary and take all precautions, always. No exceptions. Think about it: Why does SawStop provide a "hot dog demo" instead of the guy sticking his finger into the saw? Shouldn't be a problem for him, should it? – Damon Apr 9 '15 at 7:56
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    @Damon--they actually do have demos of the CEO touching the blade with his finger. Also, there are many reasons why one would want to operate the saw without the blade guards. For example, using a cross-cut sled, making narrow cuts, cutting coves. I also disagree that you're more likely to get injured on a sawstop--that's pretty absurd. You might be more likely to have contact with the blade (if you're an idiot), but you'd have to be superman to move fast enough to have it cut pretty significantly. (Unless, of course, you're referring to kickback, which sawstop never claims it prevents). – dfife Apr 9 '15 at 14:23
13

No, SawStop is the only table saw currently available for purchase (as of Apr 2015) which features a flesh-triggered active safety device.

However, on March 16, 2015, Bosch announced a jobsite table saw featuring an active safety system they call REAXX. Although the saw is not yet available for purchase, the press release notes, "The Bosch REAXX Jobsite Table Saw will be available fall 2015."

Also, in 2010, Whirlwind Tool demonstrated a flesh-triggered blade brake which stops the blade in 1/8 second but this system is also not available on the market as of April 2015. Although they have not brought a product to market as of April 2015, a press release states that Whirlwind Tool is looking for someone to buy or license their technology. According to the press release, the company was apparently tied up in litigation from 2012 until possibly early 2015 (the press release is not clear on the end date). This is the only active safety device for a table saw that can be retrofitted onto an existing table saw, and the company has named the device Black Box.

How each system works

SawStop's namesake safety system uses a one-time-use spring-loaded cartridge to push a perforated piece of aluminum into the blade and causes the blade's transferred rotational inertia to pull the blade below the table. The blade brake stops the blade in less than 5 milliseconds, but it can damage the blade and must be replaced after each activation.

Bosch's REAXX system uses a two-sided cartridge (reportedly based on Bosch's airbag deployment technology) to push the blade below the table while the blade spins down naturally. Bosch's system does not damage the blade and the cartridge can be flipped around and used a second time before it must be replaced.

The Whirlwind Tool Black Box differs from the other two systems in that it does not sense flesh contact directly through the blade. Instead, it detects the proximity of flesh to a blade guard. When the blade guard detects flesh within a certain distance, it triggers a non-destructive blade brake which stops the blade in 1/8 second (which may be fast enough to prevent an injury since the brake is supposed to activate before flesh contact with the blade).

  • Although it is much slower to hide the blade than a SawStop, which takes 5 ms, I assume Whirlwind's system detects your skin from far enough away that 1/8 second is long enough? – lars Apr 8 '15 at 22:20
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    Yes, that's a good observation. I double-checked and it is part of Whirlwind's sales pitch. Originally I excluded it to try to remain neutral, but since omitting it could be seen as introducing bias against the Whirlwind design, I've added that detail to my overview of their technology. – rob Apr 9 '15 at 18:05
5

Yes, a new product with skin-sensing technology was just recently announced by Bosch.

"The key to Bosch’s safe saw is a device that uses similar technology that Bosch’s auto-parts division uses to deploy air bags in automobiles. ... With this saw, when the blade senses a finger (or any flesh), the device fires a cartridge that immediately and oh-so-speedily drops the blade completely below the table surface, leaving the user with only a slight scrape or skin nick. Unlike SawStop—which ruins both blade and brake cartridge—the Bosch flesh-detecting Active Response Technology kills the power and lets the blade coast to a stop safely within the cabinet, preserving it for future use."

(My emphasis: a significant improvement over the SawStop break.)

Read more about it here on Wood Magazine's site: Bosch develops tablesaw with blade-brake safety.

  • 4
    SawStop says the blade is often ok or reshapenable, but they grant that damaged blades are also common result of triggering their brake. Personal opinion: If the brake triggers st all, cost of blade and cartridge is the last thing I'll be worrying about.... and Sawstop's saws are pretty darned high quality (had to be to justify the price); we'll have to see what kind of saw Bosch actually wraps around their brake. – keshlam Apr 8 '15 at 19:04
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    If the saw stop system triggers due to flesh contact, yes, the last thing to worry about is the cost of the blade and cartridge. However, the system is not perfect and does have false triggers, due to high humidity and high moisture content in the wood as well as other conductive materials. Could get expensive. – OSU55 Apr 8 '15 at 21:26
  • @keshlam Bosch has already announced their REAXX-equipped saw will be a premium jobsite saw priced at $1499 USD/$1699 CAD. – rob Apr 9 '15 at 20:09
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    Update: SawStop has sued Bosch for patent infringement. Currently SawStop seems to be winning the argument. While I'd like to see some honest competition in this area to encourage further innovation, I certainly can't blame SawStop for defending their patent if it's a legitimate infringement. BTW, SawStop has a "test mode" which can be used to check whether wood is damp enough to be likely to set it off, basically connecting the sensor to a light rather than to the airbag charge. I presume the competing systems have something similar. – keshlam Sep 20 '16 at 4:11
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    SawStop won the case. Bosch is no longer producing the REAXX. – m4tt1mus Nov 17 '17 at 20:30

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