Are Benchtop Saws Gone?
The Carlos Osorio vs. One World Technologies Inc. et. al. lawsuit centers on whether the table saw being used when Osorio’s accident occurred was defective. Osorio’s team claims the Ryobi BTS 15 was defective because there was no independent riving knife, no “user-friendly” guarding system and the saw did not incorporate SawStop technology or a similar technology that detects contact between a person and the spinning blade of a table saw, according to court records. The latter was the focus of the proceedings.
As you might expect, there are differing opinions about the flesh-detecting technology. When was the technology available and when was ready to use? Let’s take a look at the timeline.
Dr. Stephen Gass invented SawStop in 1999. By mid-2000, Gass had built a refined prototype. In October of that year, Gass met with representatives from One World Technologies. According to the documents, One World contemplated SawStop technology for its larger contractor saw, but never considered the technology for the lighter, inexpensive benchtop saws that constitute the majority of One World’s business.
SawStop technology, according to One World, was not mechanically or economically feasible as presented in late 2000/early 2001. And systems of this design could not be installed on small saws without re-engineering those saws, thus raising the prices, according to court documents. (Benchtop saws are direct-drive saws and the technology that SawStop uses on its saws requires a way for the blade, once stopped, to quickly fall into the cabinet and away from the operator.
Court records indicate that in January 2002, One World executed a licensing agreement that Gass did not countersign. Negotiations ended. But according to Osorio’s attorney, Gass proposed a few minor revisions to that agreement and One World failed to respond, then inexplicably cut off negotiations. Later discovery revealed that One World did stop discussions with Gass because it intended to enter into a “joint venture” with other major table saw manufacturers to develop an alternative technology , each of which had stopped discussions with Gass.
As for that joint venture, court records report that there is a joint venture (set up in 2003) in existence today. It is known as the PTI (Power Tool Institute) Blade Contact Joint Venture. According to court documents, there has been a prototype developed by the PTI Blade Contact Joint Venture that was provided by the Joint Venture’s third-party vendors.
In late 2002, Gass and partners decided to make their own saws. Ryobi began production of the BTS 15 in 2003 and manufactured the BTS 15 that Osorio used in October 2004. In late 2004, SawStop LLC, the company that Gass and his partners started, released its first full production run of the Industrial Cabinet Saws with a $4,000 sales price, according to court records. (Osorio’s attorneys place the release of the production run at mid-2004, just before the subject table saw was manufactured.)
What might be the effect on table saws? On May 8, 2007, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission held an open meeting concerning table saws. In attendance were table saw manufacturer representatives, members of the Power Tool Institute as well as others. During the meeting, it was established that 700,000 to 800,000 table saws are sold each year. Of that number, 89 percent are lower-cost saws, or saws selling at $150 or less. In that case around 625,000 small table saws are sold each year.
That’s a huge number of saws, and a market ripe for flesh-detecting technology. But here we are, 10 years after Gass turned out his breakthrough, and no company, not even SawStop, LLC, has entered the benchtop area of the market.
If flesh-detecting technology, as we know it today, were adopted industry wide, benchtop saws would likely disappear altogether.