industry topics

Table Saw Facts at a Glance

ON MAY 12, 2017, CPSC PUBLISHED A NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING ON TABLE SAWS THE PROPOSED RULE REQUIRING ACTIVE INJURY MITIGATION ON ALL TABLE SAWS ACKNOWLEDGES COSTS OF TABLE SAWS WOULD MORE THAN DOUBLE, MANUFACTURERS MAY EXIT THE TABLE SAW MARKET, SMALL MANUFACTURERS MAY GO OUT OF BUSINESS, SALES OF TABLE SAWS WILL DECREASE, RESULTING IN UNEMPLOYMENT, AND THE GOVERNMENT COULD BE CREATING A MONOPOLY FOR ONE INDIVIDUAL, WHO CAN EITHER CHARGE LICENSING FEES PROJECTED TO RESULT IN PAYMENTS OF $30-35 MILLION PER YEAR OR REFUSE TO LICENSE, IN WHICH CASE MANUFACTURERS WILL BE UNABLE TO COMPLY WITH THE MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS AND ONLY ONE COMPANY'S TABLE SAWS, WHICH ARE CURRENTLY AVAILABLE IN THE MARKETPLACE, WOULD MEET THE REQUIREMENTS.

PLEASE COMMENT BY THE DEADLINE OF JULY 26, 2017

FACTS-AT-A-GLANCE

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  • SawStop’s patent lawsuits, its unsuccessful antitrust suit, and its unsuccessful attempt to mandate its technology through proposed legislation in California, suggest the complexities involved in this issue cannot be resolved by a mandatory CPSC action.
  • If the patent web of SawStop cannot be avoided, the Commission would in effect be imposing a design standard, rather than a performance standard. The mandatory rule would create a monopolistic advantage in the marketplace, generating millions of dollars for SawStop, and raising costs for consumers, together with other potential negative unintended consequences.
  • Mandating a design requirement is not within the Commission's statutory authority.
  • Voluntary standards are working to enhance table saw safety.
  • The injury data utilized by the Commission to justify moving forward with the ANPR included only data regarding saws with the traditional guarding system, which is no longer sold.
  • From 2007 through 2015, PTI members have introduced over 3.2 million saws in the U.S. with newly designed modular guarding systems, including a riving knife, which meet the requirements of the 7th edition UL 987 safety standard.
  • A survey that PTI members have conducted at two different intervals of accident reports involving table saws manufactured from 2007 through the end of 2015 with the new modular guarding systems proves that operator blade contact injuries are approximately 3-4 times less likely compared to traditional spreader mounted guarding systems.
  • A Table Saw Blade Guard Survey recently completed by CPSC to determine modular guard system usage and preferences concluded 71% of users preferred using the modular blade guard compared to the traditional blade guard or no guard at all. 83% report that the modular blade guard prevents hazards associated with operating a table saw to a moderate to large extent.
  • While these results with respect to the UL987 7th edition guarding systems are very good, PTI believes that user acceptance of the new modular guarding system will increase over time, similar to increasing acceptance of safety technology on other products.
  • The rising population in the 1980's of the benchtop saw resulted in a decrease in accidents from circular saws being used improperly. If benchtop saws become drastically more expensive or manufacturers withdraw from the market, there could be a return to improper use of circular saws and unintended declines in safety.
  • CPSC should consider whether a significant cost increase to consumers, a possible withdrawal of manufacturers from the market, ongoing legal action and a possible monopolistic position of one manufacturer are supportive of a mandatory requirement by the government and in the best interest of the consumer.

PTI

  • PTI is a voluntary trade organization representing major manufacturers of portable and stationary power tools.
  • There are 9 member companies, 5 of which manufacture table saws. Member companies employ over 13,000 people with facilities in 40 states and employees in all 50 states.
  • Members represent numerous brands of power tools, e.g. Black & Decker, DeWalt, Milwaukee, Ryobi, Ridgid, Bosch, Festool, Dremel, RotoZip, Hitachi, Makita, Skil, Hilti and Metabo.

Sawstop

  • SawStop has only recently introduced a saw for the benchtop table saw market. The saw was introduced in March of 2015, weighs 79 pounds and retails for $1299.
  • SawStop saws are currently available in the marketplace to any consumer who chooses to purchase them.
  • SawStop technology removes the hazard of a spinning saw blade by jamming a braking pawl into the saw blade, thus stopping the blade in milliseconds and destroying the blade.
  • The SawStop technology cannot be retrofitted to existing table saws.

Royalties/Licensing

  • At one time SawStop approached table saw manufacturers offering to license its patent portfolio technology, demanding an 8% royalty on the retail value of all table saws with the technology in addition to other terms that were onerous and not related to table saw safety.
  • A table saw manufacturer that is not a member of PTI tried to license SawStop’s patent portfolio technology but negotiations failed when the manufacturer alleged that SawStop demanded unreasonable royalties in excess of what was originally being sought. An additional manufacturer of table saws that also is not a member of PTI reported that the company closed a manufacturing facility in Canada because of SawStop and that efforts to negotiate with SawStop were unsuccessful, noting "They don't want to share...they don't want to share with anybody."
  • Since the SawStop technology was introduced in 2000, no manufacturer has been successful in licensing SawStop.
  • If the Commission were to require SawStop technology on table saws, there can be no assurance that SawStop would willingly license technology on reasonable terms. In fact, if the government effectively requires use of the SawStop technology, SawStop could demand any license terms it wants or not grant any license at all. PTI and its members, of course, have nothing against patents. PTI does, however, challenge whether SawStop should be allowed to use the government to mandate the use of a technology that is so broadly covered with a web of patents and thereby force its competitors to incur exorbitant license fees and/or expensive patent litigation (which costs will be passed on to the consumers).
  • In a recent court document filed in the U.S. District Court, District of Oregon, Mr. Gass stated "In recent years, we have declined various offers to license our technology."
  • In 2014, UL, in compliance with its Patent Policy, requested that SawStop identify specific patent claims that are essential for compliance with AIM requirements which were being considered for incorporation into the UL 987 standard. In response, SawStop declined to provide any type of statement concerning its patents, other than to say it reserves all its patent rights.

Patents

  • Stephen Gass, a patent attorney, has filed more than 140 U.S. patent applications, and has over 100 issued U.S. patents which pertain to the SawStop technology.
  • After learning about the PTI/JV technology that is based on rapidly moving the spinning saw blade below the table top, SawStop amended one of their then-pending patent applications to purportedly cover any table saw that retracts the blade rapidly within 14 milliseconds - using any retraction technique after detecting contact. SawStop claims this patent application, which was subsequently allowed by the U.S. Patent Office, is arguably not limited to SawStop’s blade brake technology for retracting the blade, but rather is designed to cover any retraction technique, hindering the development of alternative blade retraction technologies and blocking competing inventors from using their own inventions. There are numerous other examples of SawStop's manipulating its patent applications after the PTI-JV technology became known.
  • Stephen Gass told the CPSC Commissioners that they should assume that no manufacturer will be able to introduce injury mitigation technology that does not infringe his patents.
  • Stephen Gass prevailed in a lawsuit against the Patent and Trademark Office in D.C. District Court to protect very broad patent claims, supporting his position that he plans to vigorously defend his patent portfolio.
  • If the patent web of SawStop cannot be avoided, the Commission would in effect be imposing a design standard, rather than a performance standard. The mandatory rule would create a monopolistic advantage in the marketplace, generating millions of dollars for SawStop and Mr. Gass, and raising costs for consumers.
  • SawStop, LLC and SD3, LLC have filed a complaint against Bosch with the US ITC seeking to bar entry of the Bosch Reaxx™ benchtop style table saw into the United States, and they also have filed a patent infringement complaint in Oregon seeking a permanent injunction and damages.
  • On September 9, 2016 an Administrative Law Judge at the U.S. ITC issued an Initial Determination that the Bosch Reaxx™ saw infringes SawStop patents, potentially having the ultimate effect, if the commission agrees, of excluding Bosch’s Reaxx™ saws from entering the U.S. and proscribing Bosch from advertising and selling the saws and associated parts. In November, the ITC determined it would not review that determination, finding a violation by Bosch of section 337 of the Tariff Act. A briefing on remedy is scheduled and may result in the exclusion of the Reaxx™ saw from entry into the United States.

Unintended Consequences Of The Sawstop Technology

  • Data supplied by SawStop concerning the number of table saw units sold and the number of reported blade contact incidences, proves that operators are nearly five times more likely to contact the saw blade of a SawStop saw as opposed to the operator of a conventional table saw.
  • Logic dictates that this increase in accident rate on SawStop saws is due primarily to a user’s decision to use the blade guard less frequently due to a “sense of security” in having the SawStop flesh-sensing technology on the saw.
  • The reduced rate of using the blade guarding system will result in increased rate of facial or eye injuries caused by high velocity particles ejected by saw blade or injuries caused by workpiece kickback.
  • The increased cost of even the least expensive table saws, as discussed in this document, may result in power tool users resorting to unsafe methods (for example: using portable hand held circular saw in inverted position) to accomplish cuts normally performed on a table saw.
  • The rising population in the 1980's of the benchtop saw resulted in a decrease in accidents from circular saws being used improperly. If benchtop saws become drastically more expensive or manufacturers withdraw from the market, there could be a return to improper use of circular saws and unintended declines in safety.

Alternative Technology

  • PTI JV has developed a flesh sensing technology that reacts faster, has a lower replacement cost of firing, and mitigates injury to a greater degree when compared to the SawStop technology. SawStop has stated that the JV system likely will infringe its patents. In light of this situation, manufacturers have to take this into consideration knowing that introducing this alternative technology will result in costly patent infringement litigation (estimated to be at least 7-10 million dollars for each party) with uncertain outcomes. This scenario has come to fruition by the patent infringement action filed by SawStop against the Bosch REAXX™ saw.

Injuries

  • The injury data utilized by the Commission to justify moving forward with the ANPR included only data regarding saws with the traditional guarding system, which is no longer sold. The 2007-2008 Injury Report does not include any data with respect to table saws equipped with the modular blade guarding system meeting the requirements of UL 987, 7th Edition.
  • SawStop cannot mitigate fractures and crushing injuries caused by workpiece kickback or loss of vision caused by high velocity particles ejected by the saw blade.
  • SawStop technology can mitigate only injuries caused by a contact with the blade, therefore, only blade contact injuries should be considered in light of the petition.
  • The estimated population of all table saws on the market in the US for 2001/2002 was 8.0 million and for 2007/2008 was 9.5 million.
  • The blade contact injury rate estimates by CPSC for all table saw categories combined, for 2001/2002 years and for 2007/2008 years are unchanged.
  • According to CPSC the portable bench saws account for only 11% of the accidents although they comprise 69% of table saw population in 2008.
  • In 2014, following an inquiry from plaintiff's counsel, CPSC staff developed documents attempting to redistribute the proportion of injuries for various table saw categories. PTI objects to CPSC staff's attempt to use of responses to the "drive type" survey question as the basis for injury estimates classification of the type of table saws.
  • CPSC has since concluded that results from the 2007-2008 special study, along with a second special study conducted in 2014-15 have both been discounted, leaving CPSC without the necessary data to substantiate the proposed rule.
  • PTI has reviewed the 2007-2008 special study on distribution of accidents per table saw categories. PTI concludes that based on answers provided by survey respondents at most the benchtop category of table saws contributes 1/3 of all reported accidents.
  • CPSC has new injury estimate numbers in the NPR, but CPSC has since commenced further studies of 2016 and 2017 reported injuries. Results from those studies are not expected for months and even well into 2018. Results of these studies are uncertain and may conflict with data previously cited by CPSC.

Societal Cost Of Blade Contact Table Saw Injuries

  • For 2001/2002 the CPSC estimated annual cost of all table saw injuries was $2 billion.
  • The percentage of injuries requiring hospitalization was 6.7%. In most cases, the injured user was examined or treated and released from the hospital on the same day.
  • Dr. John Graham, Dean of the Indiana School of Public and Environmental Affairs, hired by advocates of SawStop technology to make an economic evaluation of table saw injuries concluded that an average table saw blade contact injury in 2001/2002 was $22,917. Based on Dr. Graham’s Injury Cost Model, the societal cost of 28,300 blade contact injuries for 2001/2002 is $648.5 million annually, significantly less than the CPSC estimate.
  • Making the SawStop technology mandatory for bench top table saws is not economically justifiable and it will economically damage consumers who need an inexpensive tool for occasional do-it-yourself (DIY) projects and small self employed contractors who may not be able to afford the substantial price increase in the bench top category of table saws. In addition to this economic damage to consumers and self-employed contractors, at least some of these categories of table saw consumers will likely opt for less expensive non-table saw products (such as circular or band saws) to perform cutting operations for which a table saw performs more safely and efficiently.

Economic Justification Of New Technologies

  • Economic justification for new technology is an integral part of evaluating feasibility of any alternative technology. Previously, evaluating the costs of Active Injury Mitigation (AIM) for the benchtop category of table saws had been based on estimates, in the absence of an actual market ready product. The March 2015 introduction of the SawStop benchtop table saw at $1,299 and then Bosch announced price point of $1499 for their bench top table saw has significantly changed the situation.
  • As recently as June of 2013, Stephen Gass claimed that an active injury mitigation system could be implemented in any consumer table saw for an increase on the order of $55 to the bill of material cost. He attributed this cost increase to the following components: $20 for brake cartridge, $10 for modified arbor with electrodes, $20 for modified switch box and $5 for cables. However, comparing the actual SawStop table saw construction to the list of components Mr. Gass has listed for the new technology, it is clear that his claimed price estimate does not include many new components that are actually part of the SawStop table saw or components that were redesigned and strengthened at higher cost. Thus the economic feasibility of the AIM technology for benchtop table saws cannot be judged by Mr. Gass' cost estimates, but it has to be driven by the actual hard cost figures. If AIM could be added to the benchtop category of table saws for the price noted by Dr. Gass, why has he not done it?
  • Portable benchtop table saws currently on the market range in price from $140 for basic low cost units to $600 for full featured premium benchtop models.
  • The volume based median price of an existing benchtop table saw is approximately $250. A government regulation mandating a flesh detection technology for all table saws will increase the cost of each benchtop table saw by approximately $1,000 or $875 million only for the benchtop category of table saws.  Such burden is not justifiable for DIY or small contractor customers.
  • Activation of the SawStop brake results in additional costs to the owner in the form of a new blade ($20-$90) and new brake cartridge ($69). The available data from SawStop also shows that this additional cartridge/blade cost is likely to be experienced more frequently due to unintended/false activations caused by the blade contacting moist pressure treated wood, static electric discharge, voltage spikes from switch activations, etc.
  • Benchtop table saws priced at $1,300 to $1,500 and additional maintenance costs cannot fulfill consumer expectations for inexpensive lightweight transportable table saws. Benchtop saws with flesh sensing technology will be available on the market for buyers who are willing to pay the price for such technology. But, with such a dramatic cost increase, it is reasonable to conclude that the high cost of AIM will make this technology economically unreachable for most DIY customers who will likely seek dangerous alternatives.

Improvements In Guarding

  • From 2007 through 2015, PTI members have introduced over 3.2 million saws in the U.S. with newly designed guards which meet the requirements of the 7th edition UL 987 safety standard. Table saws meeting these requirements are considered safe for their intended use. PTI had expressed concern to CPSC that it did not have data on table saws that incorporate the requirements of the existing industry standards.
  • These new table saws now require a riving knife and feature a new modular guarding system that offers excellent visibility and ease of removal and installation.
  • The guards protect the operator from blade contact and injuries caused by thrown objects from kickback. SawStop protects from only blade contact injuries.
  • A survey that PTI members have conducted at two different intervals of accident reports involving table saws manufactured from 2007 through the end of 2015 with the new modular guarding systems proves that operator blade contact injuries are approximately 3-4 times less likely compared to traditional spreader mounted guarding systems.
  • A Table Saw Blade Guard Survey recently completed by CPSC to determine modular guard system usage and preferences concluded 71% of users preferred using the modular blade guard compared to the traditional blade guard or no guard at all. 83% report that the modular blade guard prevents hazards associated with operating a table saw to a moderate to large extent.
  • While these results with respect to the 7th edition guarding systems are very good, PTI believes that user acceptance of the new modular guarding system will increase over time, similar to safety technology on other products.

Voluntary Standards Activity

  • CPSC, SawStop, PTI and many other interested parties participate in the Standards Technical Panel (STP) 745 for Electric Tools, under ANSI guidelines that ensure openness, balance, consensus and due process.
  • Hundreds of electric tools are covered under UL/ANSI voluntary standards. There are no electric power tools within the scope of STP 745 that have a mandatory standard.
  • The Commission must rely upon voluntary consumer product standards, rather than adopt a mandatory standard, whenever compliance with such voluntary standards would eliminate or adequately reduce the risk of injury addressed and it is likely that there will be substantial compliance with such voluntary standards.
  • A new international safety standard for table saws, IEC 62841-3-1, was published June, 2014. This standard was developed by experts in 22 countries (including the United States) and will result in improved safety requirements for table saws worldwide. The International Body of Experts evaluated whether injury mitigation technology should be included in the IEC standard but determined it should not be included as a mandatory requirement.
  • IEC 62841-3-1 was adopted in the United States and Canada as an ANSI standard and published on August 29, 2016.
  • Both ANSI and UL have a patent policy that states that if a proposed standard may require the use of an essential patent, the patent holder must agree to license under fair and non-discriminatory terms. The CPSC does not have such a policy. As noted above, SawStop has previously refused to comply with this policy.

Regulatory And Legislative Initiatives

  • In 2012, California introduced legislation that would have required all new table saws sold in the state to be equipped with injury mitigation technology. There was concern that it was a one company bill and it was not taken up by the Senate.
  • In February 2014, SawStop, LLC and SD3 filed an antitrust case in US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia against several manufacturers of table saws, naming the Power Tool Institute and UL as co-conspirators. In October 2016, the Defendants won summary judgment.

Conclusion

  • If the Commission were to adopt a mandatory standard of the type requested in the SawStop Petition, the Commission effectively will be mandating a design requirement, which is not within the Commission's statutory authority.
  • Voluntary standards are working to enhance table saw safety.
  • The cost to consumers and manufacturers of a mandatory standard would far outweigh any benefits that may be realized, particularly if such requirement is applied to the benchtop category of table saws.
  • AIM technology has been carefully evaluated and debated since its introduction in 2000. Independent research, numerous studies, safety and economic experts and consumers have all reviewed and evaluated the technology. The State of California, UL, IEC and CPSC have all considered whether there should be a mandatory requirement for AIM technology. To date, no regulatory or legislative action has resulted in a mandatory requirement.
  • These evaluations, along with the lawsuit against the US PTO, the antitrust suit and the patent infringement cases, suggest the complexities involved in this issue cannot be easily resolved by a mandatory action. We urge CPSC to consider whether a significant cost increase to consumers, a possible withdrawal of manufacturers from the market, ongoing legal action and a possible monopolistic position of one manufacturer are supportive of a mandatory requirement by the government and in the best interest of the consumer.
  • In July 2017, TTS Tooltechnic Systems, a company located in Germany, acquired SawStop, LLC and SD3, LLC. This recent sale and change in control of the companies calls into question whatever prior commitments Mr. Gass made to the CPSC regarding licensing the SD3 patents under a mandatory rule.

 

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