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Ask Hackaday: SawStop — Bastion of Safety or Patent Troll

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At first glance, SawStop seems like a hacker’s dream. A garage tinkerer comes up with a great idea, builds a product around it, and the world becomes a better place. As time has gone on, other companies have introduced similar products. Recently, SawStop successfully stopped Bosch from importing saws equipped with their Reaxx safety system into the USA. This not only impacts sales of new saws, but parts for existing equipment. Who gets screwed here? Unfortunately, it’s the owners of the Bosch saws, who now have a safety feature they might not be able to use in the future. This has earned some bad press for SawStop in forums and on websites like Reddit, where users have gone as far as to call SawStop a patent troll. Is that true or just Internet puffery? Read on and decide for yourself.

The SawStop blade brake

Back in around 2002, we first started hearing about a new technology called SawStop that made table saws safer. Table saws are one of the most dangerous tools in the woodworking shop, so anything that makes them safer to work around is a welcome innovation. Most Hackaday readers probably already know how SawStop works – the blade is used as a giant capacitive sensor. If the capacitive touch sensor detects anything, an aluminum brake is fired into the saw blade. This stops the blade and drops the motor and blade assembly below the table surface. There is no question that the SawStop system works, and has saved people from grievous injury to their hands, fingers, and other body parts.

The controversy centers around Dr. Stephen Glass, who invented the system. Glass isn’t a carpenter by trade. He has a doctorate in physics and worked as a patent attorney. Woodworking was a hobby, as it is for many of us here at Hackaday. Dr. Glass doesn’t want to be in the tool industry. He came up with an idea, patented it, and wanted to license the technology to the tool industry. SawStop began selling tools because the tool industry wasn’t onboard with Glass’s ideas.

The SawStop story has been told as an analogy of David and Goliath. Goliath being the power tool industry and their lawyers. The story goes back to a 2001 presentation to the Defense Research Industry, a trade group for lawyers who handle product liability and similar defense cases.

Glass presented SawStop, including the now famous hot dog demonstration. The next speaker was Dan Lanier, a lawyer for Black and Decker. Lanier presented a hypothetical lawsuit involving SawStop. In Glass’s view, the crux of the presentation was that if the industry adopted SawStop any saw sold without the technology could be viewed as defective, and any injury caused by such a saw subject to a lawsuit.

In the end, no tool company ever licensed the technology. Ryobi came close to signing an agreement back in 2002. The agreement said that Ryobi would pay SawStop 3% of the wholesale price of each saw sold with the SawStop system. If and when the power tool industry adopted SawStop, the royalty would increase to 8%. Ryobi kept stalling, and the agreement was never signed. Ryobi is now losing personal injury lawsuits based on not signing that agreement.

Glass and his partners believed in the technology, so they left their attorney jobs, got in touch with a tool manufacturer in Taiwan, and started building table saws themselves. They also began lobbying the US government to make safety systems standard on all saws.

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Fast forward a few years, and now we have other players entering the saw safety game. There is the Whirlwind system, which activates when the user touches the blade guard, rather than the blade itself. Whirlwind is notable because it stops the blade without damage to the saw or the blade. The user can continue cutting after a change of underwear. Whirlwind appears to be another small startup company. It seems they are concentrating more on aftermarket modifications to existing saws.

Bosch also entered the arena with Reaxx. Reaxx uses a similar sensing system to SawStop but doesn’t stop the saw blade at all. An explosive gas generator called an activation cartridge is discharged. These cartridges are similar to the chemical charges used in airbags. Rather than inflating a bag, the activation cartridges throw a piston out. The piston pushes the entire blade and motor assembly down below the table. The blade isn’t damaged, there is no brake to replace. The only consumable is the piston cartridge.

SawStop sued Bosch for patent infringement. After several court battles, here is how things stand. Bosch was found to infringe on SawStop patents 7,895,927 and 8,011,279. The International Trade Commission ruled to ban the import of Reaxx saws and equipment. Bosch has said they will appeal the decision. While the saws can’t be imported, you can still buy them from Amazon. This most likely is distributor stock. For people who already bought the saw, this means they won’t be able to buy the activation cartridges. So the safer saw they paid extra for is now an ordinary table saw. For now, Bosch is getting around this import issue by producing the activation cartridges here in the USA.

The closest parallel we can find to a story like this is that of the seat belt. The three-point belt was invented by Nils Bohlin while he worked for Volvo. The difference is that Volvo recognized how important belts were and ensured the technology would be free for any automaker.

So what do you think? Is the SawStop the story of an inventor who is just trying to make the world safer? An egomaniac who wants to control the tool world and force everyone to use (and pay for) his system? Or something in between? Let us know in the comments.


Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Hackaday Columns, tool hacks



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patshead
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Dashcam video shows killing of Philando Castile

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Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted Friday after killing Philando Castile last July. Castile, unarmed, had disclosed to Yanez that he was a legal owner of a concealed-carry firearm as he reached for his driver's license, as Yanez had requested. Yanez shot him seven times in front of his wife and child, later claiming that the smell of marijuana, and his inability to see what Castile was reaching for, justified the killing. Viewers watched the aftermath on Facebook Live, broadcast by Castile's distraught wife. The Star-Tribune synchronized and superimposed the two videos — only the dashcam footage is embedded above.

Tyrone Terrill, president of the African-American Leadership Council, said the video could further widen the gap in community-police relations.

"No, no, no," Terrill said minutes after viewing the video. "You don't have to remain calm on this one. You have a right to be outraged. You have a right to be angry. And I would be disappointed if you weren't outraged, if you weren't angry. It raises the question — how will you ever get a guilty verdict?"

https://twitter.com/jaketapper/status/877273366704607232

He said he tried to point the gun away from the little girl in the back seat. He heard her screaming. "I acknowledged the little girl first because I wanted her to be safe."

Yanez attended a training course that teaches cops to think like "bulletproof warriors", to shoot without a second thought, and that the rush of killing people leads to "the best sex of their lives"

In the class recorded for “Do Not Resist,” Grossman at one point tells his students that the sex they have after they kill another human being will be the best sex of their lives. The room chuckles. But he’s clearly serious. “Both partners are very invested in some very intense sex,” he says. “There’s not a whole lot of perks that come with this job. You find one, relax and enjoy it.”

The NRA remains silent on the public, peremptory execution of a legal gun owner. I wonder what it is about this case, this man, that inspired their disinterest in his second-amendment rights.

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patshead
3 days ago
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Make a Plotter Out of Rulers

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Instructables user [lingib] made a clever and inexpensive pen arm plotter that uses plastic rulers for arms. An inspiring sight for anyone without a bunch of robot parts lying around,

The electronics are straightforward, with an Arduino UNO and a pair of Easy Drivers to control NEMA17 stepper motors connected to robot wheels, which serve as hubs for the rulers. At the end of the arms, an SG90 micro servo raises and lowers the pen as commanded, shoving the whole pen assembly off the paper with its horn—an elegant solution to an age-old drawbot problem. He even wrote wrote a custom Processing program that allows him to control the plotter from his desktop

[lingib]’s experimented with different kinds of drawing machines, including a drum plotter (video after the break), a V-plotter, as well as a rolling drawbot.

You’ll find tons of Hackaday posts about all types of drawing machines, including vintage plotters, plotters for making circuit boards, and even one built out of cardboard.

…the aforementioned drum plotter…

[Thanks, Setvir]


Filed under: cnc hacks



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patshead
7 days ago
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Need to Hold Something? Build a Custom Vise

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The only thing better than making a cool project is making a cool project that helps make more projects! Case in point, [Greg Stephens] and [Alex] wanted to colorize steel bearings for use in a Newton’s Cradle desk toy. After trying out a torch and not liking it, [Greg] and [Alex] decided to build custom aluminum vise to hold the sphere while it sits in the magnetic induction forge.

Their vise–they call it the Maker’s Vise0–isn’t just a one-off project to help make the cradle. [Alex] and [Greg] aspire to create a tool useable for a wide variety of projects. They wanted it to be oil-less and it had to be customizable. Ideally it would also have an acceptable grip strength, be easy to use, and look good on the bench.

[Greg] and [Alex] have set up a Hackaday.io project, and their logs show a lot of progress with two finished iterations of the vise and a variety of 3D-printed and cast parts to go with. Recently they brought in a 2,000-lb. load test and tested it on their vise collection, including the two prototypes. Version one rated at 500 lbs. reasonable clamping pressure–meaning they didn’t exert themselves to max out the pressure. Version two sits at 800 lbs., still nothing like a desk vise but far stronger than a Panavise, for instance.

Their magnetic induction forge project was also a success, with the team able to quickly change the color of a steel ball. Check out a video after the break…


Filed under: tool hacks



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patshead
8 days ago
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The Mini Apple IIe That Runs On C.H.I.P.

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[Cupcakus]’s mini Apple IIe must surely be a contender for the smallest computer running an Apple II emulator. We’d mentioned it a few months ago in a Links post when it had been posted to a forum along with a few videos of it in action, but now popular YouTube channel, [Tested], has released a video wherein they not only show what’s inside, and interview [Cupcakus] about his trials and tribulations in making it, but also go through the steps of making one of their own. Also, at the time of writing the Links post, [Cupcakus] hadn’t yet announced his detailed GitHub page about it.

This mini Apple IIe runs on a C.H.I.P., a small $9 single board computer, and has a speaker and a TFT LCD display. Input is via a full-sized wireless keyboard. He doesn’t have joysticks working but that was an oversight and having realized how many games require joysticks, he has plans to add support for them. The case is 3D printed from models available on Thingiverse and links are on the GitHub page, along with all other details for making one yourself.

He did have to do some hacking. The video signal from the C.H.I.P. wasn’t available from the pin headers so he had to solder a wire directly to the board itself. The C.H.I.P. requires from 3.3 V to 5 V whereas the display wants 6 V to 12 V. To accommodate both he gets power from a 12 V drone battery and uses a 5 V buck converter for the C.H.I.P. And he had to modify the emulator to be legible on the low resolution of the display. The code for that is also available through the GitHub page.

While he uses the display as the screen for the Apple II emulator, it actually has two video inputs. So just in case he wants to show something on the display from another source, perhaps to watch a video, he’s made the second video input available using a socket in the back.

Want to see all the details for yourself? Check out [Tested]’s video below.

Are you more nostalgic for the Apple ///? We’ve previously shown a painstakingly designed mini case for the Apple /// as well. Or maybe you have a full-sized working Apple II and want it to communicate back and forth with your Raspberry Pi? We’ve covered how you can make an adaptor for doing just that.

[via Tested]


Filed under: classic hacks



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patshead
10 days ago
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PA supreme court: was illegal to steal elderly woman's home because her son sold $140 of weed

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It took four years, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of 72 year old grandmother Elizabeth Young, whose house was seized by the Philadelphia District Attorney under asset forfeiture rules when her son was caught selling $140 worth of marijuana to undercover agents.

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Under civil forfeiture rules, cops and DAs get to steal property suspected of being the proceeds of a crime, then they sue the inanimate objects. The owners of the objects can hire lawyers to represent their property, while the taxpayers foot the bill for the state's side of the suit. If the government wins, it gets to keep the property or sell it and pocket the proceeds.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court blasted the DA for the seizure and reminded the state's lawyers and cops that they can only invoke civil forfeiture when there is good reason to believe that the property's owner "knew of and agreed to the crimes" in question.

The cop who bought the marijuana from Young's son is currently serving a 3.5 year federal prison sentence for planting drugs on suspects.

Young is far from the only person to have her house seized by the Philadelphia D.A. for a minor drug crime that she didn't even commit. In 2013, Philadelphia police seized the house of Christos and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling $40-worth of drugs outside of it.

The Sourovelis' sued, with assistance from the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states. The Sourovelis' plight drew national media attention, and the Philadelphia D.A. eventually dropped the case. However, the city is still facing a class-action lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice challenging its asset forfeiture program. According to the firm, Philadelphia has seized more than 1,000 homes, 3,000 vehicles and $44 million in cash over 11 years.

Between the new legal standard issued by the Supreme Court, the looming lawsuit, and a potential reformer leading the district attorney's office—Democratic Philadelphia D.A. candidate Larry Krasner vowed to rein in the program in an interview with Reason earlier this year—the salad days of Philadelphia's asset forfeiture machine may be ending.

The Philadelphia police officer who coordinated the undercover marijuana buys at Young's house pled guilty and was sentenced in 2015 to three-and-a-half years in federal prison on corruption charges involving planting drug evidence on suspects.

Court to Grandma: You Shouldn't Lose Your House Just Because Your Dumb Son Sold Some Weed There [C.J. Ciaramella/Reason]

(via Techdirt)

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