At last, something I predicted years ago seems to be happening: Someone other than SawStop is seriously working on flesh-detection technology to minimize table saw injuries.
Mention the word SawStop, and a nasty debate starts. Thats not what this blog is about, so please dont do that. Please dont debate the merits, detractions, the nasty ol government or any of the other stuff thats been debated, by my count, 18 billion times before. Please; Im begging save the debate for another time. Thanks.
Now, that said, a brief trip into the past. Years ago, maybe while I was still editor at Woodshop News, sometime after the groundbreaking SawStop was introduced I predicted that the race was on to create a reliable flesh-detection system that could be added to any existing saw. Unlike the excellent SawStop system, which requires designing the machine from the ground up around the system, this hypothetical system would be aftermarket you could just bolt it on to the saw you already have. Well, it looks like at least one company may have done it.
The Black Box flesh-detecting saw brake from Whirlwind Tool fits my above description perfectly. It attaches to your table saw as an above-table blade guard. As near as I can understand, it surrounds the danger area around a blade with a clear enclosure that rides above the workpiece like most other clear guards. But get some flesh under it, and bingo, it kills power and stops the blade in about 1/8 of a second. Thats not as fast as SawStop, but SawStop kills the blade after flesh touches the blade, making its high speed essential; Black Box kills the blade before flesh touches it.
Because the Black Box stops the blade by killing power, it doesnt destroy the blade. Also, it can be used with any kind of blade, regular or dado. As a bonus, that enclosure offers additional at-the-cut lighting, and can even be hooked up to your dust collection system. Further, the same system can be put on different-size enclosures that will fit a band saw, scroll saw or, conceivably, Im guessing just about any cutter.
Its not for sale yet and wont be for a fairly long time so you cant get one (it hasnt even been priced yet), but its exciting to see that advancements are being made in flesh-detection technology geared toward woodworker safety. Now there are two players in this very important game.
But to make another prediction: Just wait. There will be more.