Electronically activated table-saw braking devices — which can prevent or reduce the severity of injuries by forcefully stopping the rotation of the blade within a few thousandths of a second of any contact between it and the operator’s body — have been available for some time now. An Oregon inventor developed a working prototype more than a decade ago and went on to found a company called SawStop that has sold more than 20,000 saws incorporating the feature. Based on input from customers, SawStop claims that its products have prevented 700 finger amputations since coming on the market in 2004. (Those who have not yet seen the device in operation can watch a video demonstration — with a hot dog standing in for a finger — at sawstop.com/howit works/videos.php).

To date, mainstream tool manufacturers have not marketed competing devices of their own or licensed the existing technology, known as SawStop. But a recent decision by a Massachusetts court could change that.

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