Scott Swaaley is on a mission with MakeSafe Tools to improve workplace safety. He has a unique skill set and a range of experiences that have allowed him to not only identify the need for a new category of low cost power tool safety devices but develop them and bring them to market.
Scott Swaaley Launches MakeSafe Tools to Enable Safer Workplaces
“Edison’s electric light did not come about from the continuous improvement of the candle…”
Scott Swaaley is working hard at MakeSafe Tools to foster a quantum jump in workplace safety for machinists, woodworkers, and home hobbyists, offering an after market “brake” that brings a spinning AC induction motor to a stop within a second or two of turning it off instead of having it spin down for 30 to 90 seconds.
First Met at a Bootstrapper Breakfast
I first met him on Dec-29-2017 when he stopped by a Bootstrapper Breakfast at Red Rock in Mountain View for our end of year lessons learned program: “What Have You Learned in 2017 That You Plan to Apply in 2018.”
He had a working prototype for a new safety device he had developed when he was overseeing a school workshop with some power tools. He leveraged his electrical engineering background to develop a stand-alone device that supplied conditioned power from the wall socket to a power tool. It offered an on/off switch that acted as a much faster “brake” for the power tool it connected. Scott’s primary motivation was to create a safer environment for high school students learning to work with power tools and to minimize injury in the event of an incident by providing a shut off that worked in a second or two.
He was looking for help on getting his device UL certified and several entrepreneurs at the breakfast offered advice and people or test labs he could talk to. I was immediately impressed by his commitment to a mission–safer workplaces–and the fact that he combined the key skills needed to bring his first version to market.
Interview with Gaby Joseph For Bootstrapper Breakfast Blog
We put out a call for entrepreneurs who wanted to be interviewed for the Bootstrapper Breakfast Blog “Founder Story” series and Scott volunteered and was interviewed by Gaby Joseph for Bootstrapper Breakfast Blog, “Founder Story: Scott Swaaley of MakeSafe Tools.”
“Gaby: What’s the next step for you and MAKESafe Tools?
Scott: In terms of products, the next things on the list are a higher voltage version of my existing brake, that will work with more tools, and a lathe chuck key device. A very common problem when using lathes is accidentally leaving the chuck-key in the chuck. Then when you turn it on, the chuck-key shoots off like a rocket, and it can easily hit the person operating it… or the ceiling. So I think that’s a space that I could step into. Lastly, and currently in the works, is an access control device that makes it easier to intentionally restrict access to a subgroup of people for any specific tool.”
From an interview with Scott Swaaley by Gaby Joseph “Founder Story: Scott Swaaley of MakeSafe Tools.”
Installed at TechShop Successor: TheShop.Build
MakeSafe Tools formally launched their “Universal Power Tool Brake” at Maker Faire Bay Area 2018 and soon attracted the attention of a number of machine shops, including The Shop, aka “TechShop 2.0,” the successor organization to the original TechShop. Here is a video tour highlighting two machines with the brake installed.
- Who is this device meant for? The power tool brake is intended to mitigate occupational safety and health risks in manufacturing environments. That being said, it will work with any device that runs off of an AC induction motor.
- Will this device damage my motor? No. This device delivers an amount of power during braking equivalent to the typical startup power of the motor. It simply provides regulated DC current instead of AC current. As long as you follow the calibration instructions and stay within the recommended duty cycle, this device has no lasting effect on your motor.
- What kinds of tools will this device brake? This device will brake any AC Induction motor which means it will brake just about any stationary power tool. Band Saw, Bench Grinder, Disc Sander, Drum Sander, Table Saw, you name it! If in doubt, reach out and we can help.
Scott’s Graduation Pitch at Founder’s Institute
“My name is Scott Swaaley, and I’m the founder of MAKESafe Tools, where we bring 21st century safety to 20th century tools.
This is a disc sander, and like tens of millions of tools like it, when you turn it off, it will continue to spin for over a minute, leaving every operator nearby at risk. What if you could just plug something in and make that problem go away? This same tool on the left has the MAKESafe Power Tool Brake installed, and we turned it off and it stopped in less than two seconds.
Manufacturing in America is a $2.1 trillion industry. It’s also one of the leading industries for occupational injury. Despite increasing pressure to make the workplace safer, there are still over 400,000 injuries every year, and each of those injuries have a significant cost to an employer. Something like a laceration can be $40,000; something like an amputation can be $160,000 per injury. And that’s just from the employer’s perspective.
My company, MAKESafe Tools, has developed an electronic braking device that helps to reduce power tool related injury, reduce worker’s compensation claims, and avoid lost productivity with an easy to install after-market device.
This device installs in less than one minute, can be retrofit to nearly any stationary power tool, and positions our company to own the space between the wall outlet and the tool per a later IOT play. But how do we make money?
So, most safety distributors in the United States also offer safety assessments and training as a service, and then they resell solutions to whatever problems they discover. Our business model is to leverage those existing customer acquisition engines, and to put our product into their current offerings.
My first prototype came online in November of last year, and since then I’ve developed letters of intent with two of the largest safety distributors in the United States. I also have a provisional patent, a working product, and I have PCBA manufacturing partners lined up.
We’re focusing on the medium-sized business that is already actively mitigating risk; either as part of a contractor compliance effort, or in response to a recent injury. And unlike our competitors, we focus specifically on 110 volt tools and plug and play simple installation. And since we put both braking and safe start features into one device, that makes us a wholly unique value proposition for the space, and with our existing channel partners that are eager to test our product, they all have existing sales teams that are confident they can sell our product.
I had my first install going about a year ago, and since then, everyone that’s used it cannot imagine living without it. Now, I’ve worn a lot of hats in my day. I’m equally comfortable in a board room, a break room, or a shop floor, and I have expertise in all three. This allows me to build and maintain strong relationships with customers, partners, and advisors. But taking a step back, this is not just about one device. This is about my company bringing an entire industry into the 21st century with a suite of IoT enabled safety and compliance devices, not to mention bringing representation and safety to a population that normally doesn’t get that attention.
Now if that’s something you’re excited about, we’d love to talk more.”
Scott Swaaley’s MakeSafe Tools Graduation Pitch for Founders Institute Winter 2018 Cohort (April-18-2018)
Scott Swaaley has a unique skill set and a range of experiences that have allowed him to not only identify the need for a new category of low cost power tool safety devices but develop them and bring them to market. He is on a mission to improve workplace safety. He is targeting something of an oddball niche for his initial market but he is leveraging his electronic design skills and a broader commitment to workplace safety and productivity, the after-market brake for power tools is just the first in a series of products. Three things have impressed me about his approach to MakeSafe Tools:
- A very high energy level that’s driven by a sense of mission not a fear of failure. I see a lot of entrepreneurs motivate themselves with a fear of failure, can lead to dysfunctional behavior. Scott is motivated by a desire to improve people’s lives.
- Strong communication, teaching, and story telling skills: he is a natural teacher and educator.
- An engineering mindset to designing and launching the product: rapid prototyping of a sequence designs based on early customer feedback.
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