It’s not often that chainsaw manufacturers announce innovative and exciting news related to the development of thrilling new products. It’s no secret that chainsaws haven’t changed all that much in the past decade. Sure, there are incremental changes and innovation that naturally occurs as technology evolves. This happens with most industries, but what I’m talking about here is a big leap in innovation, and in this particular instance, the manufacturer is STIHL — arguably, one of the best manufacturers of chainsaws and other power equipment in the world.
Chainsaw design has been stagnate for quite some time. It’s not obvious to me that companies are investing time, money and resources into developing innovative technologies for chainsaws. I’m talking about groundbreaking innovation that incorporate the latest and greatest in modern technology into their products. Show me an ultra-safe chainsaw for the average homeowner. Or a chainsaw with built-in Wi-Fi telling you the overall health of your saw via your smartphone app. Again, I’m talking about significant engineering innovation.
EGO is a great example of a company that has recently entered into the competitive market of battery operated power tools and has done a admirable job of innovating by developing a powerful 56V battery used across all of their products.
I have an article that details the EGO Chainsaw if you’re interested. The EGO brand is one example of innovation occurring in the chainsaw market, but today I want to share with you the STIHL Carbon Concept chainsaw — make sure you watch the video near the end of the article.
The STIHL Carbon Concept chainsaw truly is a beautiful chainsaw, as far as industrial design goes; seemingly the designers were inspired when creating this, as you can see them incorporating ideas from current design trends from other industries. I can’t help but think of Apple products when I look at this concept saw. When’s the last time you saw a white chainsaw? Either way, it’s a fantastic turn for the world of chainsaws.
What’s so great about the STIHL carbon concept chainsaw?
For starters, I should say that this hasn’t been announced as a retail commercial product yet. STIHL is publicly stating that it’s a “concept” chainsaw and they’ve learned a lot from the development of it and plan to incorporate what they’ve learned into future products. But I can say, with a high degree of certainty that they will be releasing this chainsaw in some form in the near future. I don’t have any inside information but all signs point to a carbon fiber based chainsaw in their arsenal at some point in the near future.
That’s right, this chainsaw uses carbon based materials, which translates to the absolute best power-to-weight ratio of any chainsaw available today — 1.11 Kg/kW (2.49 lbs/kW). Using carbon fiber will finally allow powerful professional-grade chainsaws to be ultra-light, making them more durable and far more comfortable to operate for lengthy periods of time. Carbon fiber is an astounding 5x more powerful than steel.
But it doesn’t stop at just the use of carbon fiber. The engineers at STIHL also made the wise decision to bring 21st century technology to other areas of the chainsaw by replacing the carburetor with the first chainsaw with an electronically controlled fuel-injection system. This is long overdue for the chainsaw industry and it makes you scratch your head and ask, “Why don’t all chainsaws have fuel injection systems instead of carburetors?” Carburetors were big in the sixties.
The key benefit of fuel injection is that it will allow for precise and accurate control of the air/fuel mixture, enabling the chainsaw to operate at maximum efficiency, while producing fewer emissions. Not to mention that fuel injection is far more reliable and requires minimal maintenance.
With all this goodness that I’ve just stated you may be wondering if there are any drawbacks to creating a carbon fiber chainsaw and the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Carbon fiber is expensive and slow to produce compared to other materials such as plastic or steel. One of the main reasons for that is that the infrastructure for producing carbon fiber hasn’t been created yet because it hasn’t been adopted by manufacturers (from any industry) on a large scale.
Maybe I should shut-up for a moment so you can watch the video and see what I’m talking about.
At the end of STIHL video it explicitly states: “The STIHL Carbon Concept will not go into volume production…” but one day it will, as carbon fiber is readily used in major industries, such as car manufacturing.
Prices for carbon fiber are slowly coming down, but at the moment, it would be expensive to produce the STIHL Carbon Concept chainsaw. How expensive? I have no idea, but I think the main reason why STIHL doesn’t have plans to manufacturer their Carbon Concept chainsaw is because very few consumers would actually buy it making this cool product ahead of its time. It simply wouldn’t sell enough units to justify STIHL putting it into production. The cost of manufacturing is just too high with the carbon fiber materials it’s built upon, which is the unfortunate economic reality of product development.
One day when the financial numbers make sense and the cost of carbon fiber is reduced dramatically you can be certain that this Carbon Concept chainsaw will find it’s way to retail shops around the world . You probably won’t ever be able to buy this exact chainsaw as I’m sure they will rework the design and optimize it’s features and engineering when they finally decide to bring it to market.
I just hope that other chainsaw manufacturers continue to push the envelope and engineer products for the 21st century — not the 20th century as they have been doing as of late. Let’s face it, chainsaws today are generally uninspired in their design and the ease-of-use for the average homeowner simply is too steep for a lot of people.
More research and development needs to go into creating leading-edge chainsaws that are easy to use, making ergonomics a key priority in the development process. Let’s not forget the underestimated factor of desireability and the instant visual appeal that a product exudes on consumers. Design matters. I’m a designer so I know what I’m talking about. And lastly, and most importantly the chainsaw industry needs to put safety front and center and ensure the safety of the human beings who rely on them for the projects they embark upon.
I think there’s a lot of room for improvement overall, and especially for manufacturers to increase the safety of chainsaws, so my hope is that we’ll be seeing innovation in that department because way too many people are getting injured from using chainsaws and ending up in hospital emergency rooms, and even worse, dying.
Keep evolving or die — true in life and in business. The future of chainsaws looks promising based on this STIHL chainsaw alone. Nice work STIHL. Ideas are a great but you now have to find a way to bring this to market. Customers are waiting, especially the average homeowner.
What is carbon fiber? (How Stuff Works)
Carbon fiber is a super strong material that’s also extremely lightweight. Engineers and designers love it because it’s five times as strong as steel, two times as stiff, yet weighs about two-thirds less. Carbon fiber is basically very thin strands of carbon — even thinner than human hair. The strands can be twisted together, like yarn. The yarns can be woven together, like cloth.
Details from the STIHL website about what they call their “carbon concept chainsaw”:
The STIHL Carbon Concept vaunts a sensational power-to-weight ratio of 1.11 kg/kW. Powered at 5.4 kW, the STIHL Carbon Concept weighs only 6.0 kg (without fuel, without cutting attachment). This low weight is achieved by the use of ultra-light materials, principally carbon. Examples include the carbon handle, the titanium muffler, the crankcase made from a special, high-strength diecast magnesium alloy, and the tank housing and handle housing, which are made from long glass fiber reinforced plastic.
If you’re a homeowner and you’re in the market for buying a chainsaw then I welcome you to browse the site and learn as much as you can before making a decision. If you’re a total beginner then I would suggest starting with my Chainsaw Buying Guide. But if you just want to find out what some good options are for the different categories of chainsaws then I recommend you check out these links:
- Gas Chainsaws
- Battery Chainsaws
- Electric (corded) Chainsaws
- Best Cheap Chainsaws
- Concrete Chainsaws
- Top Handle Chainsaws
- Husqvarna 455 Rancher Review
- Husqvarna Pole Saw
And if you’re someone who has wood to cut (under 4″) and you don’t want to deal with all the fuss centered around chainsaws, or you have safety concerns then I highly suggest a product such as the Black and Decker Alligator lopper.