Sanding with the Festool sander

Pioneers in dust extraction

More than 50 years ago, Festool developed the first orbital sander with dust extraction. Back then, Karl Attinger was the driving force; Product Manager Andreas Buck had not yet even been born. In the workshop of one of their very first customers, the two tell us how it was then and is today.

Mr Attinger, in the 1960s you yourself experienced and drove the introduction of dust extraction. How did that happen?

KA: In the early 1960s I worked in application technology. During this time, a new two-component putty came on the market, which no orbital sander could handle decently because the abrasion was far too low. We therefore developed a new orbital sander: the Festo RTR-S. But even among the first test customers, it became clear that dust development was also enormous, due to the strong abrasion. We had to find a solution.
Both product manager of Festool

So you looked at dust extraction.

K A : Correct. There have been numerous attempts to reduce dust. They primarily addressed dust emissions at and around the machines. But, fundamentally, there was only one solution: the dust needed to be extracted precisely where it originated – that is, at the sanding surface. To achieve this, we developed a functioning system within a very short time. The colleagues’ reactions were initially devastating: ‘Attinger wants to put a hose and dust extractor on the sander!’ And the worst part is, ‘He’s putting holes in the abrasive paper! Nobody will buy it.’ The then senior partner Gottlieb Stoll put an end to the discussions and said: ‘Karl, if you are so convinced of your sander with dust extraction, then pack everything in the company’s VW next week and drive from one customer to the next. For every ordered orbital sander with a dust extractor, you get 15 Deutschmark. ‘Of course, I also visited Herold, here. Within a week, I had twenty signatures. Nine months later, the RTT-S was launched on the market, the world’s first orbital sander with dust extraction. That was 1966.
Sanding with the Festool sander

Mr Buck, these are development times that you, as a product manager, can only dream of today, aren’t they?

A B: True. But the products and corporate structures are also completely different. When I hear that Mr Attinger embodied a developer, application technician and salesman, all in one, that would be unthinkable today. Development and application technology specialists, from product management and design to production planning and marketing, are crucially involved in the introduction of new products or systems. And this is not because fewer professionals would not be able manage it, but because the products and systems have become much more complex.


Sanding with the Festool sander

However, that does not detract from the development achievements of back then.

A B: No, not at all. On the contrary. The introduction of the orbital sander with dust extraction was a milestone, and not only in terms of the product, but the system philosophy played a crucial role for the first time. After all, it was about pairing an absolutely successful power tool with another device – and in such a way that it now functions optimally as a system for the customer.

K A : That is a very important point. The sanding performance of the orbital sander should in no way be impaired by dust extraction. At first, putting holes in the abrasive paper was incomprehensible to my colleagues. However, we have demonstrated that we are capable of creating an optimal overall system consisting of competing properties. And this approach has led to continuous development in subsequent years. Incidentally, from the day the RTT-S was introduced on the market, Festool has not developed and manufactured any new handheld machine without a dust extraction device.

„The combination of mobile dust extractor and machine needs to remain versatile, to allow efficient dust-free work.“

Karl Attinger - former Festool employee

Today, the properties and functions that an extraction system needs to fulfil are much more complex, aren’t they?

A B: Yes, of course. This applies to the mechanical side and to the electronics. If we ask our customers what extraction needs to achieve, suction power is named first. But the combination of mobile dust extractor and machine needs to remain versatile, to allow efficient dust-free work. So an appropriate suction hose was needed to guarantee both these elements. And that’s exactly why our new suction hose is well-received by our customers. Or take the sleeve, which creates and, above all, ensures a good connection between the suction hose and the machine. Here, we have invested much time and effort in the bayonet catch. These are little things, but they play a major role within the system.
Sanding with the Festool sander

We now have a variety of different dust classes and numerous statutory health and safety constraints. Was that a relevant topic in the 1960s?

K A: We already had maximum allowable concentrations (MAC), which had to be adhered to. Since then, awareness of health in the workplace has increased enormously. And not only because of statutory ordinances and guidelines. In my early days, the accident prevention and insurance associations were very active here. The central association directly involved us, specifically because we had developed pioneering solutions for dust-free work.

A B: The extraction system has three fundamental effects: it ensures clean work and protects both the machines and the health of the workers. Only recently, a survey by a market research institute determined that, of these three effects, health protection is a major priority for the skilled trades and their employees. Dust-free work is no longer a luxury, but a matter of course.

Sanding with the Festool sander
Sanding with the Festool sander