Without bright ideas, there can be no new chain saws. We’ll show you how a new STIHL product is born − from the initial idea up to the moment it hits store shelves − by taking a look at the MS 150 chain saw. In part one of our three-part series, we’ll take you to our plant and give you a look behind the scenes at how the STIHL MS 150 was developed.
Many new product ideas come directly from our customers in our markets. Thanks to our subsidiaries and more than 40,000 dealers around the world, we always have our finger on the pulse. Product management develops a set of specifications based on these suggestions, legal requirements and our strategic considerations. These specifications spell out what specific characteristics and features the new product must have and how it will stand out from the competition. Then the development process gets started. Come with us, and follow the STIHL MS 150 on its path to becoming a finished chain saw.
The first thing we discuss is design and how the product will look later. From an early stage, a team from Marketing and Development makes sure the chain saw has a high-quality look.
Physical tests by our Materials Research team help us find the right materials for each part. When it came to the STIHL MS 150, one thing in particular was important: it had to be light.
Design engineers develop a technical concept that they then transform into a design. During this process, they have to balance desired product features, such as weight and performance, with an appealing appearance.
Our employees develop a computer-simulated prototype of the machine. Among other things, they simulate the engine output and cooling. Thanks to this theoretical test, we are able to cut down on test cycles using prototypes.
But we still can’t do entirely without prototypes of our tools. We often use rapid-prototyping techniques, such as selective laser sintering, which is a sort of 3D printer.
While the computer simulations are underway, we test the first prototypes for technical aspects such as emissions, performance and temperature. These tests are used to back up our calculations.
Ease of use and ergonomics are key development goals. Chain saws must be easy to control and not cause too much user fatigue. The vibrations are measured to ensure that users are subject to as little strain as possible.
In our sound-testing room, we test the sound of our prototypes. Volume isn’t the only thing on our minds. The sound of our tools also has to meet our customers’ expectations.
Grip is one of the many features we look at. We check carefully whether the machine will be able to stand up to the demands it will face in real life.
A climatic chamber is also part of the development process. In this special chamber, we test our products under the climatic conditions they will face in the real world, from -30 °C to +40 °C.
The so-called “shaker” generates vibrations that allow us to simulate the entire lifespan of the machine, like fast-forwarding through time to test the durability of the materials.
The continuous-operation chamber allows us to to quickly reach many hundreds of hours of runtime and thus to test the wear of the engine. The machines run at very low and extremely high engine speeds without interruption for many weeks at a time.
The cutting performance of the new chains is tested on the chain test bench. STIHL has a total of 84 different types of chains in its product range.
Later on, a team of testers around the world, from Japan and Finland to Brazil, test our prototypes in the field. Selected customers also have the opportunity to report their experiences and give us their suggestions.
Once the tests have been completed, the machines come back to the development centre, where we take the prototypes apart and look at potential damage to individual parts. Based on these findings, we find ways to make the product even better.
Now the finished product has to be approved for sale in all the markets we serve. There are a lot of rules and regulations to keep in mind when it comes to chain saws.
Get a closer look at the production process in part two of our series “From an idea to a saw”.