Professor Bargende, you were an engine developer at Daimler for a long time, so you are familiar with large, powerful engines. However, your chair has also been working closely with STIHL for more than 20 years: You regularly hold excursions to the plant and supervise external master’s theses. How does it feel to suddenly think about small chainsaw engines after dealing with eight- or twelve-cylinder engines with 500 or 600 hp?
Prof. Bargende: I have never thought of it as a step down. Why would it be? The principle is basically the same for a chainsaw engine as for a Ferrari twelve-cylinder: They are primarily two-stroke engines with a cylinder.
But isn’t the drive system of a car that costs 50,000 euros inevitably subject to higher demands?
Not really. The price level specifically means that the chainsaw developers have to struggle with enormous problems. That is because the cost pressure for a handheld power tool, which can cost a maximum of a few hundred euros, is much greater than for a vehicle engine. STIHL will shortly become the first manufacturer to launch to market a model with direct petrol injection – that’s quite a feat in terms of costs. It took a long time to achieve, but they did it.
Is the pressure to innovate in chainsaws really so great?
It is just as high as in the automotive industry – and yet not the same. It’s just the framework conditions that are different. For example with a chainsaw, the need to eliminate vibration is much higher. You have to hold the power tool, which weighs up to ten kilos, in your hand the whole time. Balancing the engine in such a way that forestry workers can comfortably hold the saw is an enormous challenge. In terms of vibrations, there is nothing more fearful than a single-cylinder engine.
That does sound demanding.
An engine in a Daimler might reach 8,000 rpm in the red range, while a chainsaw unit can reach up to 15,000 rpm – and the ignition spark must occur at the defined point in time for each revolution. If you compare the demands with car engines in this respect, Formula 1 engines are the only ones that can keep up.
So you probably have STIHL power tools at home too?
There are no trees in my garden that would make it worthwhile to own a chainsaw. And the electric lawnmower I bought myself is unfortunately from the competition. So I have to pass on STIHL tools.