Success Stories

In this article Dowding Precision, East Midlands, reveals in their own words how Firetrace’s fire suppression system helped prevent a blaze.

The First Fire

We are an SME in the East Midlands that has been in subcontract engineering for more than 16 years now. It was in 2002 we had our first CNC Milling Machine Fire, where a cutter broke and continued cutting, igniting the titanium swarf. The fire melted the Perspex in the door, the electrical cabling and some circuitry. The machine shut down quite quickly, due to the power supply melting, but there was £3000 worth of damage and the machine was out of commission for two days. This relatively short time period was only due to a lot of miles up and down the M1 for spares and the MD fitting the parts himself. This down time would have been a lot longer if we had had to have the parts delivered and had to wait for an engineer to fit the parts.

But, fire number one was no big deal…..

The Second Fire

Fire number two was in December 2004. A titanium billet that was not aligned quite right, came on to the machine via the pallet changer at 1am. The arbour of one tool rubbed against the titanium body and ignited the swarf. However, due to the position of the electrics and circuitry these did not melt. So the machine carried on running, carried on pumping mineral oil and carried on burning. The fire alarm went off at 2am, but the fire brigade couldn’t enter the premises due to the amount of thick acrid black smoke until 4am.

As a result of the blaze a quarter of a million pound machine was written off. All the computers in the establishment were ruined, the server was ruined and every surface was covered in a sticky black substance that was apparently acidic. There followed a month of reduced production as the machines couldn’t be accessed as each and every one had to be cleaned. There was scaffolding in place for months as the factory was cleaned and re decorated. The good news was that our insurers, AXA, were excellent and no-one was hurt.

But, fire number two was a very big deal….

The similarities in both blazes were the titanium swarf igniting in the machining process due to a small problem. We machine a fair amount of titanium day and night and problems do occur. The differences were that with fire number one the electrics melted early on and the machine shut down. With fire number two the fire continued as long as there was lubricant and swarf to burn.

So the MD searched for something that would shut the machine down if a fire occurred and to also act as a fire extinguisher inside the machine at the seat of the fire. And he found FIRETRACE.

Firetrace Steps In

Fire number three in November 2005 was down to incorrect speed on a cutter cutting titanium. It ran too fast, there was friction and the titanium ignited, again on a quarter of a million pound machine.

However, this time the FIRETRACE suppression system activated, the fire was put out and shut down the machine. The Filtermist unit had sucked some fire out that melted its hose and set off the fire alarm. By the time the fire brigade arrived the machine had a new cutter in it. It was up and running within the hour, this time with the correct speeds and feeds. Oh and we needed to order a new hose for the Filtermist the following day.

So fire number three was no big deal and that was thanks to FIRETRACE….

There was nothing much to photograph, except a metre length of melted hose. That was the whole point, this fire caused no down time and cost next to nothing. Why FIRETRACE is not incorporated as standard on any machine that is going to cut flammable metals is the only question?