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Product In Manufacturing Plant Actually Helped Stop Fire

BACKGROUND:  A fire occurred in a manufacturing plant that was contained to one area, only damaging the air filtration system and an automated lathe.

Air Filtration System
Automated Lathe

ASSIGNMENT:  Determine if the air filtration system played a role in the cause of the fire.

Just the Facts: Inspections at the manufacturing plant and off-site laboratory showed that the greatest amount of damage was on the lower portion of the lathe, indicating that the origin of the fire was not in the air filtration system (which was located on top of the lathe).  Fire patterns also confirmed that flames traveled through the tooling area of the lathe and into the air filtration system.

While this was enough to exonerate the air filtration system, these inspections also revealed that the lathe had a “black box” feature in its hard drive that recorded work counts along with alarm code history. When the manufacturer of the lathe downloaded this information with all interested parties present it was found that numerous alarm codes had been set off right before the fire occurred.

These alarm codes revealed that the machine was running with problems in the system’s tooling area. The codes indicated that the cut metal along with the scrap metal would ultimately end up being extremely hot. We discovered that this scrap metal fell into an accessory that also contained cutting oil, a substance that could easily be ignited with extremely hot metal scraps. And, this accessory happened to be located right in the area of origin!

FINDINGS:  Not only did this information rule out the possibility of the air filtration system causing the fire, it also showed how this system kept the fire from spreading throughout the entire manufacturing plant!

This air filtration system is designed to capture and clean oil mist from the machining process, releasing only clean air.  Flame patterns and the lack of flame impact outside of this area showed that when the flames hit the system’s filters they continued to do their job by capturing the flames and releasing clean air – effectively keeping the fire contained and preventing a catastrophic loss!

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