When it comes to your machine shop, productivity and safety are most likely your top priorities with regards to day-to-day operations. Did you know that machine shops lose around $50 billion annually due to unplanned downtime/delays? Putting in place proper fire protection equipment in your machine shop can prevent lengthy delays, expensive repairs, and safety risks to your shop and your business. With ten to fifteen fires a week occurring in machine shops across the United States alone, retrofitting your CNC machines with fire suppression systems is as important as ever. Even one fire in an unprotected machine could mean losing a lucrative contract, costing you money, and maybe even save your business.
Automatic Fire Suppression vs. Extinguishers
Many people have handheld extinguishers in their machine shops to combat CNC machine fires. Here are some factors to consider when making the choice between a fire extinguisher and an automatic fire suppression system:
- With a handheld extinguisher, the operator must open the machine to get to the flame. Opening the machine will fuel the fire with more oxygen, which might cause the fire to grow.
- The operator must manually shut down the machine before a handheld extinguisher can be used, wasting valuable firefighting time. Even an additional 10 seconds can be enough time for the fire to become uncontrollable.
- If an operator fails to shut down the machine, the oil will continue feeding the fire.
- If there is not an operator in the shop or monitoring the machine (e.g., running lights out or operator is on a break), there is nobody to extinguish the fire.
- As the fire grows the handheld fire extinguishers become less effective.
Installing automatic fire suppression systems further protect your business and up-time while alleviating issues presented by handheld extinguishers.
- There is no need for an operator to get near the machine in the event of a fire. Firetrace International Detection Tubing (FDT) routed throughout the machine will detect a fire at its source and deploy agent automatically – 10 times faster than traditional methods.
- The clean agents used are nonconductive and noncorrosive so they will not harm your machine. They leave no residue and do not harm people.
- An automatic fire suppression system works without electricity. There is no risk that the system will fail with a power outage, allowing you to be worry-free 24/7.
- An optional pressure switch can be installed and set to e-stop the machine, mist collectors, and oil pumps.
- Automatic fire suppression systems detect the fire within seconds, extinguishing it before it grows too large to control which minimizes damage to the machine.
While automatic fire suppression systems offer key safety benefits, one of the great things about a simple fire extinguisher is that you don't need to install it. Some companies worry that retrofitting their machines with a fire suppression system is a complex process that could eat up valuable production time. But what is the process like, really?
Retrofitting 101: What to Expect When Installing a Fire Suppression System
After reviewing the benefits of automatic fire suppression, you have likely come to the conclusion that retrofitting your machines may be a good idea. You are now wondering what is involved with retrofitting and how it will impact your day-to-day activities. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions:
1. How long does the installation take and how long will my machine be down?
The average time to install a Firetrace International system on a CNC machine is four hours or approximately a half day.
2. How will the install affect my machine?
There are no adverse effects from installing an automatic fire suppression system on a CNC machine.
3. How easy is it to install a fire suppression system?
Installation is simple and flexible because the Firetrace International systems do not require electricity to operate. It is comparable to a plug and play installation.
4. Do I need to service the system?
We advise having your system serviced twice a year by an authorized Firetrace International distributor to ensure the fire suppression system operates properly. This maintenance takes approximately 30 minutes. It is important to check all system interface relays including CNC shutdown, oil-mist collector shutdown, and alarm system notification if required.
When Should You Retrofit Your CNC Machine with a Fire Suppression System
While automatic fire suppression adds an extra level of safety and security, we understand that not every CNC machine or machine shop requires automatic fire suppression. To help you evaluate your risks and determine if you would benefit from automatic fire suppression, we have developed a Fire Suppression Assessment Guide. Simply, answer a few questions regarding your machine(s) and operations to determine your assessment score and compare to our recommendations.