The frequency of fire in CNC machines is not something to be overlooked. With metals cutting at high speeds, the possibility of a fire occurring is likely – especially when a machine shop is running lightly attended or lights out. For reference, some of our Firetrace distributors report that they see 15 machine shop fires a week. With those odds, you may have seen a CNC fire or two yourself.
Not only will fire put employee lives at risk, but it can also create a financial burden due to damages and downtime. Here are our top two CNC fire safety tips we recommend to help eliminate the impact of fire.
1. Identify Machine Shop Safety Hazards
Ensuring a safe workplace starts with knowing the risks. So, what are the safety hazards in machining? The first hazard to identify, is the CNC machine itself. CNCs are famous for running at high speeds to manufacture goods by cutting and shaping metals. This, combined with the use of oil-based coolants, is a recipe for fire. The friction, heat, and flammable oil increase the likelihood of a fire occurring.
Secondly, if a tool is installed improperly, used incorrectly, or breaks on the job, a machine fire may transpire. A broken, dull, or misused tool can strike a part of the machine and create sparks. To avoid this, make sure to correctly adjust or replace tools in a timely manner. It's also a good idea to check your machine for any foreign objects that may have wound up inside of there!
Keep in mind, a messy workspace can also contribute to the problem. When dust or metal chips accumulate, sparks can catch them on fire. Make sure to clean chip pans regularly to prevent them from collecting. These should be disposed of in a bin far from machines that emit sparks. Chip bins should hold only chips – and not contain any other trash. With sparks flying, it’s important to keep all debris clear from the area.
Although these tips can help prevent fire, accidents still happen. Unfortunately, there are some things we cannot always control.
2. Invest in Fire Suppression
Machine shop owners and managers have the important role of protecting the safety of the employees, assets, and facility. Although the NFPA regulates overall building fire protection (including sprinkler systems and fire alarms), more localized protection is at the discretion of individual shops.
In the case a CNC machine was to catch on fire, a handheld fire extinguisher might do the trick – as long as the operator is close and quick enough. However, due to the oil-based coolant, these fires tend to erupt quickly and profusely. A CNC machine fire can become out of control in a matter of seconds.
To combat this issue, many machine shops choose to take precaution by installing CNC fire suppression systems ahead of time. Once installed, the system will be ready to deploy at any time without any human interruption. Requiring no electricity, the systems do not interfere in the machining process or with machinists on the floor.
If a fire incident occurs, the Firetrace system will discharge clean agent, suppressing the fire. The clean agent requires zero clean up and does not impact the coolant inside (so there is no need to change the coolant!). If there are any fire remnants from the incident, in most cases you can simply wipe it away. Afterwards, the machine should have a thorough inspection. Then, it can get back up and running in as little as 45 minutes by replacing the clean agent tank and routing new fire detection tubing through the machine.
Photo courtesy of Millennium Machinery.