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At Composite Systems one of our favourite ways to spend our R&D budget is by setting things on fire! After all, who doesn’t love a good barbie?!

As we continue to innovate through developing new products or manufacturing methodologies, we often find ourselves at the cutting edge of fire-testing and having to develop new ways of establishing the performance of unique junctions. Working together with Warringtonfire we developed a fire test that would allow us to solve three issues, all within the same test.

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Furnace side face pre-test
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Cross-section through test

Test aims:

1.      Gather data on the performance of staples for fixing Promatect and fire-rated plasterboard to timber studs as an alternative to standard nails or screws to support an assessment for up to a 120/120/120 FRL (fire-resistance level). The staples suit our wall manufacturing line and allow us to make panels even faster.

2.      Establish a fire-stopping detail for StrongFloor where it is supported on a load-bearing timber wall for up to 120/120/120. We used a custom made rockwool profile within the steel voids over the top of the wall to prevent fire circumventing the fire wall.

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Custom made rockwool profile to StrongFloor voids

3.      Establish suitable fire-stopping details for our custom fabricated StrongBase aluminium wall baseplate. As a brand-new product designed to support fire-rated walls up to and FRL of 120/120/120 we needed to test the integrity of the joint. We also wanted to establish a way to protect the joint without needing site access to one side so working with Promat we decided upon a self-adhesive intumescent strip to the base to seal the joint in a fire.

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StrongBase – Custom two-part baseplate for Viridi prefabricated walls

There’s always a sense of excitement mixed with nerves at the start of a fire test! If a test goes badly they don’t come cheap and months of work will have been wasted.

As the test goes on there are measurements being made on the back face to check the temperature. We were starting to see some elevated temperatures as the furnace was now around 1000 degrees and the boards on the furnace side were starting to let heat through, though they were still well below the threshold levels.

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Thermal camera checking for hot-spots

Still going strong after over 100 minutes. The protection boards were doing their job but the timber within the wall itself was starting to char. Timber has a tremendous ability to function as its own fire-protection and the combination of the board and char layer forming meant that the wall was still able to support significant load.

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100 minutes through the test and still not stressing!

We eventually stopped the test after 2 hours and 20 minutes after the temperature on the rear face exceeded its limit of 180 degrees above ambient temperature. The wall itself was still maintaining integrity and supporting load which was an incredible result.

Once removed from the wall you can see the Promatect boards still intact (the fire-rated plasterboard had been pulled down at this point). All joints and junctions were remarkably still keeping out the fire spread and the whole system significantly exceeded our expectations.

For more information on any of our products please reach out to myself, Robert De Brincat or Jane Armstrong.

Also a shout out to the team at Warringtonfire for helping us develop the test, Michael Simpson at Etex Group for helping with the details, and Adam Strong for letting me set fire to our R&D dollars!

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