Fire fighters

Developing a new product can be a long and arduous task, especially for companies with outsourced manufacturing facilities in far-flung locations. As we do everything under one roof here in the UK we are ideally placed to turn ideas into new products quickly and efficiently – a position that enables us to develop products for specific projects.

In the case of One Hyde Park, our main UK distributor, Tolworth-based ETS Cable Components, enquired as to the potential for us to develop a fire rated cable cleat, the availability of which would help it to secure a significant order covering a broad spectrum of different electrical accessories. Having discussed this with them in the past and already begun initial exploration into the feasibility of developing such a product the timing of the enquiry couldn’t have been better.

What this meant is that we were able to focus our attention on its development and, working in partnership with ETS, we were quickly in a position to sell-in the product based on prototype design. This job was done so well the order was quickly confirmed and a timeframe agreed for us to turn the concept into a manufactured reality.

Overcoming problems

The first issue to get to grips with was certainly a significant one. There is no such thing as a fire rated cleat. Or, to put it better, there is no agreed test for a cleat to be put through in order to rate its performance in fire.

To date this problem has simply been circumnavigated by manufacturing cleats from cast iron. Because it has a high melting point cast iron provides the necessary safety reassurances, but unfortunately the cost of it makes the cleats restrictively expensive.

While this situation was sustainable when the use of fire rated cables was few and far between, today their installation in new build developments is becoming ever more frequent and as such there is a growing demand for a more cost effective solution.

On top of this, consideration needs to be given to the whole premise of such cables, which is that they are installed with the intention of ensuring essential services continue to operate during a fire. And, as we’ve highlighted on numerous occasions, the importance of cable cleats in any installation cannot be underestimated. Therefore, the option of simply forgoing correct cleating practice to cut costs is not an option for anyone wanting to deliver a safe cabling installation.

A simple aim

As such, our aim was simple – to develop what in essence would be the first ever range of fire rated cleats manufactured in cost-effective stainless steel. In order to achieve this, we chose to bring in some specialist assistance. Exova Warringtonfire is a company with true international pedigree and when it comes to fire testing, certification and consultation there really is no better place to turn. Working closely with them we selected a fire testing process that would most realistically reflect the conditions the cleat might see in service.

The tests included exposure to fire, impact and water spray, all of which combined to ensure that the product being installed in One Hyde Park offers fire protection to the same level as the cables it is being installed to protect.

In addition to this specific installation, we are also in the process of developing the product into a full range. Set to incorporate 11 product variations, the Phoenix range is scheduled for launch in late September and will be suitable for cables from 10 to 65mm in diameter.

Lack of understanding

As with anyone bringing a new product to market we are obviously delighted to be first off the mark, but I do feel that the fact we were faced with developing a new product without the guidance of an industry agreed testing procedure once again highlights the severe lack of understanding when it comes to the role cable cleats play in any cable installation.

In a standard short circuit situation, underspecified cleats will simply add to the shrapnel, therefore putting lives and expensive installations at unnecessary risk. Put underspecified cleats on a fire rated cable installation and any benefit such cabling may bring to a building is instantly lost.

To me it is simple common sense. If you’re installing any cable management system it is nothing short of pointless investing in high quality cables and containment systems if you’re then going to cut corners when it comes to ensuring they won’t go up in flames with the first problem they encounter.

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