Fire Safety First

Don’t overlook safety when considering running your lathe unattended. An on-machine fire suppression system can save not only your lathe, but also your facility.

Article From: 11/11/2008 Modern Machine Shop, ,

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Fire suppression system for machine tools

The red tubing attached to the underside of this Swiss-type lathe’s access door will burst if exposed to flame. If that were to happen, a fire extinguishing agent would be immediately activated to douse the fire, saving a shop’s machine and quite possibly its facility.

There’s always a potential for something to go wrong when a lathe is running unattended. An undetected worn tool, for instance, could cause a string of bad parts to be created. What would be worse—much worse—would be if a fire ignited during a turning operation, which is especially possible when using oil-based coolants. Not only could you lose the machine, but you could also lose your facility.

An automatic fire extinguishing system offers good insurance as well as peace of mind that any fire that might spark inside a lathe is quickly doused. The various types of on-machine fire suppression systems function in much the same way. They use some type of detection mechanism located within the machine’s enclosure that triggers the release of an extinguishing agent when it detects a fire. How these systems often differ is in the way they detect flames.

Firetrace (Scottsdale, Arizona) has developed a fire suppression system that uses flexible, flame-detection tubing that installs in key areas within lathes, EDM units and other equipment. The tubing ruptures at the point of contact with licking flames. The resulting drop in pressure in the tubing activates a valve that discharges extinguishing agent through diffuser nozzles in the machining zone. The system is available with a manual release, allowing an operator to activate the system during tended hours at the first sign of trouble.

By using the tubing as the fire detection mechanism, false discharges and subsequent down time and expense can be eliminated. The flexible tubing can be snaked through the machine so it is located in hard to reach areas where other detection methods might not be able to access. In addition, the self-contained system doesn’t have a control panel and doesn’t require an electrical power source, so it remains operational during power outages.

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