Final fire-safety test imminent

Mark A. DeSorbo

SAN DIEGO—End-users, standards bodies and insurance companies who put their heads together several months ago to develop a worldwide-accepted fire-safety test are expected to present the fruit of their collaborative effort this month at the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA; Quincy, MA) 318 Cleanrooms Committee meeting. [See “Fire safety kindles collaboration,” October 1999, p. 1]

And for David Quadrini, the 318 Committee chairman, it's been a long time coming, for he has felt the heat from both sides in a debate over the merits of the FM4910 protocol from Factory Mutual Research (Norwood, MA) versus standards developed by Underwriter's Laboratories (UL; Northbrook, IL).

“I've been working on this since 1994,” Quadrini says. “There has been a lot of hard work to get to something that the industry, the insurance companies and the tool manufacturers could live with.”

Scientists at Factory Mutual Research review test results from the flammability test apparatus behind them. Photo courtesy of Factory Mutual Insurance Co.
Click here to enlarge image

Along with the basis for a fire-safety test, the foundation for recommended procedure on how to purchase equipment that is fire safe will be presented at the committee meeting as well, he says. The basis for the worldwide-accepted fire test is a cornucopia of documents from Factory Mutual Research, UL, HSB Industrial Risk Insurers (San Francisco). The committee will also review two documents, 2697 and S2, from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) that will be the foundation of a recommended practice on purchasing equipment that is fire safe.

“Committee members will take the information that is presented and decide what will go into two NFPA documents that will be used throughout the world,” Quadrini adds.

The effort to establish a worldwide protocol for fire-safety testing began last July, when a meeting took place between the NFPA, Factory Mutual, UL and HSB. The consensus was that the type, amount and how plastics coming into the cleanroom are tested needed to be solidified.

Paul Higgins, technology global practice engineering manager for FM Global (Johnston, RI), which Factory Mutual Research is an affiliate of, says it is imperative for end-users, standards committees and insurance companies work to with the NFPA committee to reach a consensus for fire-test methods.

“We all have the same goal, we just differed on which methods were the best. Whether it's more like the FM4910 standard or the UL standard or a mixture of both, we are optimistic that a new standard will be adopted by NFPA in December,” Higgins says.

Meanwhile, Factory Mutual Research dropped the corrosion index from the FM4910 standard to help ease testing of some of the new fire-safe plastics being developed for use in next generation wet benches and other plastic fab tooling.


Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account. Comments won't automatically be posted to your social media accounts unless you select to share.