Putting Canadian innovation in the hands of firefighters to help save lives
Canadian firm takes the global fire protection market by storm with NRC technology
December 02, 2013— Boisbriand, Quebec
When a fire breaks out, it must be controlled quickly to save lives and property. FireFlex knows this well. The Quebec-based company has developed a host of state-of-the-art fire protection technologies. This includes a compressed air foam system that delivers superior fire extinguishing performance using a fraction of the water and foam concentrate that is typically found in such products.
In 2001, FireFlex learned of a unique compressed-air foam (CAF) piping and distribution technology invested by Mr. George Crampton, former Fire Technologist at the National Research Council of Canada. "CAF, a substance resembling shaving cream, extinguishes a fire very quickly but is difficult to transport through a steel pipe and distribute without collapsing its delicate bubble structure," says Mr. Crampton. "Our fixed pipe system enables the effective delivery and distribution of CAF onto a fire. Following the development of a properly engineered system, we were ready to commercialize this technology."
FireFlex licensed the CAF technology from NRC and joined forces with NRC to integrate this innovation with existing products. This led to the development of the first fixed pipe compressed air foam system of its kind on the market. It generates and propels CAF at high force through a steel sprinkler pipe, and disperses it through specially designed nozzles to extinguish a fire.
Building on this successful collaboration, FireFlex proceeded to develop an entire product line leveraging this technology. To achieve this objective, the team capitalized on the unique capabilities offered by NRC's National Fire Lab. This facility enables fire evaluation and demonstration testing for buildings, offshore facilities and transportation infrastructures; regulatory testing for materials, systems and components; and computer modeling and simulation for the spread of fire and smoke in buildings.
FireFlex and NRC conducted more than 500 tests at this lab to evaluate how the ICAF System performed in different fire scenarios. This included how it extinguished different types of fires, reduced the thickness of the smoke, and prevented the fire from re-igniting. These experiments enabled the team to improve this technology, identify additional applications, and target a broader market than originally expected.
"The National Fire Lab offers unique expertise on the science of fire and capabilities that would typically exceed the reach of a company," said Jean-Pierre Asselin, President of FireFlex Systems Inc. "The tests performed at this facility helped us to ensure the safety of our system and gather the rigorous data required for product approvals." According to Mr. Asselin, this accelerated his time to market.
"This is a very competitive and safety-driven industry. All new firefighting products must be approved by the National Fire Protection Association. Without the NRC technology, and the test results delivered through the National Fire Lab, it would have been impossible to acquire these approvals and bring the ICAF System to market. This product plays a critical role in the commercial success of FireFlex, generating at least 35 percent of our revenues. It also helped us to establish our reputation as a market leader in fire protection."
Today, this NRC-enabled product is sold to companies in manufacturing, transportation, energy, oil and gas, and construction across North America, Russia and Holland. The ICAF System extinguishes fires that often involve aircraft, trains, cargo trucks, transformers, hydraulic pumps, generators and heavy duty equipment. According to Mr. Asselin, "Collaboration with NRC propelled our commercial success over the last decade."
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