Fireray® beam detectors gain momentum in the Philippines

Optical beam detectors have become an increasingly popular fire protection solution throughout this nation’s many islands, thanks to a combination of new regulations, high quality products, and close cooperation between FFE and a key partner in the country.

 

Key Facts

  • The latest edition of the Philippines Electronics Code stipulates using optical beam detectors in large rooms with high ceilings.
  • The market has been quick to accept these detectors due to their numerous technical and cost benefits.
  • FFE’s Fireray range meets all the many requirements of customers who need fire detection in these applications.

A new approach

In the ongoing battle against fires in large buildings, the reliable detection of smoke plays a key role as it is often the earliest indication that combustion is occurring. However, designing a system to detect smoke quickly in a large volume of air presents a considerable challenge to fire protection specialists.  

 

Himmax Electronics Corporation has been a major supplier of fire alarm control panels in the Philippines since the company was established in the mid-Nineties. Prior to 2016, it had supplied hundreds of point smoke detectors to protect buildings with very high ceilings and large room volumes. Although time-consuming and costly to install and test, these networks of detectors had been the preferred means of protecting these types of spaces for many years.

 

A change came with the publication of the 2017 edition of the Philippines Electronics Code, which stipulated that beam-type smoke detectors must be used to protect buildings where ceilings are more than 6 metres in height. This is now a requirement in the building codes of many regions of the world, and reflects the widespread recognition that these detectors offer a superior solution in such applications.

 

Technical benefits

Smoke consists of tiny solid particles and liquid droplets generated from the burning fuel. A beam detector registers their presence when they block and scatter the infrared light, reducing the brightness of the beam measured by the receiver. This effect occurs over a very long optical pathlength (often more than 100 metres) and, as a result, a plume of smoke that has dispersed throughout a large volume of air can still be detected because the total reduction in signal across the length of the beam is large enough to be reliably measured.

 

Many point smoke detectors work in a similar way but over a much shorter pathlength (a few centimetres). Therefore, they are less likely to register these dispersed plumes as the smoke density at any one location under the ceiling will often be too low to trigger an alarm. These detectors are better suited for protecting highly cluttered spaces where dispersion of the smoke is hindered.

Optical beam smoke detectors are suited to detecting dispersed smoke plumes under high ceilings because the longer pathlength of the beam offsets the problem of detecting a lower smoke density

 

Since the change in the code, Himmax has been supplying FFE’s Fireray® beam detectors for a range of large buildings such as churches, cinemas, factories and warehouses. These detectors come equipped with a range of approvals that are recognised globally, making them readily accepted by both users and regulatory bodies. In addition to the technical advantages, this shift in the market has also illustrated a number of other benefits with these detectors.

 

Making installation and operation easy

One initial concern from customers centred on the fact that a single beam detector is significantly more expensive than a point detector. However, relatively few beams are needed to protect a large space due to the long length that they can cover (up to 120 metres for the Fireray One). Reflective beam detectors also only require connection to an electrical supply at one end of the beam, as the other end simply features a reflector to return the beam to the receiver. For these reasons, both the time and cost involved in installing the system are far lower than for a network of point detectors protecting the same volume, and they represent a very cost-effective solution overall.

 

An important requirement for installing beam detectors is a strong, stable location on which to mount the units. These must be in positions where the beam cannot be blocked. Himmax often uses universally adjustable brackets supplied by FFE on which the detector and reflector can be mounted and pointed towards each other, to take full advantage of any suitable structural supports.

 

Once installed, the beams must be aligned, a requirement that doesn’t exist for point detectors. However, FFE has devoted much effort into making this as easy as possible. Fireray reflective beam detectors contain a built-in laser which allows a simple manual alignment with the reflector, after which the motorised detector and its software take over to perform an automatic alignment routine to maximise the beam signal. The system also has the intelligence to track the signal strength and modify the beam alignment at regular intervals, to take account of any movement in the building structure due to high winds, thermal expansion or settling foundations.

 

Another advantage of beam detectors which has an ongoing cost benefit is that much less work is involved to test the system as required by regulations. Instead of having to check numerous point detectors across the entire space, it is only necessary to obscure each beam in a prescribed way at a single location to ensure that the system will register a fault or fire if needed. In addition, some Fireray models include controllers mounted at ground level from where UL-approved testing can be performed with no need to hire a lift to gain access to the beam itself, giving further cost savings. Software algorithms can even compensate for the effect of dust contamination of the detector optics, again reducing the likelihood of needing to perform physical maintenance of the detectors mounted high above the ground.

 

A detector for every purpose

FFE’s Fireray range covers various options for specific situations. Among the reflective beam detectors, the Fireray One offers a simple standalone detector while the Fireray 5000 features a separate controller that can be mounted at ground level to allow easy monitoring of the status of up to two beams at once. An end-to-end option, the Fireray 3000, is also available for more demanding applications where beam space is at a premium; because the beam only passes across the room once, the line of sight between the transmitter and receiver can be much narrower than in a reflective beam detector. A version of the Fireray 3000 has also been engineered to make it safe for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. Himmax has recently provided an Exd detector of this type for a system in a factory producing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The Fireray range of optical beam smoke detectors: (clockwise from top left) Fireray One, Fireray 5000, Fireray 3000, Fireray 3000 Exd

The technical and cost benefits of beam detectors in high-volume applications has been a significant factor behind their acceptance in the Philippines, and Himmax has worked hard to promote FFE’s products in the country with much success. In some cases, the aesthetic of the solution is also a concern. For example, the visual impact of a system in heritage buildings like churches or modern architecture in cinemas can be minimised by hiding the detectors behind partitions. In any event, since relatively few physical detectors are needed, their effect on the building’s appearance is low, and their clean and modern design helps them blend in when concealment is not feasible.

 

Himmax is continuing to promote FFE’s Fireray detectors at all their technical seminars, exhibitions and online trade fairs. They have found that the combination of technical and commercial benefits of the products, as well as the support given to them and their customers by FFE, is a winning formula which looks set to see this revitalised market continue to go from strength to strength.

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