Fire vs. Explosion Control for Your Dust Collection System

Fire vs. Explosion Control for Your Dust Collection System

Photo of a factory fire that could have been prevented with proper fire and explosion control.

A fire or an explosion can destroy expensive equipment, damage, or even wreck your building. It can certainly cause injury or death to workers. Dust and fume collection systems are often collecting some type of combustible material. So, these systems often require fire or explosion control systems as well as other types of safety systems.

Difference Between Fire and Explosion Control

It’s important to understand how a fire and an explosion are different. Fire is caused is when a substance rapidly consumes oxygen to produce heat and light. An explosion is an event where energy rapidly expands outward from the source, often creating a damaging shock wave. A fire may not cause an explosion, and explosions can happen without fire. For example, logs in a fireplace can slowly burn for a long time, producing flames and heat. Also, a pressurized tank of gas can explode if the material inside expands.

Is Combustible Dust Flammable or Explosive?

The answer is often both, depending on the conditions. If you try to light a block of metal on fire, not enough of the titanium is exposed to the air to start a fire. However, if you grind up that metal or turn it into gas with a welder, those tiny particles are exposed to plenty of air, and if there is an ignition source, they can catch on fire. Some metals, like titanium, burn so hot that once they are ignited, they can actually use water to burn even more, so using water to put them out just makes it worse.

Another example is sugar. Most of us use sugar all the time without realizing that it’s even flammable. However, an airborne cloud of sugar can combine with oxygen so quickly that it causes a violent explosion. Many other materials behave like sugar: once they become airborne, they can cause dangerous explosions because a fire can ignite the material so quickly.

A dust collector can be a perfect environment for a fire or explosion. Lots of dust inside an enclosed space can be very dangerous if it starts to burn, and it can be explosive. So how do you protect your dust collection system from fire or explosions?

Dust Fire and Explosion Control Devices

Spark detectors, spark trap, and abort gates can all act as fire prevention devices. One common choice for fire prevention is a spark detector. A spark detector will sense a spark before it gets into the dust collector, and it can activate other devices.

The spark detector might activate an abort gate. This will drop and deflect any sparks, fire, or smoke away from the facility and divert it safely. A spark trap installed in the ductwork and purposefully creates turbulence in the airflow. This knocks a spark around until it loses so much heat that it can’t start a fire.

These are devices that protect you and your facility from a fire. There are also chemical suppression systems that can be activated by the spark detector and extinguish a spark before it can start a fire. These systems can also put out a fire once it has started to keep it from spreading and prevent damage.

An in-line deflagration arrestor (IDA) is a type of system design. It protects your facility from explosions by stopping a flame front and preventing it from traveling back into the facility. IDA dust collectors include special filters that help extinguish a flame front and prevent it from going any further.

Explosion isolation valves are triggered by pressure to close off and prevent the explosion from traveling any further. A fast-acting slide gate can also be triggered to contain the explosion inside the dust collector. Once an explosion has occurred, there’s one, primary safety concern. That’s preventing it from getting back into the building or from causing damage or injury.

Devices like explosion vent panels or flameless explosion venting do not prevent explosions. But they do vent the explosion safely if one does occur.

CMAXX dust collector with fire and explosion control devices being tested.

Let’s Figure It Out

Sometimes a dust collector upgrade makes the most sense to protect a facility from fire damage. Contact us here at Imperial Systems to help determine your best options.

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KST Values of Common Combustible Dusts [Infographic]

KST Values of Common Combustible Dusts [Infographic]

Infographic of KST values of common dusts that are combustible

This infographic identifies the KST values of common metal, chemical, natural, and agricultural dusts found in manufacturing processes. KST is a general measurement of explosiveness and is a standard measurement for dust collection system design purposes. The explosive dust particle size range is between 10 and 95 microns.

Flame Physics

KST is used to determine the speed and pressure of a flame front in the event of an explosion. To calculate the KST values of these common dusts, thermal expansion (K), speed (S), and temperature (T) are used.  Once KST is determined, it falls into one of four categories:

  • ST-0: Kst 0, Pmax 10
  • ST-1: Kst 1-200, Pmax 10
  • ST-2: Kst 201-300, Pmax 10
  • ST-3: Kst 300 and above, Pmax 12

Descending KST Values of Common Dusts

These common dusts are listed in decreasing order of their KST values. The higher the KST number, the more explosive the dust is. Note that Magnesium dust and Aluminum dust with KST values of 508 and 415, respectively, are extremely explosive. Whereas, Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) and Charcoal with KST values of 46 and 10, respectively, are not very explosive. For reference, Sand with a KST value of 0 is not explosive at all. Please note that this information should be used as a reference only and should not be used in place of a dust test.

Explosion Prevention Products

Imperial Systems offers dust collection systems and accessories that help prevent an explosion in your factory. The CMAXX dust and fume collector is certified as an In-Line Deflagration Arrester with DeltaMAXX IDA filters. It has been proven to isolate a deflagration and stop a flame front. We also offer the Spark Trap, an Explosion Isolation Valve, a fast-acting slide gate, and a flameless explosion vent. Our Cast Iron Rotary Airlocks and Rhino Drum explosion-tested drum kit can be used on the discharge of CMAXX or the BRF Baghouse dust collector.


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Spark Trap Safety System: Protect Your Dust Collector

Spark Trap Safety System: Protect Your Dust Collector

Extinguish the Threat of Explosions with a Spark Arrestor

It’s imperative that every metalworking facility have highly efficient dust collection systems. Also, it’s crucial that metalworking facilities utilize a spark arrestor to provide even greater protection from these combustible hazards. Here’s why a Spark Trap safety system by Imperial Systems is the best choice.

spark trap safety systemWe have dedicated over 15 years to preventing and reducing fires and explosions in metalworking and manufacturing facilities. We also continually strive to meet and exceed the standards recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Our company also meets NFPA guidelines with our highly efficient dust collection systems and replacement cartridge filters.

If you’re asking yourself if a spark arrestor is really necessary, the answer is yes! First of all, consider the findings of OSHA’s National Emphasis Program. It shows that metal dust accounts for 20% of explosions nationwide. Also, 7% of ignition sources are ignited by fabricated metals. Further, another 8% of ignition sources are caused by primary metals. So, if you want to reduce the possibility of an accident at your metalworking facility, you MUST invest in spark arrestors!

How can Spark Trap safety systems reduce explosions?

Adding a spark arrestor to your industrial dust collection system is like adding a security system to your home. That is, you already have the proper amount of protection with locks. But installing a security system in your home provides another line of defense. Above all, it keeps you and your family safe.

Our spark arrestor, named Spark Trap, is the first line of defense in protecting your metal fabricators and your metalworking facility from explosions. Spark Traps extinguish nearly every spark before it enters the main containment unit where combustible dust and other flammable material collect. When you choose our Spark Traps, you’ll receive a quality product. We make it with heavy-duty materials and it’s highly effective at keeping sparks from entering your industrial dust collector.

Here are some key features you’ll receive when you invest in our Spark Trap safety system:

  • Maintenance free components
  • Fully welded construction
  • Easy install for any system
  • No moving parts
  • Available in carbon steel or stainless steel
  • Can be installed in horizontal or vertical configurations
  • Available in 6 to 40 inches
  • Clean-out door
  • Doesn’t require water

Spark Trap optional features include:

  • Raw inlet and outlet edges
  • A clamp together function for clamping duct
  • Rolled angle flange for bolt-together duct

Want to know more about the Spark Trap?  Check out our FAQ sheet to learn all of the benefits of our Spark Trap safety system.

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