Miniaturisation Is The Key


In previous years when the manufacturer of an automatic fire sprinkler system needed to test it to ensure that it met with international standards they would construct a giant wind tunnel. The huge chamber would be built into the structure of a building as a permanent fixture. This was used for what is known as a “plunge test”. A huge disadvantage with this design was that when a company re-located they had to dismantle the tunnel and then build a new one at the next premises. The cost of pulling the tunnel down, leaving the previous building in saleable condition and then re-constructing required a lot of expenditure.

Archer - which has decades of experience in designing and manufacturing precision zero-fail components for this industry - entered the arena. Why couldn’t the tunnel be miniaturised? Why did it have to be so big? This “out of the box” approach (so typical of the solution-focus at Archer) led to a world-first breakthrough. The Archer plunge test tunnel measured a skimpy 2200 x 1000 x 1600mm. It was so small it could be mounted on a laboratory bench and wheeled from room to room. Despite its tiny proportions no part of the scientific test was compromised.

“The RTI plunge test tunnel is a highly specialised application-specific piece of world standard apparatus”, adds Archer Operations Director Russell Byrne, “The uniquely shaped wind tunnel is a fully integrated solution with process control for both gas (air) temperature and velocity, sprinkler response time control, and can measure pressure differences of less than 1 Pascal to a resolution of 0.0001 mmHg.”

FM Global, a giant American underwriting corporation which has a lot of influence over the global automatic fire sprinkler system market place, ordered an Archer plunge test tunnel. The manufacturers want to design their systems to meet FM approval and so they in turn began placing orders. To date, Archer has manufactured and installed 19 plunge test tunnels around the world. The most recent installation was for the Japan Fire Equipment Inspection Institute.

They Looked Up To Us As Experts In This Field. "Brad and I stayed over there for five days installing the tunnel, commissioning it and training the JFEII engineers. What was interesting was that they also sought out our expertise and experience to assist them with understanding the ISO performance standard for automatic fire sprinklers. They saw us as an authority in this field.”

That was Archer Operations Director Russell Byrne talking about the recent installation of an Archer RTI Plunge Test Tunnel at the Japan Fire Equipment Inspection Institute. Archer designed the mobile test tunnel and it is the only one in the world being used by manufacturers of automatic fire sprinkler systems to ensure that their designs meet international performance standards. The Japanese installation was #19.

JFEII was established in 1963 as a public organisation to conduct inspections of fire equipment across the Japanese mainland. It is housed in Japan’s National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster which is where the nation’s fire fighters are trained. JFEII tasked Yamato Scientific Co. LTD. with sourcing the tunnel. Archer built the sophisticated laboratory test equipment over 4 months, installed it, produced an operating manual in Japanese and trained the engineers who will be using it. 

Archer adopts the same policy across all of its customers. It provides a holistic service not just engineering or manufacturing. In the words of Managing Director Brad Byrne, 

"We always like to take on a new challenge and extend ourselves. We are known for taking on the projects that others regard as 'too hard'. With the wide range of equipment that we have in place and the combined expertise of our team we really are suited to developmental manufacturing for R&D, making working prototypes, producing low volume runs of complex and specialised components, and helping to test them."