The sponsoring company for this Engineering Doctorate is a manufacturer of\ud passive fire protection materials with about 80 employees. Its primary\ud products are specialist coatings that provide protection from the heat of a fire.\ud Since it is essentially a chemical blending company its core technical skills\ud have been in the chemical formulation of these products. The company\ud employed the Research Engineer (R. E.) to help find new applications for its\ud materials and widen its product range. It identified that domestic Liquid\ud Petroleum Gas cylinders are potentially dangerous because they may explode\ud when exposed to the heat of a fire. It determined to develop an enclosure to\ud protect them from fire for 30 minutes using its fire resistant coatings.\ud This project was conceived as a simple diversification, transferring existing\ud company technology to a new market area. However, LPG cylinders are very\ud sensitive to fire and require highly effective insulation from heat to make them\ud safe. To meet the company specification, the R. E. developed a new\ud composite fire insulation eight times as effective as the original solution, by\ud combining one of the company's products with other materials. The\ud effectiveness of the insulation and the enclosure design were proven by\ud completely engulfing it in flame from a burning pool of aviation fuel. A series\ud of these tests showed that the R. E.'s design reliably keeps LPG cylinders cool\ud and safe for more than 30 minutes. This experimental work was assessed by\ud the Loss Prevention Council who have based a new fire test standard on it.\ud During the development process it became apparent that the capabilities\ud required to manufacture an engineered product are quite different from those\ud needed for the creation of new coatings and materials. This new product\ud required a revolutionary advance in the company's approach to design, test\ud methods and production technology. The R. E. has developed a new method\ud of fire testing to provide heat flow data for use in computer models. This is\ud now used to reduce the number of prototypes needed for testing and so\ud compress development time. In order to manufacture the new product the\ud R. E. has had to develop new ways of processing the company's materials.\ud These new moulding techniques have delivered substantial improvements in\ud finish and reduction in material wastage. The capability of the company to\ud produce complex shapes from materials that are difficult to process has been\ud greatly enhanced.\ud Although the Gas Safe product itself has not yet achieved commercial\ud success, the Engineering Doctorate programme has made a positive\ud contribution to the company. In the last two years a number of interesting\ud new projects have been undertaken that would have been impossible without\ud the new engineering approach and production techniques. These are now\ud beginning to show a return and several new products based on this work are\ud under development
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