Milan, 23rd February 2017. The joint workshop organised by the Italian Technical Plastics Materials industry association (TMP) and pinfa brought together ca. 80 fire fighters, E&E manufacturers, fire safety and regulatory experts and polymer compounders.
The workshop enabled dialogue between technical polymer users and the PIN flame retardant industry, addressing trends in industry and regulatory requirements and PIN fire safety solutions.
Loredana Faccincani, TMP co-opened the meeting for TMP, underlining the importance ensuring fire safety of E&E equipment, to prevent electrical faults or overloading leading to fires, and the interest of Italy’s E&E industry in PIN flame retardants as innovative and sustainable solutions to achieve this.
Philippe Salémis, pinfa secretary general, co-opened the meeting, presenting pinfa’s vision of continuously improving the environment and health profile of PIN flame retardants, in order to offer sustainable fire safety solutions, as well as a quick overview of pinfa activities (regulatory and fire safety).
Adrian Beard, pinfa chairman, and Clariant, emphasised the advantages of PIN flame retardants, showing the wide range of different non-halogenated phosphorus, inorganic and nitrogen products today available. PIN FRs can both delay and reduce smoke emission and heat release, compared to some legacy FR systems, so increasing escape time in case of fire. Evaluations by independent studies have already to date (e.g. ENFIRO see pinfa Newsletter n° 36) identified a number of PIN FRs as “generally safe” or of “low level of concern” for health and environment, and have shown that PIN FRs can substitute legacy FRs (e.g. US EPA Alternatives Assessment to DecaBDE, see pinfa Newsletter n° 38). Nonetheless, Work to assess PIN FR environmental and health safety should continue, one example being Clariant’s EcoTain® sustainability criteria system (see www.clariant.com/de/Sustainability/Discover-Ecotain ).
Paolo Finazzi, Schneider Electric, presented the company’s requirements for “halogen free” materials. Schneider Electric’s has a corporate Planet & Society Barometer policy and operates its own Green Premium ™ Eco Label. Schneider Electric has received a number of awards for environmental and sustainability achievements, including top of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) for the fourth consecutive year in 2016. “Halogen free” is a product requirement for Schneider Electric for three reasons: concerns about release of some halogenated compounds into the environment, fire safety (low smoke, low smoke corrosivity, to improve escape and to avoid infrastructure deterioration) and end-of-life recycling constraints. Consequently, since 2016 Schneider Electric has decided that all new product developments must be “halogen free”. Mr Finazzi noted that a number of different definitions and test methods for “halogen free” exist (IEC TC111, TC23 SC23A, 62474 ; DIN VDE V 0604-2-100, DIN VDE 0472 part 815 VDE V 0604-2-100). Schneider Electric currently applies its own internal definition: chlorine + bromine < 0,2% mass and fluorine < 0,1%.
Thomas Futterer, pinfa vice-chairman and Budenheim, pointed out that the European Commission has launched an EU Circular Economy Action Plan. This will mean higher recycling rates (cradle to cradle), less energy recycling and avoidance of landfill whenever possible (< 10 %). The expected legislative changes may have direct influence on polymer formulations containing flame retardants, bringing questions and tasks to the polymer industry. Thomas Futterer discussed the current challenges of recycling plastics containing flame retardants, resulting from the very wide range of different polymers and of flame retardant combinations which are often tailor-made for specific applications. The pinfa recycling group, consisting of Adeka, BASF, Budenheim, Clariant and Nabaltec is supporting Fraunhofer LBF, which has started a three year technical project to assess the potential for closed-loop recycling of selected polymer-PIN FR systems. Their ongoing study is looking at impacts of multiple extrusion and polymer ageing on fire performance and mechanical properties.
Peter Kulischek, DuPont Performance Materials, explained that fire safety performance can create competitive advantage for E&E products. A combination of manufacturing industry sustainability objectives and regulatory constraints is accelerating the move towards non-halogenated flame retardants, but with demanding electrical, mechanical and processing performance requirements. Mr. Kulischek also presented different material property and fire performance requirements for a range of E&E applications, and the tests used to show conformity, covering electrical applications such as automobile, electrical components, motors and relays, circuit breakers. He underlined the accentuation of performance challenges posed by miniaturisation.
Gianluca Mastrodomenico, IMQ S.p.A, summarised testing methods relevant to fire performance, heat resistance and tracking for electrical insulation materials. Tests include the Ball Pressure Test (BPT), Determination of the Proof and Comparative Tracking, indices of solid insulating material (PTI and CTI), Needle Flame Test and the Glow Wire Test (GWTEP, GWFI, GWIT).
Jürgen Troitzsch, Fire and Environment Protection Service (FEPS) presented developments of regulations and standards applicable to E&E in Europe. He identified as trends in E&E FRs: the decisive importance of environment and health properties, the use of synergistic combinations of phosphorus, nitrogen and inorganic products to achieve fire performance, high molecular weight/polymeric FRs (low toxicity and low bioaccumulation risk, no losses or emissions from polymers). He noted that electrical equipment and cables often also have to conform to regulations and standards applicable in specific applications such as aircraft, shipping, railways or construction. Dr Troitzsch showed the importance of smoke emission, smoke acidity and toxicity requirements in many E&E applications, concluding that in the EU construction products, rail, other transport and cable requirements all consequently drive to move to PIN flame retardant systems.
Hans Wendschlag, Hewlett Packard, presented an E&E electrical equipment manufacturer’s perspective on developments of flame retardants in Europe and worldwide. The principal ecolabels worldwide restrict halogenated FRs in parts >25g (EU Flower, German Blue Angel, TCO, Nordic Swan, US EPEAT). Most big OEMs offer ecolabel certified products under several of these schemes (although there are no certified products under the EU Flower ecolabel). Some EU member States now authorise ecolabel certification requirement in public procurement. As a consequence, most IT companies now exclude halogenated FRs from all plastic parts and some also now exclude them from printed circuit boards. HP has used a Green ScreenTM based assessment process to identify PIN FR alternatives which are preferable.
TMP – pinfa workshop fire safety of E&E polymers and PIN FRs, Milan, 23rd February, 8h30-17h.
Italian Technical Plastics Materials industry association (TMP) and pinfa workshop “Fire safety of E&E polymers and PIN FRs”, IMQ, IMQ — Via Quintiliano 43, Milan, 23rd February 2017.