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RMIT Launches Flame Testing Tech Lab

Image Credits: RMIT, Press Release

RMIT has established a new facility to flame test emergency service uniforms and other materials to ensure the development of personal protective clothing for firefighters and defence personnel that is safest.

The AU$2.3 million modular flame test chamber, the Flash-Fire Laboratory for Advanced Manikin & Material Evaluation (FLAMME), is one of the first of its kind in Oceania and will be used by RMIT researchers and research students in partnership with industry.

The insulated steel chamber inside textile research facilities at RMIT’s Brunswick campus is roughly the size of a shipping container. The centrepiece of the chamber is a fire-proof mannequin that can withstand the full force of 12 super-power jet flames without getting burnt. To allow users to watch combustion tests in progress, there is an operating room with a large viewing window outside the chamber.

The Director of the Centre for Materials Innovation and Future Fashion at RMIT, Professor Rajiv Padhye, said there was a high demand for such a facility to test uniforms. He noted that the fire resistance of uniforms for firefighters, soldiers, gas platform workers and steel foundry workers can be tested.

The Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching said the industry currently ships items to Canada for testing, which can mean long waits to get the results back. She noted that the new facility will allow manufacturers both locally and from across the Asia Pacific to be there during the testing and adjust the testing protocols where needed.

The chamber is specifically designed to be used for textiles, but the official said they hoped to also test the flammability of building and automotive materials.

Protecting Victoria’s frontline workers

Victoria is one of Australia’s most bushfire-prone areas, with 1.5 million hectares of land burnt in the 2019-2020 bushfire season alone. With the state about to enter another fire season, it is now more crucial than ever to ensure local firefighters and volunteers have the highest quality uniforms to protect them.

The Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching noted that firefighters are constantly putting themselves in danger to protect the community. This combustion chamber will help develop and test textiles that are up to the task of protecting them from the dangers of fire.

The State Manager for CFA’s Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing welcomed the new facility. He said that the new technology will offer the industry access to highly specialised services to assess the performance of innovative firefighting materials and emerging protective garment designs. Ultimately, this will lead to safer outcomes for people working in high-risk environments such as firefighters and other emergency service personnel.

RMIT’s strong partnerships with the CFA, Fire Rescue Victoria and other firefighting and military uniform makers will help to ensure high demand for the facility. The project has been supported with funding from the Australian Research Council, the Defence Science and Technology Group, RMIT, Deakin and Swinburne universities, and garment manufacturing company Bruck Textiles.

The facility underlined RMIT’s School of Fashion and Textiles’ reputation as a leader in textiles research and development, as well as its responsiveness to industry needs.  The Associate Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Teaching stated, “We are really excited to now have this chamber operational at our Brunswick campus. It opens up so many exciting new opportunities for research, student learning and industry partnerships, and provides a solution the industry has been crying out for.”

RMIT has been deeply involved with cutting-edge, tech-enabled innovation. Early RMIT researchers developed a new screening test application that can produce accurate results using people’s voice recordings that could help advance the early detection of Parkinson’s disease and severe COVID-19.

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