Fire safety advantages of composite technology 

Fire safety advantages of composite technology 

Construction design and technology is constantly developing within the rail industry resulting in lighter and therefore faster, more efficient trains, with greater capacity. With passenger numbers at an all-time high, train safety is paramount and composite materials can play a significant part in the safety solution…




A range of composite materials have been designed to meet these safety standards, indeed exceeding fire, smoke and toxicity requirements, while providing design and build advantages, such as weight savings and higher strength.

As population densities continue to increase within urban centres, the use of mass transit is on the rise. To cater for this, cities are incorporating underground and elevated tracks into rail designs, and trains are becoming larger and progressively more automated. The use of driverless and conductor-less trains has potential for efficiency benefits however poses an increased risk to fire and vandals. Usage of elevated and underground tracks provide significant advantages for cities however unfortunately impede passenger time taken to escape in an emergency. These factors cement the importance of why fire resistant materials capable of preventing toxic fumes and dense smoke are paramount in ensuring passenger safety.

Improving fire safety is not a new concept and its significance has not diminished over time; however, the materials used to meet fire, smoke and toxicity requirements have advanced. Composite materials have moved into the spotlight replacing steel and aluminium. With a range developed to exceed requirements and provide light weight solutions in place of historically used steel and aluminium, trains are provided with significant weight savings and strength benefits.

Increased strength, less weight

Composite materials offer manufacturers within the rail market significant advantages over traditional materials. Composite materials offer high mechanical stiffness and strength properties, allowing for greater durability, effectively reducing maintenance and operating costs. Significant weight savings in comparison to traditional metal products allow for faster speed and acceleration, fuel consumption advantages and the potential to increase passenger capacity. Passenger comfort can also be improved with composite materials offering architectural flexibility allowing for spacious and aesthetically pleasing interior designs. The same principle can be applied to the exterior enabling greater design freedom to provide performance benefits through improved aerodynamics. Passenger safety can also be improved with suitable composite materials benchmarked against the most stringent fire and fumes standards.

As an established supplier of composite materials for interior and structural aerospace applications, Gurit has leveraged its experience in other applications to develop a proven range of prepreg systems and structural core materials. Ideally suited to manufacture weight-optimised laminate structures, sandwich or crushed-core components that exceed the customers’ performance criteria and the most stringent safety requirements of the global rail market.

The company’s range of materials designed for the rail industry have been developed to provide manufacturers with favourable mechanical properties while the chemical features of the material provides assurance that relevant fire safety requirements are met. Gurit’s range of core materials has been designed to withstand high temperature chemical reactions up to 150°C/300°F and offer outstanding fatigue properties, chemical resistance, good adhesion and mechanical properties. Similarly, Gurit’s range of phenolic and epoxy prepregs offer short burn lengths, lowest smoke densities and smoke toxicities, and very low heat release values. The epoxy and phenolic prepregs offer an excellent balance between fire retardation and mechanical performance, meeting the most stringent passenger safety requirements, including fire and fumes regulation EN45545.

Specific equipment

The Gurit G-PET FR is a highly versatile core material with a good balance of mechanical properties, temperature resistance, density and cost, enabling an economical use for a wide range of applications and processes. G-PET FR has been developed to meet the growing demand for structural core materials with excellent fire, smoke and toxicity properties; while, achieving significant weight saving advantages over traditionally used steel and aluminium. For manufacturers this enables lighter trains capable of travelling and accelerating faster and more efficiently without any compromise in strength or fire resistance.

G-PET FR is available in a range of various densities and suited to a number of processing techniques making it suitable for a wide range of applications. The range is available in standard sheet sizes, benchmarked to meet relevant density, strength and shear standards.

Gurit’s range of epoxy and phenolic prepregs have been designed to complement the mechanical and chemical advantages provided by the G-PET FR range. Gurit’s phenolic prepreg, PH 840 was developed for use in global rail applications where manufacturers require strong mechanical properties combined with ultimate fire retardation. Similarly, Gurit’s range of fire resistant epoxies provide manufacturers strong mechanical properties while exhibiting good flame spreading properties, allowing for greater use within structural components such as flooring panels. With a range of processing techniques available for both resins, manufacturers are able to achieve high performance; minimum weight laminates with excellent fire and chemical resistance.

Overall benefits

Benefits of composite materials have been proven and traction continues to grow within the global rail market as manufacturers continue to realise the benefits of composite materials. Over traditional steel and aluminium materials, composites offer significant weight savings enabling trains to travel and accelerate faster, hold more passengers and operate more efficiently. Fire safety advantages have been developed, meeting regulations and maintaining a weight advantage traditional products cannot match.

Contact Tanja Moehler

[email protected]

2016-11-30T12:42:51+00:00 December 1st, 2016|DECEMBER 2016|