Author Archives: firwincorp

The Maid of the Mist and Firwin

At Firwin, we insulate a lot of serious equipment. Economies across the globe rely heavily on the mining, trucking, and marine industries. All of these endeavors can be dangerous without the quality insulation that Firwin provides. However, insulation isn’t all about hard work, it can also be about having fun. 
Since the first person set eyes on Niagara Falls, it has been a natural wonder that people have traveled far and wide to experience. By the mid 18th century, tourism had become Niagara Falls leading industry and that remains the case two and a half centuries later. Since 1846, the best way to see the falls has been from the deck of the Maid of the Mist tour boat. While it started out as a simple steamboat ferry, today there are actually four large diesel powered Maid of the Mists in service. Firwin is proud to have helped insulate these historic boats. Our marine and steam line insulation dramatically reduces heat loss from engine exhausts, piping, silencers, and piping. Because there isn’t much elbow room in the engine room of a smaller water craft, it’s even more important to shield the crew from excesses heat all while maximizing the effectiveness of exhaust catalytic purifiers and filters. That is why the Maid of the Mist fleet relies on Firwin insulation to guarantee that every trip past Niagara Falls is a safe and enjoyable one.

Firwin and Mine Safety

COPIAPO, Chile where 33 miners were trapped in a collapsed mine
From August to October of 2010, it was next to impossible to watch TV for more than 10 minutes without hearing about the 33 miners trapped in a collapsed gold mine 2,300 ft below Chile’s harsh and isolated Atacama Desert. The Copiapó mining accident captivated the world even after the miners safely returned to the surface.  It not only highlighted the strength of the human spirit, but it also shined yet another light on how dangerous mining can be. This near tragedy reminded us that even in the modern world, we cannot afford to ignore basic mine safety.  
In our last blog, we discussed the basics of open pit and underground mining. Today, we are going to highlight the challenges of both styles of mining and the substantial role that Firwin plays in keeping the mining industry safe. 
Open Pit Mining
Open pits, while being overall less demanding than underground mining, carry with them their own set of challenges. As with any activity involving large equipment like multi-ton trucks, loaders, and drills you need to use insulation blankets to shield personnel, cabling, and all heat sensitive controls from extreme temperatures.  However, open pit mining also introduces the problem of excessive sound and vibration.
Many open pit mines across the world are located near population centers, especially in countries like Australia. Therefore, companies have to find a way to effectively mine, without disturbing nearby residents and businesses.  Firwin has insulation blankets that combine both temperature and noise/vibration protection, thus allowing open pit mines to run 24-7 safely and without causing local resentment and structural damage. 
Underground Mining
As the world has turned more and more to underground mining, Firwin has started to focus on developing a special line of insulation products aimed at the unique challenges of underground mining. Digging any tunnel, shaft, or adit is difficult, time consuming, expensive, and inherently dangerous. After a good deal of research and testing, Firwin created our proprietary MineWrap™ Removable Insulation Blankets expressly for underground mining.
MineWrap™ Removable Insulation Blankets
Our MineWrap™ addresses some of the less obvious areas of concern of underground mining. It protects again the dangers of hydraulic oils spills on hot engine surfaces, reduces operator burns, limits oil seepage, and can withstand extreme wear and tear. Though not as well documented as cave-ins like Copiapó, these problems can lead to equally as devastating occurrences. 
Whichever mining technique our customers utilize, they know that Firwin has the products, experience, and expertise to make the mining process safer, cleaner, and more productive. Furthermore, all of our mining insulation is custom made to fit your specific equipment and our blankets conform to UL2000 standards. If you want to learn more about our mining insulation, visit our website or contact an expert at Firwin today.

Underground versus Open Pit Mining

If you scan any news source these days, you will find countless stories about the world’s unquenchable desire for mineable resources like oil, coal, and precious metals. Recently, Firwin has begun to extend its reach into the ever-growing world of mining. With this in mind, we thought this would be the perfect time to review the basics of this most crucial of industries. 
A little background
Over the past century, the mining world has taken full advantage of amazing technological advances and innovation. Today, instead of using candles and canaries, miners use LED integrated explosion-proof cordless mining headlamps and multi-purpose gas detection sensors. However much technology mining now incorporates, the basic idea behind the act of mining remains the same: something you need is in the ground and you have to find a way to get it out. As one might expect, there is a wide variety of mining methods available today; yet when it comes down to it, all of them can be split into two basic categories: underground mining and open pit mining.
Open Pit Mining
As its name indicates, open pit mining is a method of extracting rock or minerals from open pits, like quarries and burrows. This ancient form of mining requires no tunneling and is utilized when substances are fairly close to the surface. These mines are not just big open holes. Instead, they consist of a series of ledges or benches, which companies dig at angles to allow for extraction without causing structural weaknesses. There are open pit mines all over the world and they yield everything from clay and coal to uranium and gold.
Underground Mining
If an area’s open pit mines are exhausted or impossible to build due to the inaccessibility of the desired resources, the mining process goes underground. There are several different ways to mine underground. You can build spiral tunnels that circle the deposit, sink vertical shafts adjacent to the ore, or create adits, which are horizontal excavations into the side of a hill or mountain.  Unlike open pit, underground mining requires that you take into account a wide variety of added requirements. These include complex ventilation systems, area and local ground support, and of course finding a consistent, safe, and cost-effective way to get your materials to the surface.  Just for reference, the deepest mine in the world is South Africa’s TauTona gold mine, which is over 12,800ft or almost two and a half miles deep. 
Whichever mining technique you choose (or are forced to choose), there are a number of unique challenges that can’t be ignored. In our next blog, we will discuss the role that the insulation experts at Firwin play in making today’s mines safer and more effective.

Are Insulation Blankets Safe for Outdoor Applications?

There are two possible problems when considering using removable insulation blankets for outdoor applications:

•    The potential for water to get underneath the blanket and stay, which could in turn lead to pipe corrosion under certain circumstances.
•    The possibility of poor insulation performance when exposed to the elements.

Because insulation blankets, by nature, are not sealed, they are not impervious to water. Brett Herman, Firwin’s VP of sales and customer services, says the first question you should ask yourself when considering using insulation for an outdoor application is, “Can I afford any water getting under the blanket?” If the answer is no, then insulation blankets are not likely candidates for you application. However, if the problem isn’t a question of water getting under the blanket, but rather a fear of the water lingering, removable insulation remains a viable solution.

In many applications, high temperatures from typical engine exhaust cylinders (provided they are non-cyclical) will burn off excess water that remains under an insulation blanket—thus eliminating the risk of corrosion. In terms of ability to perform in outdoor conditions, insulation blankets’ standard outer layer (silicone impregnated fiberglass) can withstand temperatures as low was -67° F before cracking—and some even feature a UV resistant coating. When it comes to responding to water, some kinds of insulation are more water-resistant than others.

To accommodate outdoor applications, Firwin incorporates design modifications into blankets, such as extra flaps to reduce the amount of water that gets beneath a blanket. If corrosion is an issue, Firwin may also recommend consulting with an outside corrosion engineer.

For more information, continue reading about insulation blankets for outdoor applications here.

Appropriate Insulation for Marine Applications

Marine applications differ from land-based applications in three main areas: Firstly, a ship engine is typically used for prime power, so it is running all the time and generating a lot of continuous heat, unlike a back-up power generator. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, are the additional safety concerns that arise from being a sea-borne vessel—out on the water is not a place for heat-related issues. Thirdly, the engine room is often in tight quarters, increasing the likelihood that someone brushes up against a hot exhaust component.
For these reasons, Firwin typically recommends a thicker level of insulation than would suffice in standard non-marine power applications – usually 2-inch thick insulation blankets, as long as space allows. Extra care is also taken in designing the blankets to ensure that small gaps between components are covered. Firwin Hard Coat is also an excellent alternative to removable insulation blankets for marine applications, especially in cases where space constraints do not allow for thicker insulation. 
For more information about insulation for marine applications, please contact us today.

Alternative Fastening Techniques for Insulation Blankets

Over the years, Firwin has developed more than a few ways of building fasteners for its removable insulation blankets, but its traditional modus operandi has always been with stainless steel lacing wire. “We find that stainless steel lacing wire works best,” says Paul Herman, Firwin’s president. “But for certain applications, where speedy installation is key, or where the client will be removing the [insulation] blankets frequently to do maintenance, we will recommend alternatives.”
So what are some of the alternatives? Thus far, Firwin has developed and produced insulation blankets that can be fastened by way of straps, snaps, springs, even Velcro. All of these options provide lighter, cheaper, and more accessible means of opening and closing insulation blankets.
 A recent challenge: Firwin was tasked to develop a new spring system for one of its clients. But first there were a few slight problems that required solving. As Brett Herman, Firwin’s V.P. of Sales & Customer Service, sums it up, “We have made spring fasteners available to our customers in the past… However, we used to find that the spring fasteners available ‘off the shelf’ just did not provide the proper fit that insulation blankets require. We knew that if we were to provide spring fasteners as a legitimate option, we would have to design one ourselves.” 
That’s just what Firwin did. Working with a local spring manufacturer, Firwin retrofitted their fasteners so that they would snap off with ease, all the while maintaining their sturdiness over time and at high temperatures. Insulation blankets fitted with these new and customized spring fasteners (as well as all other fastening alternatives) are currently available from Firwin upon request.

Insulation Outer Fabric: What are the Options?

An insulation blanket is composed of three main layers: An inner face, the insulation media itself, and the outer fabric. The inner face, known as the hot face, comes in direct contact with the hot component. Typically a stainless steel mesh, it holds the insulation in place. The outer fabric, known as the cold face, covers the insulation.

Outer fabric can be fluid-resistant or non-fluid resistant. Silicone or Teflon™ lamination endows the fabric with fluid-resistant properties, greater abrasion resistance, and the ability to withstand greater amounts of mechanical stress. Additionally, these types of fabrics are well suited to surviving the elements.

However, once temperatures reach above 500° F, the adhesives and coatings begin to break down, causing the material to lose integrity and become brittle. Some fabrics can continue to perform up to 600° F, at which point laminated fabrics maintain integrity while losing lamination. For extremely high-temperature applications, non-fluid resistant, woven, non-coated fabrics fare well. For applications that require fluid-resistance as well as high-temperature resistance, other materials must be considered.

Curious about what kind of outer fabric is right for your particular application? Read more to find out what other options are available.

How to Install Firwin Removable Insulation Blankets

Last week, we discussed fastening techniques for insulation blankets. But what about proper installation? Combined with the right fastener, proper insulation installation is crucial in maximizing heat reduction. An improperly installed blanket can result in uncovered parts, heat leakage, or damage to the blanket—all of which can cost you time and money.

To help our customers get the most from our insulation, we’ve put together a basic guide to Firwin insulation blanket installation. This step-by-step guide, complete with pictures and diagrams, shows you exactly what do to and how to do it.

Firwin’s removable insulation blankets are available for many different applications, including manifolds, turbos, elbows, flanges, and flex joints, among others. Please contact Firwin directly if you require further instruction on installation for these or other components.

Energy Savings with Removable Valve Insulation

Getting the most out of your pipeline applications requires attention to heat—and sources of heat loss. The more heat you lose the higher the cost, so identifying key areas for insulation can go a long way towards increasing efficiency. Valves, flanges, expansion joints, and other irregular surfaces are common culprits of heat leakage, and maintenance often damages existing insulation. To circumvent these issues, many industrial professionals turn to removable insulation to maximize heat retention and increase pipe performance.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends insulating any surface that reaches temperatures greater than 120° F, in order to protect personnel. The use of reusable insulation pads is pivotal in maintaining a safe environment: because the pads can be periodically removed for inspection and replaced as needed, they are an effective way to resolve current heat loss issues and prevent problems down the road.

Depending on valve size and operating temperatures, insulating valve covers can achieve impressive energy savings: the difference in heat loss between the un-insulated valve and the insulated valve operating at the same temperature. To get an idea of how much you can save, take a look at this helpful table from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Interested in removable valve insulation? Contact Firwin today to learn more about our hands-on service.

An Inside Look: Are Insulation Surface Temperatures Safe?

How hot does the outer surface of an insulation blanket get? When thinking about insulation temperatures, it’s important to remember that fabrics do not conduct heat; metals do. As a result, the relative temperature of a fabric surface can be higher, and still be safe to touch. However, it wasn’t until 1998 that a formal differentiation was made between metal and other surface types. For both, 140° F (60° C) had been the accepted standard temperature.

The UL220 Specification for Stationary Engine Generator Assemblies, issued in September of 1998, was the first standard to quantify acceptable temperatures. Based on this specification, fabric surfaces, such as insulation blankets, can reach temperatures up to 203° F (95° C), and still be safe enough for casual contact.

For more information about safe contact temperatures for insulation materials and more, please see our Firwin Insulation Insights FAQ.