Archive: Sep 2011

4 Asbestos Alternatives: Making the Right Choice


Although it’s common knowledge that asbestos poses numerous health risks, it has been difficult to find one fiber that covers the same temperature ranges and offers the same level of chemical resistance. These inherent characteristics established asbestos as the insulation of choice for engines, boilers, and piping, from the 1800s through the 1980s. As serious health risks were uncovered, asbestos was banned and the search for risk-free alternatives began.

Because no one single material adequately covers the full range of temperatures, from Arctic lows to the high temperatures experienced in engines of all types, it was necessary to develop a variety of materials to cover requirements for insulation purposes. Firwin has never used asbestos, and we’re dedicated to manufacturing the right material combination for a given project.

Below, we offer descriptions of several common alternative materials, and the appropriate applications for each.

1. Cellular glass. Impermeable to moisture, cellular glass is non-combustible and can’t burn. This material is often used in cryogenic insulation and some industrial applications.

2. Polystyrene and polyurethane. For low temperatures through 250 degrees F, foams, polystyrene, and polyurethane can often provide the solution. Environmental disposal must be taken into consideration.

3. Cellulose insulation. Often used in house insulation, cellulose insulation must be treated with fire retardants before use. When wet, it takes considerably longer to dry than fiberglass, and is not suitable for high temperature insulation.

4. Fiber insulation. Fiber insulation is made from melted minerals, which are then extruded to form fibers. These fibers can be processed into batts, blankets, boards, and preforms, as required by a particular application. Fibers used by reputable manufacturers feature a fiber diameter and length well in excess of ACGIH requirements. Because fibrous, non-organic materials can cause temporary discomfort and irritation, protective clothing should be worn. Types of fiber insulation include:

  • Fiberglass. Fiberglass is the preferred insulation for temperatures up to 1100 degrees F. In accordance with ACGIH requirements, the fibers are long and they dissolve in body fluids. House and building applications, boilers, and engine exhausts all benefit from various forms of fiberglass insulation.
  • Mineral wool and basalt wool. Made from melted volcanic rock and extruded into fiber, spun mineral wool is then chopped into separate fiber lengths and manufactured into blankets and boards. With a thermosetting resin to bind the fibers, these materials cover temperatures up to 1100 degrees F, much like fiberglass.
  • Ceramic wool. Ceramic wool insulation is suitable for insulating equipment at temperatures up to 2400 degrees F. Ceramic wool materials also exhibit better thermal conductivity characteristics than fiberglass.

As will all insulation materials, care must be taken in both selecting and using the above materials. Additional materials for higher temperature applications are also available—as is green insulation. Please check in next week to learn about the distinct advantages of going green.

Meet Our New Distributor: Evapar

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Firwin is proud to announce a new partnership with Evapar, a distributor located in Evansville, Indiana. Evapar will service coal mines in Western Virginia and Kentucky, where our products play an essential part in keeping mine workers safe. Because the requirements for insulation within a mine are much different than other applications, we specially design insulation that can withstand the environmental hazards that coal miners and mining equipment face. Evapar shares our philosophy that exceptional service and outstanding products go hand-in-hand: together, we’re making sure our clients receive the support they need.

With a special training center located at Evapar’s headquarters, in Evansville, Indiana, Evapar features hands-on instruction and training for new service personnel. Courses centered on areas such as electrical, generator, fuel system, governor and transfer switch fundamentals equip new personnel with the skills they need to perform in the field, and provide an excellent opportunity for experienced personnel to expand their knowledge. We’re confident Evapar’s expertise and dedication to quality service will greatly benefit our clients, and we look forward to working with them.

For more information about Evapar, please visit their website here:

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Putting Custom Extrusion and Injection Moulding Insulation to Work

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Firwin manufactures custom extrusion and injection moulding removable insulation blankets appropriate for injection moulder barrel heaters, pre-heat covers, and service throw insulation covers. Designed specifically for electrical connections and thermocouples, all of our insulation blankets are made from non-combustible, high-temperature materials. When used properly, these types of insulation blankets help our customers realize significant cost-savings by reducing energy input and minimizing heat loss.

A recent customer was using touch-safe perforated heatshields on an Italtech machine, which was located beside a shipping door. The heatshields were losing energy, resulting in poor temperature uniformity and ultimately causing quality issues. To solve the problem, the client installed Firwin insulation blankets— the insulation set quality back on track with a 7 month ROI.

For other stories on how extrusion and injection moulding custom insulation has helped our customers, or to request more information, please visit our site today.

Sound Attenuation Solutions

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Although diesel-powered equipment offers countless advantages, the noise associated with these machines is less than ideal. Sound levels can reach deafening levels, posing a threat to operators, employees in the vicinity, and other nearby machining processes. As a result of our commitment to manufacturing the highest quality removable insulation blankets, many clients turn to us for sound attenuation solutions. While insulation blankets can help dampen sound, most sound attenuation solutions involve a combination of materials that are specially selected to suit a given application.

Material selection for sound attenuation is dependent on the frequency of the sound the material must block. Fiberglass and mineral wool are particularly well-suited to absorbing higher frequency sound, in the 1,000 to 4,000 Hz range. Lower frequency sounds are harder to absorb because of their long wavelengths, but typically the thicker the material or barrier, the more effective the absorption. To guide you in your material selection for sound absorption, please see our convenient guide to sound absorption materials and factors to consider.