CNC machines are an essential component of many industrial and manufacturing facilities’ daily operations. Nothing is faster, more consistent, or provides better quality control in the manufacture of parts than CNC machines. Unfortunately, they’re also a leading cause of fires in manufacturing facilities.
Preventing CNC machine fires is possible, and it starts with understanding how they start. Let’s take a look at how CNC machine fires start, how they can be prevented, and how adequate special hazard fire protection solutions can save your facility time, money, and damages.

Why Do CNC Machine Fires Start?

The leading cause of CNC machine fires is actually the coolant used in the operation of these machines. Most CNC machines make use of an oil-based coolant or metalworking fluid. These oil-based fluids are the ideal option to increase tool life, improve surface finish, and even reduce friction and heat, but they are highly flammable. What’s more, they have poor heat dissipating properties, which creates an even greater fire risk.

If you consider the traditional CNC operating environment, you can likely very easily understand why these machines can create such a great fire risk. Even when running at low temperatures and low speeds, a CNC machine can easily throw sparks, and given the low flashpoint of these fluids, even a single spark can start a fire. And, because the vapors from these oil-based coolants can linger in the air without dissipating, the entire environment surrounding the machine is at higher fire risk.

This flammability, combined with the increased prevalence of lights-out machining and reduced staffing in many machining facilities combine to total the greater risk for CNC machine fires.

Preventing CNC Machine Fires: 4 Tips

There are precautions your facility can take to help prevent CNC machine fires. Here are four key ways to minimize the fire hazard associated with CNC machines:

01. Implement a Supplementary Automatic Fire Detection and Suppression System

If your facility has a whole-building fire suppression system, you may be wondering why your CNC machine would need additional protection. The risk lies in the high flammability of those oil-based fluids. Because coolants and lubricants are such a significant hazard, even just a few seconds of fire can cause devastating damage throughout your facility.

Specialized fire detection and suppression systems are designed specifically for heavy machinery like CNC machines. These systems can detect and suppress a fire within a machine, even before a human operator might be able to detect the fire.

The speed of detection these systems provide can protect your entire facility, plus your CNC machine as well. Given that CNC machines do require such a significant investment, it’s worthwhile to implement supplementary fire protection systems within these machines.

02. Never Run CNC Machines Above Recommended Operation Speeds

Beyond implementing supplementary fire detection and suppression systems, you can also prevent CNC machine fires by only running your machines according to the specific operation speeds and low temperatures suggested by the manufacturer or by your facility’s safety regulations.

Again, oil-based fluids like coolant and lubricant are highly flammable. When even the smallest spark can ignite a fire, safety should always come first.

03. Appropriately House Your CNC Machine

One of the reasons that oil-based coolant is so flammable is its low heat dissipative properties. Because these fumes can build up in and around CNC machines, it’s important to ensure your CNC machines are properly housed and ventilated.

CNC machines are typically installed in controlled environments where temperature, humidity, and ventilation can be controlled. This ensures the safety of operators and machinery alike and can help prevent CNC machine fires.

04. Regularly Clean and Service your CNC Machine

Heavy machinery is both essential to your facility, and potentially dangerous. To reduce the potential for machine malfunction and fire hazard, it’s important to establish regular cleaning procedures, and have your CNC machines serviced regularly.

Even the smallest adjustment in how your CNC machine hones parts can increase the potential for a fire hazard. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your machines are regularly inspected and maintained. Regular cleanings can help reduce any buildup of coolant or lubricating fluids, helping to minimize the potential risk of fire hazard. Inspection and maintenance of your special hazard fire protection system also work to ensure that every machine is protected and armed with efficient fire suppression capabilities.

Why Install a Supplementary Fire Protection System in Your CNC Machine?

As mentioned earlier in this post, the best way to prevent CNC machine fires is to install special hazard fire protection systems. Machine-specific fire detection and suppression systems provide a range of safety benefits that save your facility time and money, while protecting both your people and your property. Here are just a few of the key reasons to install supplementary fire protection in your CNC machine:

  • Protect your CNC Machine. CNC machines represent a significant facility cost. At tens of thousands of dollars each, these machines are both essential and costly. With fire protection systems installed, any potential fire is immediately detected and suppressed before it can damage the entire machine, saving you significantly on the cost of machinery.
  • Reduce downtime. Because supplementary special hazard fire protection systems are able to detect fires within CNC machines so quickly, they often minimize, if not entirely eliminate damage that occurs to the machinery. Once the fire is suppressed and the machine is inspected, you can get that machine back up and running in just hours.
  • Protect your people. Your team is your facility’s most important asset. By implementing CNC machine fire protection systems, you reduce the risk of fire hazards that can harm human lives.
  • Protect your facility. Though your building does have its own fire suppression system, implementing a system within your CNC machine helps to protect your facility as a whole. Because of the nature of the fires caused by CNC machines, they can quickly grow out of control. A dedicated, localized fire detection and suppression system ensure that does not happen, protecting millions of dollars of additional machinery located within your facility.

When it comes to preventing CNC fires, a dedicated fire detection and suppression system is the best way to protect your CNC machine, your facility, and most importantly, your people. Have questions about preventing fires in CNC machines or other special hazard fire protection solutions? The Vanguard Fire & Security Team is here to help.​

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