Following several fires in semiconductor fabrication plants in Asia in the late 1990s, the industry came up with guidelines to reduce the risk of costly fires. FM Global, an international leader in third party testing and certification with the goal to prevent property loss came up with a solution. In 1997, Factory Mutual (FM) released The Cleanroom Materials Flammability Test Protocol which is commonly referred to as FM-4910.
This standard has become the industry standard for the evaluation of materials used in the construction clean rooms and the plastic materials used to fabricate the components within the process tools found in the clean room.
The FM491O standard measures two critical fire related facets of materials, Fire Propagation (FPI) and a Smoke Damage (SDI). A series of three distinct tests are used to classify a material.
- IGNITION TEST - used to measure the minimum heat flux required to ignite a material
- FIRE PROPAGATION TEST - used to test whether the sample material will propagate fire on its own and to what degree
- COMBUSTION TEST - collect smoke and is used to measure Smoke Damage Index (SDI)
The fire propagation index (FPI) measures the intensity of a material to ignite and spread fire. This test is performed in a specially developed calorimeter apparatus administered by FM Approvals, a member of The FM Global Group. FPI essentially measures the ratio of the heat flux from the flame of the burning material to the materials ignition resistance. It is an indicator of the propensity of the material to propagate fire beyond the ignition point.
The resistance to ignition together with the chemical energy released makes up the FPI index. Essentially they measure how easy it ignites and how much energy it gives off. Materials that display an FPI index of under 6 are approvable under FM-4910 standards.
However, in order to be fully FM 491O compliant, the material must also display a smoke damage index (SDI) of under 0.4. SDI is an indicator of the potential for smoke contamination & damage during a fire. In many cases, the smoke can do more damage to a fab than the fire itself. The combustion test measures the amount of smoke given off, the amount of smoke multiplied by the FPI is the Smoke Damage Index.
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