Meet “Buster”. Our mannequin was developed to test the responsiveness of FIRST (Firefighter Rescue and Support Technology®), units to rapid temperature changes while mounted on realistic firefighter turnout gear. Buster’s design enables rapid changes in orientation and height (to simulate firefighter movement).

He was subjected to multiple flashover events at the Fire Service College, Moreton-in-Marsh, peaking at just over 600 degrees in the final event, causing complete destruction of the visor and burn-through of the tunic.

Buster trials were the pre-cursor to the next stage of development with FiRST aiming to line up ten UK Fire & Rescue Services for demonstration trials with the most recent version of the wearable predictive alarm unit.

FiRST design gets a new iteration

These units are being made 100% in-house, with the latest design of PCB from the design team currently in production with Manufacturing Services. Meanwhile on the casing design, a new high-temperature 3D printer has been procured to enable the cases to be printed in ULTEM and PEEK, two variants from a family of high-temperature plastics that are used in firefighting products from thermal imaging cameras to ‘man-down’ alarms.

The latter grade of thermoplastic has already been used by the team during trials with Buster, exposing FiRST units in the harshest possible conditions through multiple high-temperature (>500 degrees) live burns. This demonstrated the ruggedness of the casing, surviving conditions that caused complete destruction of the mannequin’s PPE (personal protective equipment).

Procurement of this new high-temperature printer opens up some exciting options going forward, with ULTEM being a material qualified for aerospace use and PEEK being well proven in harsh environments and uses from automotive components through to cable insulation in nuclear environments. So far it’s a steep learning curve, but the expertise gleaned will contribute to a greatly enhanced design and prototyping capability.