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PBI fabrics are internationally renowned for their high levels of protection, comfort and durability, which is why they are trusted by firefighters to protect them in the most extreme situations. The company takes seriously its responsibility to maintain that trust and undertakes a programme of rigorous testing to ensure that every PBI fabric performs with integrity.


In addition to its own in house programme, PBI’s testing regime includes the submission of garments to certified external independent test houses to monitor effective performance and compare to other products in the market.


Such is their confidence in the performance of their products that PBI often invites customers to attend these tests and see how the product range performs.


The company recently hosted firefighters and journalists from Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain and the UK to see for themselves how PBI fabrics performed in tests undertaken at the British Textile Technology Group (BTTG) test lab in Manchester. BTTG is a highly respected and long established independent test facility and the Manchester lab specialises in testing materials and clothing used in the manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).


BTTG tested a range of fire suits including three structural firefighting garments, identical other than the outer fabric. One garment incorporated a 220gsm meta aramid outer fabric, while the other two were made with a 220gsm PBI fabric and a lighter 205gsm PBI fabric.


An eight second burn test was undertaken on the 2006 version of the male heat sensing manikin known as RALPH, which was developed by BTTG and conforms to ISO 13506:2008.  For the test the hands and head were not used, leaving 123 sensors on the torso, arms, legs that monitor the temperature on the surface of the manikin covered by the garment during the test.


During the test the manikin was challenged by a flame engulfment apparatus that consists of two tiers of six burners that create heat flux of 84kW/m2. The garment was exposed for eight seconds and data from the sensors was collected for two minutes.


After the 8 second burn the manikin with 220gsm meta aramid outer fabric garment recorded 19.3% 2nd and 3rd degree burns. The result of the same test for the garment with a 220 gsm PBI fabric achieved 4.4%. When the lighter 205 gsm PBI outer fabric was tested it also achieved 4.4%.  After the burn tests both PBI fabrics were charred but showed no signs of break open or brittleness.


The results were so impressive that delegates asked for the garment with the lighter 205 gsm PBI fabric to be burned for a second 8 seconds. After this second exposure it recorded 7.9% 2nd and 3rd degree burns, which is significantly lower than the other meta aramid and still showed no sign of break open or brittleness. It was not possible to burn the meta aramid garment a second time.


PBI fabrics will not become brittle, shrink or break open when exposed to flame and high temperatures, which is among the characteristics of other fabrics. This means that the integrity of the internal layers of the garment is protected and the transfer of any radiant heat is slower, allowing more time for firefighters to escape to safety in a situation such as a flashover.


PBI works closely with customers to ensure that they have access to all of its proven data that shows how their fabrics deliver such high levels of protection from heat and flame.


The company’s wide range of outer fabrics meet the different needs of today’s fire and rescue services and reflect their commitment to innovation, driving forward flexible new solutions that meet the needs of modern firefighting. This large portfolio includes PBI Gold, PBI Matrix, PBI Max, Gemini XTL, Titan 1260 and X55.


PBI fabrics are incredibly durable and many customers have who have chosen them have noted that their structural PPE remains in better condition and requires less maintenance than previous ensembles, achieving best value by potentially extending the lifetime of PPE, without compromising on protection.


PBI fabrics protect front line firefighters all over the world, from Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Middle East to North America and much of Europe, including Scandinavia and Germany.