Arc flash research scores high honors at PPIC conference

Aug. 13, 2008

Ferraz Shawmut and Neal Associates Ltd. recently presented two papers, and one was named the first place paper at the at the 54th Pulp and Paper Industry technical conference in June in Seattle.

The first paper, "Effect of Insulating Barriers in Arc Flash Testing," written by R. Wilkins, M. Allison and M. Lang of Ferraz Shawmut, documented Ferraz Shawmut's research findings regarding low-voltage arc flash testing using the standard IEEE 1584 test procedure, but with the electrode tips terminated in an insulating barrier instead of in the open air.

Testing components such as power distribution blocks, fuse holders and circuit breakers with the line-side arcing faults were compared to that of the barrier test. The insulating material, a solid 200mm x 27mm x 51mm block of glass-reinforced melamine, was selected for its ability to withstand high electromagnetic forces. High-speed video documented the differences in arc development with and without the barrier.

"This test configuration was designed to be more representative of equipment in low-voltage industrial control panels and MCCs," said Mike Lang, field engineer manager at Ferraz Shawmut. "Measurements of incident energy from this configuration yielded results as alarming as those from the research into horizontal electrodes discussed in our 2005 paper."

Based on its research, Ferraz Shawmut recommended that the barrier test be incorporated into future revisions of the IEEE 1584 testing standard. This would be in addition to a horizontal arrangement with open electrode tips pointing at the calorimeters. Findings indicated that adding an insulating barrier to the standard test setup could be advantageous, since the barrier allows sustained arcing at 208V.

The second paper, titled "The Impact of Arc Flash Test Conditions on the Arc Rating of PPE," was written primarily by Dr. Thomas Neal and documented research at the Ferraz Shawmut high-power test lab on the effect of the above arc testing configurations on the arc rating of personal protective equipment (PPE). Dr. Neal's findings included research on the convective and radiant arc flash heat-transfer process through arc rated protective clothing and equipment. The effective arc rating of modified PPE designs in high convective heat exposures also was discussed. Dr. Neal recommended PPE selections for high-convective energy arc flash exposures and a path forward to address the results of this arc testing research.

Download the complete paper as a PDF file from