Fire protection in a historical building

In order to ensure the greatest possible level of safety for their huge engine testing area at the Augsburg plant, MAN Diesel and Turbo SE rely on the explosion and fire protection experts at DEKRA EXAM.

To ensure the greatest level of safety for their engine testing area, MAN Diesel and Turbo SE rely on the explosion and fire protection experts at DEKRA EXAM. (Picture: Karl-Heinz Augustin)

The engine block of the MAN great engine is provided with a revolving service gallery. The 1.5 tonnes heavy powertrain is connected with the achievement brake by means of an elastic coupling. Photo: Karl-Heinz Augustin

Walking through the large engine plant of MAN in Augsburg can make you feel like Gulliver in the land of the giants: valves as big as the palm of your hand, metre long, gleaming connecting rods and gigantic pistons on pallets line the route through the production hall. The cylinders in which they will one day serve each have up to 480 mm bores and a stroke of 600 mm. The diesel and gas engines, which are destined for ships and power stations and are put through their test runs here, can have up to 20 cylinders.

The massive engines stand as high as houses in the test stand halls. The only way that the mechanics and engineers responsible for them can perform maintenance work on many of the components is via galleries. A myriad of colour-coded pipes and tubes feed the engines: coolant flows through the green ones and oil in the brown ones; orange stands for diesel fuel and yellow for gas.

Birthplace of the diesel engine

Built in the early 19th century, the building that is part of the large MAN engine plant in the middle of Augsburg houses test stands which are used to carry out tests and approval procedures for customer engines and prototypes. “It was here in this place that Rudolf Diesel put the world’s first diesel engine into operation,” stresses Kilian Stegmair, Head of Test Stand Technology, on the tour through the factory halls, and you can notice a touch of pride in his voice.

Once the people from the late shift have gone home and all engines are turned off, he accompanies the team of DEKRA EXAM experts who are there to test and afterwards certify the safety-related control system of the test stands and hall systems. This is because, in contrast to modern buildings, MAN has specific fire and explosion protection requirements that need to apply within the building’s historic walls.

Security in a matter of seconds

“Should one area of the enormous factory hall catch fire or have a leak in one of the gas supply lines, a cleverly devised mechanism must kick into operation and shut down and de-energise the individual or – in the event of a general alarm – all the test stands, engines including all measuring and regulation systems, air conditioning and heating systems and cranes in fractions of a second,” says Stegmair.

To ensure the greatest level of safety for their engine testing area, MAN Diesel and Turbo SE rely on the explosion and fire protection experts at DEKRA EXAM. (Picture: Karl-Heinz Augustin)

Explosion and fire protection: DEKRA engineer Marc Kipping stopps the MAN-20-cylinder diesel engine by pressing the emergency off switch. The simulated alarm shows  the expert whether the functional safety of the test stand is given. Photo: Karl-Heinz Augustin

Afterwards the automatic fire extinguishers are triggered, the fuel feed capped and all gas pipes of the test stand facility and the engines rinsed with nitrogen. However, DEKRA expert Marc Kipping not only checks and certifies the functional safety of the emergency stop system, he also provided expert advice to MAN beforehand. Together they decided on the safety-related programmable logic controller, SPLC in short, which performs its failsafe service and ensures greater safety at the test stand.

“With this they have definitively accompanied us in the right direction,” praises Stegmair. Even if one component or the entire control system fails, a backup system set up in parallel can perform the shutdown in case of emergency. “You can regard the SPLC as a kind of central nervous system with which and in which all the machines
are linked with one another,” explains Kipping.

Stop at the touch of a button

DEKRA EXAM also advises the MAN team on matters of safety when it comes to the engine test stands and the engines themselves. Specialists in machine safety keep an eye on possible risks when dealing with the power plants and ensure that they conform to the latest CE directives. Again, Stegmair is full of praise: “This collaboration means that DEKRA EXAM can make a significant contribution to the training of the MAN staff as regards fire and explosion protection, machine safety as well as function safety.”

In order to check the alarm systems and the simultaneous shutdown of the engine test stands in real-life conditions, Kipping gets someone to start up a 20-cylinder engine. Earmuffs are distributed as the noise produced when the power plant is started up is really deafening. When the starter button is pressed, the entire engine block starts to vibrate. Once the drive load has been taken up, Kipping presses another button, this time a red “Emergency switch off” button located on a nearby post – whereupon the engine is immediately silenced again.

The words “Emergency Stop Test Facility” are shown on an LED display under the control centre and a loud alarm signal can be heard. It is now up to Kipping and his colleague, Oussama Cherichi, to open all the control cabinets near the engine and to document the states of operation with a camera. After an exhausting night shift for everyone involved with many switching on and off operations and alarms, one thing is evident: MAN Diesel and Turbo SE is not only a leader in engineering technology, but also in fire and explosion protection as well as the subject machine safety for the engine testing area in Augsburg.

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