Having decades of experience in the field of fire protection coatings is so unique that only a limited number of people in the world can boast of it. One of those very few is Richard Mann, our global product manager for fire protection, Protective & Marine Coatings (PMC). As an expert, he has been involved in developing several of the world-leading fire protection products in the market, including PPG STEELGUARD® 951, a flexible epoxy-based coating for structural steel.
Richard (in the middle) and his colleagues Richard Holliday and Steven Acker at Firecorr 2022 conference in Houston
The Specialty of Fire Protection
The fire protection industry is constantly innovating, making it a very unique place to work, says Richard.
"It's one of those industries that, once you're in, it keeps hold of you. Consequently, there are very few of us globally with many years of experience in the field."
In addition to being an "ever-changing market," Richard also mentions the visual aspect of the field.
You actually see how the product performs. The product needs to undergo a fire test - it's a pass or fail. You don't have to wait necessarily 9-10 months before finding out if a product is working.
Richard's team conducts various product tests internally during the development phase to ensure they perform as expected. Since fire protection requirements vary from country to country, all products must be submitted to third-party certification
"There are constantly new regulations regarding health and safety, sustainability, and the raw materials that go into the products. When a product enters the global market, it needs to obtain various certifications confirming compliance with local standards."
Intumescent Coatings: the Modern Architects' Dream
Richard's main focus in the field of fire protection are intumescent coatings. These solutions expand at high temperatures, transforming from a very thin, lightweight film into a thick, foam-like layer. The technology insulates steel in the event of a fire, extending the overall lifetime of a structural steel asset.
A significant benefit of intumescent fire protection coatings is that they can be applied directly onto the steel structure. This is excellent news for architects who want to showcase their expertise in building design.
"This is something modern-day architects are really trying to push through. They want to show the steel structure, the skeleton of the building in its fullest form. Intumescent coatings allow them to do exactly that."
Unparalleled Durability with Epoxy Magic
Steelguard 951 marks the latest addition to PPG’s fire protection line, designed to protect and beautify critical structures in hazardous environments. The product entered the market at the perfect moment, given the "huge increase in demand for EV battery factories and semiconductor plants, all of which require fire protection” says Richard.
The technology represents a significant leap forward in fire protection, safeguarding lives, infrastructure and assets from the set of cellulosic fires. The product is tested to the maximum, as Richard confirms:
During the fire durability tests, we push the products to the point of nearly destroying them to test the envelope itself—which is the coating—to determine its limits.
With better durability and a very low volatile organic compound (VOC) level, the lifespan of an epoxy-based coating can last up to 30 years, both internally and externally. These qualities give Steelguard 951 an edge in sustainability, which is unique in this field.
The flexible coating is ideal for buildings with dominant steel structures, such as shopping malls, football stadiums, or office blocks. Richard explains: "These buildings use cellulose material as a fuel for fire. The Steelguard products are designed to protect against cellulosic fire, and 951 is our newest addition to that space."
Steelguard 951 transcends function alone, offering a smooth, high-quality finish without compromising on its vital fire protection properties. The technology has also been designed to be flexible, mirroring the structures it coats.
Not only does it flex along with the steel movement, but it also increases the window in which the product doesn't become brittle. This makes it possible to use 951 even in subzero temperatures. We've conducted testing down to minus 70 degrees without any cracking!
Trying on Different Hats
Richard joined PPG in 2020 and has spent over 20 years dedicated to working in the fire protection sector. At present, he holds the position of global product manager, fire protection, PMC, and is responsible for overseeing all aspects of our fire protection products.
"I ensure that our products meet our customers' needs and that we have tested them in accordance with global standards."
Richard's role requires him to be actively engaged in the customers' perspective, given the constantly evolving standards in the fire protection industry that require the development of suitable products.
It's like wearing two hats. One must always consider the development process from both the customer's and the product's point of view. This approach allows us to establish standards that truly align with the industry.