Fire & Flammability Testing

Exponent performs fire and flammability testing in our Maryland, Boston, Menlo Park, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and Phoenix laboratory facilities and in cooperation with several large fire research facilities located throughout the U.S. and abroad. Our consultants are well versed in the most current research and experimental methods to ensure that our clients have access to the best tools available. Whether the project involves new product development, a fire investigation, a potential recall, research, or a unique fire hazard, Exponent has the testing expertise to help solve the problem.

Litigation Support

Fire investigations and personal injury claims involving a thermal event often focus on the ignition source and the spread or growth of the fire. Fire tests can contribute to these investigations by demonstrating how a flame can originate and spread during the early stages of a fire. Exponent has performed fire tests ranging from individual small or bench-scale tests of specific materials or products to large-scale fire tests of appliances or equipment installed inside a room to recreate a fire scenario involved in a litigation matter.

Standardized Testing

Exponent has experience with numerous small, intermediate, and large-scale fire and flammability testing methods, including those published by the NFPA, UL, and ASTM. Common fire test methods Exponent can perform in-house include:

  • Cone Calorimeter (ASTM E1354, ISO 5660-1) 
  • Plastic Flammability (UL 94)
  • Fabric/Textile/Garment Flammability (16CFR 1610, 16CFR 1615 and 1616) 
  • Automotive Flammability (FMVSS 302, SAE J369, ASTM D5132, ISO 3795)
  • Combustible/Flammable Liquid Flash Point (ASTM D92)
  • Cigarette Ignition (NFPA 260, NFPA 261, CA TB106, CA TB116, CA TB133)
  • Hot Wire (CEI-IEC 60695-2).

A full list of standardized test methods Exponent performs can be found below.

Product Failure and Recall Testing 

With over 50 years of experience addressing industrial and product-specific fire risks, Exponent engineers are uniquely positioned to assist clients with fire and flammability testing in product failure investigations or potential product recalls. Exponent routinely performs fire tests to identify or demonstrate failure modes and their possible outcomes should a fault occur in a product. This work often helps identify whether a fire hazard is present in a specific product and, if so, its cause.

Product Research and Development  

Fire and flammability testing can support product manufacturers who are:

  • Developing new products or materials
  • Looking to change one or more components within existing products  
  • In the process of creating warning labels for new products being brought to the market.

When developing new components or materials, testing and analyzing their thermal properties at the component level can often be performed in lieu of more expensive full-scale testing (such as ASTM E84, ISO 9705, NFPA 265, NFPA 286, and NFPA 285). Such regulatory tests can often be more expensive and time consuming. Exponent has performed numerous fire and flammability tests and can compare the thermal properties of the materials being developed to eliminate the worst performers (for example, on the basis of ignitability, energy released, and smoke production), saving the client time and money in the process.

Before placing new products on the market, manufacturers will often look to Exponent to test and investigate the fire hazards of their products. These tests can often provide critical information to assist with drafting any warnings or precautionary language for the use of new products.

Large-Scale Research Programs

Exponent engineers have been involved and overseen a variety of large-scale fire research projects for private, government, and non-profit organizations across the globe. Exponent’s experience in coordinating and performing the tests, often in conjunction with other testing agencies and groups, is unique in the industry. Examples of large-scale test projects Exponent has been a part of include:

  • Lithium-ion battery commodity classification fire testing  
  • Electric drive vehicle battery free burn and suppression fire testing 
  • Water usage and water meter performance testing for residential fire sprinklers.  

Other battery-related capabilities include measuring the thermal properties of batteries for use in modeling, and testing using an accelerating rate calorimeter (ARC), a 60-L vent gas chamber, and a NASA fractional calorimeter.

Garment/Textile Testing

Exponent performs both small- and full-scale clothing/textile flammability tests (for garments, furniture, or the automotive industry) for regulatory, litigation, or research purposes. Engineers routinely test small swatches of fabrics in the standardized vertical, horizontal, or 45-degree flammability cabinets, as well as full-scale burns of garments on mannequins. Exponent can analyze the fire test results and demonstrate the fire hazard of the garment or textile. These tests are routinely performed for clients interested in verifying their fabrics will meet federal or industry test standards, ensuring a material change has not affected their garments, or determining that proper labeling and warning language is included on their product. 

Custom Testing

Applying our vast experience with fire testing, Exponent engineers routinely develop and conduct specialized testing that involves a variety of experimental methods and equipment for the evaluation of materials, products, or installations that may fall outside the scope of industry-accepted test methods.  

Example of such tests include:

  • Heat release rate  
  • Intermediate-scale to large-scale calorimetry  
  • Spontaneous combustion/self-heating  
  • Fire sprinkler testing  
  • Smoke and heat detector testing  
  • Full-scale mock-up testing  
  • Vehicle fire testing  
  • Hot surface ignition testing  
  • Fabric and textile flammability testing  
  • Upholstered furniture and mattress component and mock-up testing  
  • Elevated gas pressure and leak testing  
  • Thermal hazard testing. 

Exponent also has representation on a number of NFPA, ASTM, and UL fire testing technical committees and can provide consulting services relating to these test methods.

Standardized Test Protocols

  • Cone Calorimeter:  
    • ASTM E1354 – Test Method for Heat and Visible Smoke Release Rates for Materials and Products Using an Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter 
    • NFPA 271 – Standard Method of Test for Heat and Visible Smoke Release Rates for Materials and Products Using an Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter 
    • ISO 5660-1 – Reaction to Fire Tests – Heat Release, Smoke Production, and Mass Loss Rate – Part 1: Heat Release Rate
    • ISO 5660-2 – Reaction to Fire Tests – Heat Release, Smoke Production, and Mass Loss Rate – Part 2: Smoke Production Rate
    • NFPA 272 – Standard Method of Test for Heat and Visible Smoke Release Rates for Upholstered Furniture Components or Composites and Mattresses Using an Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter
    • AS/NZS 3837 – Method of Test for Heat and Smoke Release Rates for Materials and Products Using an Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter
    • ASTM D 6113 – Standard Test Method for Using a Cone Calorimeter to Determine Fire-Test-Response Characteristics of Insulating Materials Contained in Electrical or Optical Fiber Cables
    • ASTM E 1474 – Standard Test Method for Determining the Heat Release Rate of Upholstered Furniture and Mattress Components or Composites Using a Bench Scale Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter
    • ASTM E 1740 – Standard Test Method for Determining the Heat Release Rate and Other Fire-Test-Response Characteristics of Wallcovering Composites Using a Cone Calorimeter
    • ASTM F 1550 – Standard Test Method for Determination of Fire-Test-Response Characteristics of Components or Composites of Mattresses or Furniture for Use in Correctional Facilities after Exposure to Vandalism, by Employing a Bench Scale Oxygen Consumption Calorimeter.

  • Lateral Ignition and Flame Spread Test (LIFT) Apparatus: 
    • ASTM E1321 – Standard Test Method for Determining Material Ignition and Flame Spread Properties

  • 45° Degree Textile Flammability Test Cabinet: 
    • ASTM D1230 – Standard Test Method for Flammability of Apparel Textiles
    • 16CFR-1610 – Standard for the Flammability of Clothing Textiles 
    • NFPA 702 – Forced Edge Ignition of Fabrics Cited by California for Hospital Apparel and Bedding Fabrics
    • CA TB 117 C and E – Upholstery Fabrics (Section E) Synthetic Filling (Section C)
    • BIFMA – Upholstery Material Screening Test.

  • Vertical Textile Flammability Test Cabinets: 
    • ASTM D 6413 – Standard Test Method for Flame Resistance of Textiles (Vertical Test) 
    • Federal Test Method Standard (FTMS) 191, Method 5903 – Flame Resistance of Cloth (Vertical) 
    • CA TB 117 –  Requirements, Test Procedure, and Apparatus Testing the Flame Retardance of Resilient Filling Used in Upholstered Furniture 
    • Airbus AITM 2.0002
    • Boeing BSS 7230
    • CPAI 84 – Tent Walls and Tops
    • FAR Part 25 Appendix F Part I
    • NFPA 1971, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981, 2112
    • ASTM F 1506
    • NFPA 701 (1989) Small Scale
    • CPAI 84
    • CAN/ULC S109 Small Flame
    • UL 214 Small Flame
    • CA TB 117 AI and B
    • CA Title 19
    • CPSC 16CFR 1615 and 1616.

  • Horizontal Flammability Test Cabinet: 
    • Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 302 – Flammability of Interior Materials. 
    • SAE J369 – Flammability of Polymeric Interior Materials – Horizontal Test Method 
    • ASTM D5132 – Standard Test Method for Horizontal Burning Rate of Polymeric Materials Used in Occupant Compartments of Motor Vehicles 
    • ISO 3795 – Determination of Burning Behavior of Interior Materials.

  •  Plastic Flammability Test Protocols:
    • UL 94 – Test for Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances 
    • ASTM D 635
    • ASTM D 3801
    • ASTM D 4986
    • ASTM D 5048
    • IEC 60695-11-10 
    • IEC 60695-11-20
    • IEC 60707
    • ISO 1210
    • ISO 9772
    • ISO 9773.

  • Open Cup Tester:
    • ASTM D92 – Standard Test Method for Flash and Fire Points by Cleveland Open Cup Tester 

  • Cigarette Ignition Test Protocols:
    • NFPA 260 – Standard Methods of Tests and Classification System for Cigarette Ignition Resistance of Components of Upholstered Furniture 
    • NFPA 261 – Standard Method of Test for Determining Resistance of Mock-Up Upholstered Furniture Material Assemblies to Ignition by Smoldering Cigarettes  
    • CA TB106 – Requirements, Test Procedures, and Apparatus for Testing the Resistance of a Mattress or Mattress Pad to Combustion Which May Result from A Smoldering Cigarette 
    • CA TB116 –  Requirements, Test Procedure, and Apparatus for Testing the Flame Retardance of Upholstered Furniture  
    • CA TB133 – Flammability Test Procedure for Seating Furniture for Use in Public Occupancies.  

  • Hot Wire Test Protocols:
    • CEI-IEC 60695-2 Glowing/Hot-Wire Based Test Methods.



News & Events