The quiet transformation happening in the fire curtain industry

The old or the new

Are you still shopping at Blockbuster?

In your procurement list, have you identified the Blockbusters from the Netflix’s?

The name Blockbuster was synonymous with its product.

In 2000, such was their dominance, Blockbuster (felt they) could afford to “laugh [Netflix] out of the room” when offered Netflix for $50m. Blockbuster had been sold in a mega-deal for over $8bn in the 90’s.

Today Blockbuster has gone – and Netflix is valued at $150bn.

John Antioco, then CEO of Blockbuster, deemed Netflix a niche business and said “the dot-com hysteria is completely overblown”

And, Netflix was “not even on the radar screen in terms of competition” said Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes in 2008.

Blockbuster had the contacts, the relationships, the stores (over 9,000!), the quantity of staff, 50 million members, and so on; they were the industry’s voice at the table.

The only thing Netflix had was a better product.

Industry Transformations

An industry may go through a step-change transition.

For the transformation to be successfully adopted and gain critical mass, it has to:

  • be for obvious reasons
  • solve a headache (or many)
  • make life easier
  • be plain for everyone to see
  • have no mystery
  • have benefits that are immediately obvious

For example,

  1. Transport: horse/ barge => vehicles
  2. Cameras: 35mm film => digital
  3. Mobile phones: analogue => smart
  4. Home movies: video rental => streaming

In all the above examples those with the older product pushed back on the new, dismissing it as a novelty, or that they had already tried it, or that it won’t work etc

Active fire curtains step-change

Fire curtains are going through a step-change transition currently.

Traditionally, fire curtain manufacturers have punctured holes through the fabric with bolts or poppers to provide a means of retaining the fabric in the guide channels (Fig. 1).

This method works ok in a laboratory or test lab but when subject to real life production volumes, the following factors combine:

  • manufacturing tolerances,
  • fitting tolerances on site,
  • lateral movement of the fabric (it is flexible),
  • fabric not unrolling identically every time

These factors combine to give customers a number of recurringly expensive and dangerous headaches. You can read some real customer feedback and experiences here,  and here.

Hence our allusion to Blockbuster video rentals and Netflix’s streaming.

Puncturing bolts or poppers through the curtain fabric will disappear from the active fire curtain industry much like video rentals disappeared from the home movie sector, and new designs like the Adexon one (Fig. 2) will be the norm.

The reason we are so confident is because the solution ticks all the boxes required for an industry transformation; it is obvious, simple, and works brilliantly.

NB. using flammable materials for smoke sealing will also soon be history,

The fire curtain equivalents of ‘video rental' and ‘streaming'

Puncturing nuts and poppers through the fabric of the fire curtain is the ‘video rental’ design of fire curtains.

Only it is worse, much worse. This is a life-safety product and if it jams, tears, or billows with any gaps, fire and smoke can pass through with deadly and devasting consequences.

‘Video rental' fire curtain design:

And, the fire curtain equivalent to Netflix's ‘streaming’:

This simple yet brilliant design solves the common headaches associated with active fire curtains.

Recognised by industry and specialists alike, it is a finalist for the London Construction Awards’, Fire Safety Solution of the Year 2023 Award

More than once at The Fire Safety Event and at FIREX we were asked, Who is the genius?

The answer? The Adexon Fire & Smoke team, short listed for the FSM Awards’ Fire Safety Team of the Year.

Since Grenfell, Adexon Fire & Smoke has seen hundreds of thousands in investment.

A number of 5-star project wins have added to the momentum (St James Market, Goldman Sachs European HQ, 100 Bishopsgate, and so on)

And this has all aided a great product being developed, built, tested, third-party certified, and moved into production.

It has taken time, patience, perseverance, a bit of genius, and a lot of teamwork to get to where we are today.

NB. The design will likely be imitated (“we lead, others follow”) but if it increases the applications and uses of fire curtains (because the product no longer gives so many people headaches) then that is a win for safety and everyone in the industry.

Join the journey, making the UK the global leader for active fire curtains through quality, innovation, invention, and continuous improvement.