‘Dasbo’ does the double: Interview with Darren Jones, Fireco

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:
‘Dasbo’ does the double

Having won Young Design Engineer of the Year and having seen the product he managed triumph at the recent British Engineering Excellence Awards, it's fair to say that Darren Jones career has got off to a good start. Here, he talks to Paul Fanning.

When Darren Jones of Leading UK Automatic Door Company Fireco took the stage of the Globe Theatre London for the second time at the recent British Engineering Excellence Awards to accept the Young Design Engineer of the Year Award, a chant went up from his table. The chant was 'Dasbo!'

Happily, the story behind the nickname is not as sinister as it might at first appear. Darren's affectionate nickname among his work colleagues does not refer to a murky past of crime and anti-social behaviour. It actually came about as Darren's colleagues felt that Darren was probably the person least likely ever to be given an ASBO!

A brief glance at Darren's career thus far would appear to confirm the impression that he is a model of good behaviour. He began work with Fireco Ltd in 2009, joining the company straight from University. Darren's first introduction to the company was during his placement year at University when he spent 42 weeks working in the development department. After graduating Darren enjoyed working at Fireco so much, he came back and started his career in 2009. Employed as a design engineer, Darren's first project was to develop a new, innovative product: Freedor.

Freedor is the world's first wireless, electrically powered free-swing door closer and is installed at the top of a fire door to allow it to swing freely, be left in any position and be closed automatically when the fire alarm sounds. The product is also the reason that Darren appeared on stage twice at the BEEAs, having already collected the New Mechanical Product of the Year Award for Freedor on behalf of Fireco. He says: "Obviously, it was amazing to get the award for myself, but for us to get the award for the product as well was just fantastic for us as a company."

In fact, though, the receipt of awards for Freedor is no new thing, it having already won the Best Passive Protection award at the 2011 Fire Excellence Awards. Darren is clear about what these awards mean to him. "It feels absolutely incredible to have two years of hard work recognised with these awards, having taken the product from initial conception to installation in places like the British Museum.."

As project manager on the Freedor development, Darren was fundamentally involved in the initial concepts of Freedor, all the way through to the finished product. In addition, Darren's training allowed him to undertake extensive virtual prototyping through CAD, Finite Element Analysis testing and the assessment of aesthetics and functionality, ensuring this met target audience requirements and British and European Standards.

However, Darren's specific triumph with relation to Freedor lies in being the sole inventor of the unique and patented rocker assembly within the product, which is able to change state from free-swing to closer via the innovative use of two opposed electro-permanent magnets. The rocker pivots between the magnets so that when one is charged with a current of low voltage, the rocker is attracted to the opposing neutral magnet, which creates a state of change in the Freedor. Unlike the free-swing devices available on the market which rely upon mains voltage being permanently applied, the Freedor draws ultra low current from D.C. primary cells with a useful life of 18 months. Freedor fails to safe when the battery level is low. Freedor needs to hear a fire alarm that exceeds 65dBA, verifying the alarm over a 14 second period. Freedor will then release the door preventing the spread of fire and smoke around the building.

By applying the electro-permanent magnets, which only use power when releasing the door, Freedor has been able to use fewer batteries and help sustain the natural environment. Quick installation involving no wiring makes the process as easy as when installing a normal door closer. Freedor is a stand-alone wireless product.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the success of Darren and Fireco's design work has been the commercial success that the product has already enjoyed. Freedor only went on the market this year and has already exceeded all expectations in sales and response. The demand for the product has been so great, additional production staff have been employed to cope.

At the moment Darren is putting together future iterations of Freedor. He says: "I'm currently looking at a version using radio technology, for instance. In fact, that's one of the things you soon learn when you come from college to work – that you're never finished with a product. At college, you would finish one project and move on to the next. In industry, on the other hand, products are always evolving and having to be modified and adapted. So that means you're always having to think about things in a new way. You're always learning."

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