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An investigation into the sensitivity of commonly used electric igniters

Tom Smith, Avril DiPalma, Gabrielle DiPalma and Lincoln Parkhouse

Abstract: A variety of commercially available and commonly used electric igniters were tested for sensitivity to shearing, crushing and static stimuli in an attempt to reproduce “real world” usage of igniters and to determine which igniters were more or less sensitive to the various stimuli used.  The apparatus was designed and built to be able to be reproduced by anyone in order for them to gain a better understanding of the sensitivity of the igniters they use in their displays.

NOTE: we have made a minor revision to Table 2 in the paper to remove colours from the screening electrostatic trial.  This does not affect the results or conclusions.

Ref: JPyro, Issue 36, 2018, pp3-11 (J36-3)

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The European Regulation Concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals

Pierre Thebault

Abstract: The European regulation n°1907/2006 of 18 December 2006 – commonly referred to as “REACH” – states the mandatory registration and evaluation of chemical substances marketed, manufactured or imported in quantities of more than one ton per year on the European market. This obligation not only applies to chemical substances but also to articles which contain chemical substances when they must be considered as associations of articles and chemical substances according to REACH, meaning that their chemical composition determines their function to a greater degree than or the same degree as the special shape, surface or design they are given during production.
In its “Guidance on requirements for substances in articles” (RIP 3.8), the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) mentions fireworks as examples of such associations of articles and chemical substances. The professional experts of CEN/TC 212 who developed the European standards for fireworks under a mandate of the European Commission disagree firmly with this statement. As a consequence they decided to react with their own arguments.
The present paper gives an overview of the arguments of the professional experts of CEN/TC 212, and recalls their previous attempt to promote them at the level of the European Commission and the opening they were given by return that might lead to possible specific action of the European Commission “including, in particular in the Guidance on requirements for substances in articles.” In that perspective and following the same approach that was adopted for ammunition by the European Defence Agency, they decided to prepare a professional guidance document in which they would express clearly their position in contradiction with ECHA’s position. Such document is intended to be presented to the European Commission in order to obtain its support and, consequently, a modification of ECHA’s position.
A task group was created by CEN/TC 212 to do so before the end of 2015.

Ref: JPyro, Issue 34, 2015, pp20-25 (J34-20)

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OPINIONS – Issues with UN explosives classification – a personal perspective

Dr Tom Smith

Abstract: The United Nations classification regime for explosives is well established and has undoubtedly led to improvements in transport safety. However there are challenges that the hazard based approach faces and this paper attempts to highlight some of the more pressing issues.

Ref: JPyro, Issue 33, 2014, pp9-15 (J33-9)


This article is the first, we hope, of many written by experts in the Pyrotechnic and Explosives sectors to highlight issues of the day and to stimulate discussion both within the pages of the Journal and elsewhere.

Opinions are just that – they represent views by their respective authors which are not reporting of scientific findings, but nonetheless have a place in the pyrotechnic literature. Opinions will be peer reviewed, as are all articles in the Journal, and authors will, we hope, take account of comments from the Board and reviewers before publication. However the subjects discussed and the opinions expressed remain with the respective authors and may not reflect the positions of the Journal of Pyrotechnics, its Board or other contributors.

If you have a topic for consideration in future issues, please contact the Publisher directly.

OPINIONS will be free to download – but you do need to register on the site

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Book Review Firework Displays: Explosive Entertainment

By: Dr. Tom Smith

Published by: Chemical Publishing Company –
ISBN: 978-0-8206-0064-2 (B&W Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-8206-0064-1 (Color Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-8206-0064-8 (eBook)

More information please click here

This book gives a very comprehensive overview of the world of fireworks. It comprises – amongst others – information on historical developments of firework displays, introduces the large variety of(sub-) types and categories, identifies possible hazards to be considered during the planning offirework displays and gives recommendations in case of accidents/incidents.

Especially the description of the probabilistic approach of assessing risks (based on hazards in combination with frequencies) highlights a promising alternative in a field that seems currently be dominated by simple deterministic methods in many countries. Moreover, the book provides information on latest legislationas well as standardisation aspects and gives guidance on the fireworks event planning not only to the users (with or without specialist knowledge) but also to the enforcers, who are dealing with the assessments of professional firework displays prior to the permission of these.

It should therefore be considered, to include this book in respective national training courses, which form the basis of licensing systems with regard to the training of “persons with specialist knowledge” in Europe. Taking this into account, it is recommended to translate this book to other languages in order to allow a broader community to share the information provided in this book.

Reviewed by Dr. Christian Lohrer

ShellCalc© V4.12

** NOTE – Version 5 is now available – click here

A new version of the Shellcalc© program is now available.  The original paper describing the program is available here.

** PLEASE NOTE **  We have occasional reports that downloading the file using IE 8 results in a file with a “.zip” extension rather than “.xlsm”.  Please rename the file and it should open correctly in Excel.  Do not try and extract the individual files within the zip file.

Revision History

4.1.2 – July 2010

Allowed devices to be fired above ground level – for modelling firing from structures
Revised the initial velocities for shells to give more accurate modelling
Changed design and added larger graphics
Changed to Excel Macro-enabled format

3.2 – June 2005

Incorporated shell burst diameters
Incorporated optional allowance for shell barrelling/tumbling

3.1 – June 2003

Original version

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Book Review: Initiation of Explosives & Pyrotechnic Materials

By: Jean-Rene Duguet – R&D Manager and Consultant in Pyrotechnics.
Preface by: Dr Attie Goosen
Published by: Cultures et
ISBN: 978-2-918209-02-7
Price: 50Euros

This small paperback book is packed with information on the chemistry and mechanics of initiation and has extensive chapters on:-

  • General outline
  • Explosives and Production Processes
  • Initaitors and Related Devices
  • Metrology and Safety

There is extensive detail of the physical characteristics of initiating substances, together with formulations and a good section on sensitivity of various initiating explosives.  However the book is somewhat frustrating in so much that the scale and clarity of diagrams and images varies widely, and chemical formulae are inconsistently portrayed.  It is also expensive for a 221page paperback (50 Euros) and I felt that I could have certainly lived with a smaller and more consistent typeface throughout if it left more room for bigger diagrams or had reduced the size and price of the book as a result.

Nevertheless I would recommend this book for the bookshelves of practitioners in almost any area of pyrotechnics and explosives – initiation is often poorly understood, and this book does much to inform the reader in this most important subject.

Reviewed by Dr Tom Smith – Davas Ltd

Performance Comparison between Old and New Obron German Dark Aluminum

K. L. and B. J. Kosanke

ABSTRACT: In 1997, Obron Atlantic changed their Ger-man dark aluminum. (Their former product number was 5413; the new product was designated 5413 H Super.) We had published the results of a series of sound output tests of various salute powders, which included the effect of using various aluminums, including Obron’s old German dark. Because of our past work, and in response to a query on the Internet, we decided to conduct a brief investigation comparing the sound output of these two aluminum powders when used in a common flash powder formulation. This article presents those results.

Ref: Selected Pyrotechnic Publication of K.L. and B.J Kosanke, Part 4, (1995-1997), pp 119-121
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ATF’s Classification of Flash Powders

K. L. Kosanke

ABSTRACT:  This brief article is based on my comments to the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) concerning their classification of all flash powders as high explosives. In this query, I chose not raise the issues of flash powder storage requirements, quantity limits in process buildings, or any of the issues regarding bulk salutes. I omitted those subjects because I was not prepared to make specific recommendations on those subjects at this time. This article was written for publication because of the possibility someone would find this information useful or interesting.

Ref: Selected Pyrotechnic Publication of K.L. and B.J Kosanke, Part 4, (1995-1997), pp 100-101
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Burn Rates of Clusters of Gold Sparklers

K. L. and B. J. Kosanke

ABSTRACT: In recent years, it has become generally known that clusters of sparklers burn substantially faster than individual sparklers. However, little if any quantitative data has been presented in the literature. Toward that end, this brief article presents some data collected a few years ago by the authors.

Ref: Selected Pyrotechnic Publication of K.L. and B.J Kosanke, Part 4, (1995-1997), pp 97-99
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