Product Development and Prototyping – Fire Safety Product

Improved functionality, new intellectual property, and regulatory testing in ~ 12 months

Client – Smoke Guard – an established manufacturer

Expertise Applied


Smoke Guard had identified a need to add a new feature to an existing product. Specifically, their deployable smoke barrier needed an “emergency exit” built into it. Since the product is primarily fabric, and needs to deploy reliably every time, this is a challenge.


SGW Designworks collaborated closely with Smoke Guard to develop a novel new design for the M2500. The new design incorporated specific differentiating features, brought new IP to Smoke Guard, and passed requisite fire testing.

Smoke Guard M2500 Retracting Smoke Barrier

Results / Outcomes

  • Multiple prototype and testing cycles led to the optimal design and feature set
  • The updated M2500 system has seen increased specification into structures and sales since launch


Smoke Guard offers many different products, each suitable for specific applications. The M2500 product is a roll-up fire and smoke curtain that rolls down from the ceiling during a fire.

It is designed to be used in a wide range of applications, including atrium applications and specialty enclosures where fire-rated production is mandated by building codes.

Compared to their other successful product lines, the M2500 was not being adopted as quickly as anticipated. Architects specifying the M2500 found it challenging to meet egress requirements when the M2500 units deployed.

To make the product more attractive to design professionals, Smoke Guard began to explore adding an egress feature to the M2500. Seeking new perspectives and approaches to the additional feature, they engaged SGW Designworks to develop the M2500E product, which would incorporate a manual Egress flap.

To address these conflicting functional requirements, SGW Designworks worked through many rapid build-test-learn cycles. It was clear from the beginning that prototypes would need to be full scale, because the material properties of the system elements could not be represented accurately at small scale. Sub-system and full scale prototypes (20’ x 20’) were designed by SGW Design-works, and built by Smoke Guard. The units tested at Smoke Guards facility using industry-specific equipment. Through roughly a dozen prototypes and a disciplined approach to design iteration, a winning configuration was defined.

As SGW Designworks and Smoke Guard began collaborating, one important challenge came to light. Existing patents on competitive products, specific to egress flaps in similar applications would limit the development team. As a first step, SGW Designworks reviewed the existing patents with Smoke Guard’s legal team, and then identified possible design approaches that would not infringe.

The functional intent of the manual egress flap posed challenges to the design team. The M2500 is a fabric curtain that rolls up and down. The manual egress feature would need to remain closed as the unit deployed and during a fire event. In code compliance testing, the unit would need to survive positive pressure UL10D fire door testing. But the egress flap would also need to be easy for a person to operate in a high stress, low visibility environment.

Manual Egress Flap in the M2500

To achieve an egress flap that is both easy to operate and able to pass positive pressure fire testing, a clever combination of elements was designed into the flap. This includes a particular flap shape that provides a tendency to stay closed, with an internal steel rod that keeps everything in tension as well as wrinkle free when rolled up or deployed. Special geometry within the stitching pattern of the flap keeps the flap closed. The stitching approach was developed by SGW Designworks to provide a specific stiffness of the fabric at specific locations. A pattern of hems and double layers stitched in a specific order create a fabric spring.

With an effective and unique technical solution to the problem identified, the design team focused on cost control. The egress flap was modularized, allowing the same egress flap design to be applied to all configurations in the M2500 product line. This allowed Smoke Guard to offer the manual egress flap as a line-item option with a known cost adder. This simplified the sales and specification process.

M2500 fire testing in progress at a third-party laboratory

The M2500 system passed regulatory testing with the integrated egress flap. Careful analysis in development as well as rapid build-test-learn cycles led to an optimized design ready for commercialization. Availability of the manual egress flap allowed building designers to specify the M2500 into more structures. Product volume started to increase, and today the product can be seen in airport concourses, shopping mall hallways, schools, and multi-use structures around the world. The M2500 product line is now a success, and Smoke Guard has collaborated with SGW Designworks in multiple subsequent projects in the operable wall market space.

Hardware Developed Technologies Leveraged
Proprietary Stitching ApproachSolidworks Simulation / FEA
Stiffened Fabric Small Scale Prototyping
UL10D Compliant Assembly Full Scale Prototyping