Glass manufacturers and processors are focused on maximising production efficiency, product quality and energy efficiency to increase their performance.

Factors such as increasing international competition in the glass sector, price pressures, wider range of glass products and strongly diverging batch sizes are compelling many glass converters to look towards high-performance technologies in their production machinery.

The rising weight of construction glass is also another challenge with increasing preference for large-format glazing units and laminated toughened glass in end applications. To efficiently manufacture these heavy large-format sheets, processing machines and logistics need to be modified.

High process speed and superior quality

Given the excess capacities prevailing on the glass market, glass processing companies, especially in Europe can survive only by cutting production costs. Companies are focussing on consistent automation concepts, based on a holistic view of the operational environment and production workflow. Machine producers for instance, tailor glass manufacturing equipment specifically to their customers’ needs.

Extremely short cycle times are needed in industrial glass processing and finishing to maximise efficiency, without compromising product quality and dimensional tolerances. High precision in glass units is critical across all user segments from automotive to architectural applications.

Fenestration and façade specialist Franz Hauk, representative of the Technical Committee of the German Fachverband Fenster + Fassade e.V., recently called for smaller tolerances for construction glass at the annual congress of the German Flat Glass Association (Bundesverband Flachglas e.V.). He explained that window and façade builders only had a very small tolerance area due to their highly modern systems, and exceeding it would lead to massive problems.

More energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is also a key aspect of state-of-the-art glass machinery production, which can be achieved through optimised workflows, and use of highly efficient engines and the latest radiator and convection technology in the manufacturing of safety glazing. The latest purification technology for process water purification allows manufacturers to save the environment and natural resources, reduce costs and improve machine performance.

Innovative insulating glass manufacturing

Swiss-German group Bystronic glass offers speed’line, an example of modern high-speed manufacturing technology in which process steps in the insulating glass production line are geared optimally to the production of triple glazing units to achieve fast cycle times. Thanks to speed’line’s triple glazing, units can now be produced in the same time as double glazing units.

The company has also introduced new simulation software to the industrial working party Research & Technology of ‘Forum Glasstechnik’, the professional Association of Glass Machinery Builders in the German Engineering Federation (VDMA e.V.). This software allows engineers to precisely calculate the cycle times and costs for each individual glass pane while also displaying optimisation potential on existing production lines.

New production technologies, market potential and application benefits of triple glazing units from 2mm thin glass were also presented at the same meeting by Austrian glass machinery producer Lisec. Apart from reducing glass weight, using thinner glass also cuts primary energy needs in manufacturing by 30%, with the changeover from previously customary 4mm glass to 2mm thin glass resulting in substantial energy savings when viewed across the 30 million square metres of insulating glass produced every year in Germany alone.

New benchmark for machinery size

Setting a new benchmark in the size of glass processing machinery, German company sedak GmbH & Co. KG has shown the capability to print complex, multi-coloured pixel designs in high-resolution photo quality on extra-large format sheets measuring up to 3.21m x 15m with their new digital flatbed system for ceramic glass printing.

CEO Bernhard Veh explains that the system has a resolution of 720 dpi allowing them to not only produce excellent prints but also offer a significantly thinner ink layer than obtained through screen or roller printing thanks to their digital printing process. This enables them to produce translucent prints and design flowing transitions.

Trend towards vertical machines

Vertical machinery is the latest trend in finishing glass surfaces and edges of glass doors and textured glass since they have a markedly smaller footprint than machines with a horizontal layout. The vertical drilling and grinding machine Vertmax by Italian glass machinery manufacturer Intermac scores not only with its new user-friendly operator software but also its finishing for float and laminated glass. Additionally, the system requires only minimal set-up times and can drill, mill, grind and polish glass for a multitude of applications quickly and with high precision in an automated working process.

High-powered laser technology

The glass manufacturing industry believes laser technology also holds great potential for flat glass finishing. German firm Cerion GmbH offers machines that can perform internal or external engravings using solid state and/or CO2 lasers. The c-vertica series comes in various sizes and configuration levels, ranging from small systems for finishing door-sized formats all the way up to laser machines for sheet formats as big as 6,000 x 3,300 x 100 mm. Add-on modules allow the format to be enlarged by 3,000mm each.

With laser machines made by Cerion, float and laminated toughened glass as well as mirrors and other coated glass can be treated. Even surface engravings on TSG no longer pose a problem. Additionally, laser technology is suitable for de-coating flat glass or applying transparent anti-skid textures (certified according to R9 and R10). Thanks to the high degree of automation, entire product series can be processed with minimum personnel intervention.

Reliable quality assurance

Quality assurance remains a major impacting factor in glass production and processing. State-of-the-art scan systems provide ultimate assurance for glass manufacturing and processing. Ulrich Bauereiß, Sales Manager of Dr. Schenk GmbH, a specialist for industrial measuring technology says the true benefit of automatic surface inspection in glass manufacturing lies in process optimisation. By evaluating the data furnished by these systems, flaws in the manufacturing process can be identified and eliminated.

Viprotron GmbH offers inspection systems specifically geared to various flat glass processing segments, which consider the special requirements of each process. The latest generation of this scanner technology reveals even the smallest of defects.

Glass machinery and equipment producers from across the world can get a complete 360-degree view of the latest technological innovations at the upcoming Glasstec 2014 exhibition being held in Düsseldorf from 21 to 24 October. The most important international trade fair for the glass sector, Glasstec 2014 will present the entire spectrum from glazier-crafted to industrial glass processing for flat glass, hollow glass, solar glass as well as various types of special glass. The latest technology trends in machine and equipment building will be the focus of the VDMA Symposium being held on 22 October as part of the special show ‘Glass Technology Live’ at the Glasstec.