Volume 10, Issue 4 - July/August 2008

Tech Issues
New Laminated Glass Options Bring Opportunities and Challenges
by Les Shaver

Dave Burns, president of Ray Sands Glass in Rochester, N.Y., says he sees a lot of high-end vehicles come into his shop. And, with those vehicles, he sees new types of glass (see part one of this article in May/June AGRR, page 18).“The high-end foreign cars are using more laminated glass than ever,” Burns says. 

Breaking Points
Laminated glass breaks differently from how a piece of tempered glass breaks. Tempered glass breaks into tiny pieces, while laminated glass cracks and usually is held in place by the plastic interlayer. Since the glass will stay in place, Burns thinks consumers may feel less of a need to get it fixed immediately

“People won’t be desperate to get it [a replacement] done,” Burns says. “If tempered breaks, they have a whole window to fix. If [laminated glass] cracks, they don’t have a whole window to fix.”

Of course, state governments also may play a role in when a consumer decides to fix his glass. If the break makes vision difficult, drivers may be forced to get new laminated sidelites.

“If broken laminated glass restricts the sidelite view, you will see the states step up,” Burns says.

Business as Usual
When the laminated sidelites do break, though, it really shouldn’t be difficult to work with, experts say.

“Most aftermarket guys are familiar with [laminated glass],” says Tom Laboda, automotive market development manager for Saflex, a unit of Solutia in St. Louis. “Working with [laminated sidelites] isn’t a big deal, especially for a glass expert. They know [laminated glass] and they’ll know how to deal with it.”

Others think the clean-up aspect of laminated glass will be a plus as well. “[Laminated glass] has a lot less cleanup,” says Pete Dishart, global product marketing manager with the automotive glass and services segment of PPG Industries in Pittsburgh. “It doesn’t break into little pieces. That’s one good thing. They basically install the same as before.”

Dishart does emphasize that there may be one disadvantage in laminated sidelites not breaking as obviously as their tempered counterparts. “The only potential issue you would see is if you’re carrying a piece of tempered glass and bang it against something, it will shatter, so you know it’s broke,” he says. “With [laminated glass], you could nip it on something and it doesn’t shatter, but you could still install it. The crack could grow over time.”

Different Versions
Not all laminated glass is created equal. There’s the traditional glass-laminate-glass sandwich (using heat-strengthened glass) and there’s a newer mixture with one lite of tempered glass and a laminate. 

“Both of them offer UV-blocking capabilities,” says Chuck Butler, business development manager for DuPont Glass Laminating Solutions in Wilmington, Del. “But they have differences with durability, stiffness, weight, overall ejection mitigation and safety. It’s not going to be stiff and durable if you use the traditional one. You’re using two pieces of glass and it’s typically going to be heavier.”

The plastic interlayer on the single monolithic construction is inside the surface, providing an additional advantage. “When it’s [the glass is] broken, occupants only touch the plastic,” Butler says. “There are no lacerations because you have a smooth piece of plastic you’re up against. No glass particles will fall off of that into the cabin as you would get with the laminated piece of glass.”

Right now, spall shield is on Mercedes R, E and F class panoramic sunroofs and Butler says other manufacturers see it as an option, particularly on large panoramics. With the exception of police vehicles, this construction isn’t found on sidelites, though. Butler says the primary reason this construction is limited is because of fit.“

You can take the glass out of the vehicle and drop in spall shield with the same motors,” Butler says. “You don’t have to have to modify the door. That’s primarily what you see for glass/plastic laminates in sidelites. It’s kind of specialized at this point.”

The downside of this construction is cost. “For a new laminator getting into spall shield, it can be more expensive,” Butler says. “For someone who is set up well, they can produce spall shield laminated glass in the ballpark of traditional laminate.”

Les Shaver is a contributing writer for AGRR magazine.

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