Job Well Done?
The Glass May Look Good, But How do
You Avoid a Failure?
by Kris Vockler
Fresh from glasstec 2008 in Germany and excited about what I see in the
world of decorative glass, I have a vision of what may be coming our way
from Europe. New glass types, processes, coatings and colors are on the
rise. This is good news for those of us in the decorative glass world, but
this explosion comes with a few caveats. For one, how do you know the
coating or technology you just ordered will at least last the life of a
building or the application? Can you trust the manufacturer? In an ideal
world you should be able to trust the manufacturer, but in todayís age,
fabricators, architects and designers must do their homework and ensure
they are using and specifying products that will do what they want them to
Marketing speak can feel so real and tug at your
emotions ... why would you not want to trust the message being conveyed?
The job of a company or marketer may be to sell a product, but not
everyone follows a code of ethics (just look at the tobacco and alcohol
industries). If it sells itís a good program, right? But why does this
matter in the glass industry? For one, we periodically see a new or old
product have a rash of failures or a wholesale failure, yet still the
product is accepted because of all its other possible benefits. Sometimes
the fad of these products washes away as the troubles outweight the
benefit; other times we put up with the negatives because we need those
Such issues could occur to many elements of glass
processing and fabricating, but being a chemist, Iíll focus on the glass
coatings end of thing. During glasstec I saw more glass coatings and
colors than I had ever seen in the past. We knew this was coming, or at
least I did; the thirst for color by architects would eventually lead to
more colors than one could imagine.
In a fervor for color, some manufacturers have gobbled
up coatings at a rate that has not allowed their technical minds to wrap
around one simple question: will this coating last? The spandrel cavity,
for instance, is a harsh environment, with temperatures and humidity
swinging up and down wildly in a given day. Interior areas are also
affected by ultraviolet (UV) light, and every installation element touches
another component where it has been glazed.
Many players in Europe have struggled from time to time
with poor performance during application or over time. The same thing is
occurring here in North America, although we are a bit more conservative
Need to Know
So, how does one ask the questions and do the research? From a
fabricator level, ask for certification testing by an outside source or
seek complete testing results from performance criteria, test methods and
standards created by organizations such as the Glass Assocition of North
America or ASTM Internationl. Then ask the manufacturer for results of UV
testing, boil tests, humidity cycling, solvent/chemical resistance and
possibly any compatibility testing with sealants and other materials to be
used in the glazing plan. Double check that reported results based upon
standards are presented in their complete form. There have been cases
where information was omitted in order to ensure passing test criteria.
Itís not only the ethical responsibility of the manufacturer to produce
complete reports, itís the ultimate responsibility of the fabricator to
ensure completeness and the architectís responsibility to ask for the
One last bit of safe-guarding: everyone must understand
that not all coatings are created equal. In the categories of acrylic,
urethane, epoxy, silicone and ceramic (just a few of the possible
chemistries I saw at glasstec) each has a grade or difference in how it
performs in the presence of UV light, water, solvent, humidity and
chemical resistance. As my grandfather always said, ďYou get what you
pay for.Ē He was right. Purchase a lower-performing product at a cheaper
price and you may get failure that costs you more in the future.
Relatively inexpensive and expensive coatings are available in all of the
categories mentioned above.
Not all products are created equal. Understanding what
you are using or purchasing is the first key, yet it is most important to
know what organizations have standardized performance testing for a given
application. Match those standards to performance reports from a
manufacturer, dig deeper and seek performance testing in UV, water and
solvent exposure. Being prepared will mean all the difference between
success in the market and utter failure.
© Copyright 2009 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.