Volume 8, Issue 5 - May 2007

Guest Column

The Impact-Resistant Alternative: Consider Incorporating Film into IG Units
by Steven Schroer

As property owners become more savvy about protecting themselves and their real estate investments, the demand for impact-resistant products continues to increase. And, as the next hurricane season quickly approaches, window manufacturers continue to develop and market a plethora of products to meet this demand. The use of film in insulating glass (IG) units to create impact-resistant windows is a growing trend. 

The Benefits
As several manufacturers have already discovered, there are significant benefits to utilizing film in IG units. First, the use of film is an alternative way to create impact-resistant products that meet the increasingly stringent state and county building codes. Applying an impact-resistant film composite to the #2 and #3 surfaces of an IG unit has been proven through independent testing to withstand 2x4 impact tests. 

Utilizing film to create impact-resistant glass is a simpler and quicker process than creating impact-resistant laminated glass. There are also considerable cost savings. For manufacturers considering entering the impact-resistant market, both buying PVB laminated glass from another vendor or fabricating laminated glass in-house are costly and potentially time consuming options.

The use of film eliminates the need for laminated glass. Instead, manufacturers can cut annealed glass and then put it through an in-house film lamination process immediately, which creates a product that meets the ANSI Z97.1 and CPSC 1201 Cat II standards.

The cost savings associated with film make it an attractive option for many window fabricators. By adding film to IG units, manufacturers can create a lighter weight unit compared to those made using laminated glass. Most typical impact-resistant windows are very heavy, which causes logistical issues related to shipping and handling. With weight restrictions on the trucking industry, manufacturers often are forced to ship partial loads in order to stay under these requirements. This equates to inefficiency and increased costs related to the distribution of their products. However, IG units that utilize film weigh significantly less, allowing manufacturers to ship more units per truck—thus reducing distribution expenses.

Moreover, the sashes and counter weights of IG units that incorporate film can also be reduced because they don’t have to support the weight of traditional laminated glass—thus, reducing the cost per unit even further.

Installation of these lighter weight windows is also easier—many times only requiring one person, versus the traditional two for other types of impact-resistant units. This allows installation companies to either complete jobs more quickly or increase the number of crews, thus increasing their job capacity. 

The Process and Potential
Manufacturers that utilize film must make an initial equipment investment and be willing to alter their current assembly line structure slightly to make the equipment fit. However, once in place, the film process fits smoothly into a traditional fabrication line. 

After the glass passes through the washer, it’s then introduced to a film laminator located in a clean room. Once it passes through the lamination equipment, manufacturing of the IG unit then continues as usual.

Conventional wisdom would tell us that a wet application process is needed to apply film to glass. However, nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to applying film to IG units. Through a process called “dry lamination,” developed by our company, manufacturers adhere the film to glass without the use of any mounting solution. This particle-free process reduces the risk of contamination, which means units can be created with optimal clarity. In addition, the dry lamination process creates an instant bond between the film and the glass. Therefore, a manufacturer does not need to build in any time for curing.

Many industry-leading manufacturers currently utilize this technology or are considering incorporating it into their current fabrication processes. Because this is a relatively new technology, many in the industry are just now beginning to study and understand the process and its benefits. The growth potential is substantial. As stricter building codes are enacted, manufacturers will continue to look for cost-effective ways to create impact-resistant windows to meet the demand, thus, IG units that incorporate film will become a more popular option. 

Steven Schroer is technical services manager for Film Technologies International. Mr. Schroer’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.


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