Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2003
Where the Film Industry is Headed
by Penny Beverage
As we ring in the New Year of 2003, we must all adapt both personally and professionally to the changes we will see in it. Not only are the world and its people changing, but the window film industry is as well, and it is never too late to prepare for what’s to come. The industry has faced a number of issues in the last several years and these are not likely to come to a halt; among them have been: the use of film to retrofit existing wired glass applications; security—how window film can protect our nation; and what the window film industry is going to do in the wake of new reflective coatings and types of glass.
The Wired Debate
Throughout the last year, USGlass has covered “The Great Wired Glass Debate,” (see February 2002 USGlass, page 54), but on the window film side, its sister publication, Window Film magazine, has been covering it as well (see July-August 2002 Window Film, page 14) because some in the industry think window film could be the solution for making wired glass impact-resistant in educational facilities and bringing it up to code.
The International Code Council (ICC) voted to eliminate the use of wired glass in new construction of educational facilities, when it met in April in Pittsburgh. At the proposal of an ad hoc committee formed to study the issue of wired glass, the ICC voted to remove the exemption for Category E (educational facilities—kindergarten through grade 12) for all new construction (section 2406.12—wired glass). In addition, the council specified that wired glass should not be used in basketball courts or gymnasiums. According to section 2408.3, glazing in multi-purpose gymnasiums, basketball courts and similar athletic facilities subject to human impact loads shall comply with Category II of CPSC 16 CFR 1201 listed in chapter 35 of the code.
Bekaert Specialty Films of Clearwater, Fla., has conducted testing on this subject and has found that its Armorcoat films can be applied to wired glass to make it impact-resistant (up to what the standards require for education facilities), according to Nick Routh, national accounts manager for Bekaert.
“Window film, by its nature, should be an adequate solution to the impact concerns with wired glass,” said Routh. “However, the only testing that I am familiar with is the testing that we at Bekaert Specialty Films have done, and our Armorcoat™ safety and security window films on wired glass met the required impact resistance. These Armorcoat films were tested on Pilkington and Asahi wired glass and met the requirements of both ANSI Z 97.1 and CPSC CFR 1201, Category II.”
But, Vicki Lovell, code consultant to the International Window Film Association (IWFA) and the Association of Industrial Metallizers and Coaters (AIMCAL) window film committee, says fire is the real issue. While Bekaert tested this as well, the IWFA’s stance is that more films need to be tested before making a definitive statement about film’s effects on wired glass. Both associations currently are looking at the effects, but at press time, the final report was not yet available. It is due out in the spring.
“The primary question is how [safety film] will affect the fire performance of wired glass,” Lovell said.
Darrell Smith, executive director of the IWFA, concurred.
“Anecdotally, there is no reason to think that film will interfere with the fire rating of wired glass, but, without tests being performed, there is no way to know for sure. Because of that, we are not making claims about film as a fire-rated glazing,” Smith said. “While it may meet the impact requirements, and we know it has been tested by most, if not all, manufacturers, as a finishing material (like wallpaper, floor coverings, draperies, etc.) for ignition point, toxicity and flammability, to our knowledge there is very limited testing of film on wired glass as a fire-rated glazing system.”
In late November, Smith said the IWFA was still awaiting the results of the study before it makes its official statement. “We do not have a copy of the written lab test report yet, so we have not modified our prior printed and published industry position statement,” Smith said.
Security Glazing on the Rise
In addition to the wired glass issue, the window film industry is also working busily to keep up with the new increased need for security glazing, which rose after September 11, 2001, and has remained steady since. Shortly after the tragic day, Bekaert Specialty Films assisted in the application of security film to the U.S. Capitol Building. A number of window film manufacturers have been involved in a variety of applications of this sort, but due to security concerns, have not been able to share the details with the press.
Madico Inc.’s chief executive officer, Bob Connelly, said his company has also seen a surge in security film, but could not tell in which film applications the company had been involved.
“If there could possibly be any silver lining to September 11, it was that people have learned what window film is,” Connelly said. “Safety had always been a hard sell before.”
Tom Niziolek, marketing manager for the company, echoed Connelly’s sentiments, and added that the company will at least be able to talk about its commercial security applications soon—if not the government jobs it has seen.
“As we get more into commercial business, we’ll be able to share more of what we’re doing,” Niziolek said.
Even with the decrease in legislation, though, some suspect the rise of reflective coatings and all the new, advanced types of glass (including self-cleaning) that are now on the market could be a detriment to the film industry on both the automotive and architectural sides.
Reflective Coatings and New Glass
Among these new types of glass are Woodbury, N.Y.-based Research Frontiers’ SPD technology (glass and film that can change colors at the touch of a button or turn of a knob), self-cleaning glass (which is now available from Pilkington, PPG Industries, AFG and even Saint Gobain) and low-maintenance glass soon to be available from Guardian. Currently, most film manufacturers don’t see a problem with this, though, at least in architectural applications.
“Film is almost always applied to the inside of glass, unless there is a reason for exterior applications,” said Rob Martin, president of Westar Window Films (the North American agent for Hanita Coatings of Israel) in Largo, Fla.
However, solar control glass—glass that absorbs infrared light—is another story, and could cause more problems for the industry. As solar control glass has become more affordable over the years, an increasing number of homeowners are purchasing it—and the less need there is for aftermarket residential film.
“There is more high-performance glass than there has ever been,” said one industry insider who wished to remain anonymous.
As the window film industry faces such an array of issues—from an increased need for security film, the possibility of entering the wired-glass market and a questionable future in light of new types of glass and OEM-tinted automotive windows—it is uncertain what the future may hold.
However, most, including IWFA president Ed Golda, expect that overall, despite ups and downs, the industry is ready for a booming future.
“The state of the flat glass market, including residential and commercial business, is still growing very rapidly. The security market, since 9/11, has been the best thing that has ever happened to the industry,” Golda said. “The automotive market is holding its own … and is steady, with the major manufacturers using more and more tint of their own, so we see a little decline in the SUV market. But it’s in the flat glass industry and storefronts that we’re seeing the most growth.”
Penny Beverage is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine and editor of Window Film magazine.
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