Volume 42, Issue 9 - September 2007
Bent Glass Possibilities
New Technologies Expand Glazing Choices
by James R. Gulnick
Bent and large-sized flat, architectural glass products can be used in many applications for both aesthetics and performance. It seems, though, that these products are not used in North America as much as in other areas of the world. Is it the market demand for these products, the design vision of the architects or the limited availability, quality and cost that has kept the application of these products few and far between in North America?
Setting the Rules
Another answer could be a simple error of perception. The glass industry as a whole is fascinated by design. Pictures of global buildings utilizing glass in their designs often illustrate the new and interesting. So when we see pictures of large, bent glass applications we assume that the world is moving in the direction of increased use. That perception is real—areas other than North America do use these products frequently.
Architects do not seem to realize the glass fabrication capabilities of North American companies. In fact, one architect even told me that he would be more comfortable with glass from a German supplier because the German company was “used to providing the quality that was needed for the job based on the architectural glazing products that are more typically supplied in Europe.”
Availability and Quality
The hopes for a brighter future for bent and tempered large glass may not be certain. It is a case of the chicken or the egg for many. In other words, some people think that when bent glass manufacturers can produce a quality product at a moderate cost, then the market will be more accepting of these solutions. Others think that the market needs to be much larger in order for more companies to make increased investment in production equipment to satisfy the demand.
A Lesson from Tempering
For example, until a few years ago the only way to create a curved glass wall was to install flat glass sheets in a segmented curve. Though this method formed a curved glass facade, it had protruding edges and frames. The capability to bend and temper large glass sizes has eliminated the need for frames and provides beautifully curved glass sheets.
Bending and tempering technology without tooling has also taken the use of curved shapes to a new level. The ability to utilize more accurate methods of heating, such as high-resolution heating with convection technology, has brought the latest technical innovations into the process of bending and tempering large glass lites.
Equipment is available today to produce instant U-, J-, V- and S-bend shapes and flat, large-sized, high-quality glass. What’s more, many different types of coated glass can be bent and tempered while retaining its look and performance. The future is getting brighter, if not yet clearer, for bent and large-sized flat architectural glazing solutions.
the author: James R. Gulnick is the North American eastern regional sales manager for Glaston America Inc. Mr. Gulnick’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.