Volume 45, Issue 12 - December 2010

feature

Around The World In Four Days

The Most Talked-About Topics, in Every Language, at glasstec 2010
by Megan Headley and Charles Cumpston

Professionals from all sectors of the glass industry and from all over the world came in search of innovation, and in hope of optimistic news, to glasstec 2010, which took place September 28 through October 1 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Although a number of attendees commented that the show seemed lighter in traffic than in comparable years, others seemed pleased that as many people came as did, given that at the last exhibition, in 2008, poor economic conditions formed the central theme of the show. According to show organizers, more than 1,270 exhibitors and approximately 45,000 trade visitors took part in both glasstec and the concurrent solarpeq fair. Some were surprised that this year’s show reportedly saw an increase in visitor participation from North America over last year. Less surprisingly, attendance from South America also was up; many have cited Brazil and other regions of South America as a developing hot spot for value-added glass demand.

“Foreign visitors are extremely important to us. Seventy percent of the visitors at our stand on the first two days came from outside of Germany,” commented Dominik. Hinzen, director of marketing and corporate communications for Bohle AG. “For us, as an international company, it is obviously important to approach those countries where we do not have branch offices.”

“After the difficult year in 2009 we have finally moved out of the ‘valley of tears’ and you can feel optimism everywhere,” said Richard Jakob, chief executive officer (CEO) of Bystronic. “There is a marked interest in and demand for all products.”

Solar Market
The first edition of solarpeq was designed to give glasstec exhibitors an opportunity to tap into new target groups and promote dialogue between the sectors. Alongside the exhibition was a “Solar meets Glass” conference, which featured nearly 200 participants in the glass and solar sectors.

Scott Thomsen, group vice president of Guardian Glass, was among the conference speakers. He addressed how the glass industry views the total solar industry and why he believes the primary glass manufacturers are not fully embracing solar. According to Thomsen, it comes down to the simple fact that the solar industry today consumes less than 1 percent of the total glass produced.

“So even though it’s a large industry, and it’s growing at a compounded rate of 30 to 35 percent, it’s still a relatively small industry,” Thomsen said. “A lot of [the discussion] was focused on the fact that we’re already in the price compression mode of commodity status, and yet the demand is still at a relatively low level. And when demand is low for specialty glass products that are needed for solar, you have higher costs.”

Many exhibitors, anxious to show they were embracing the solar sector, took out additional booths in the designated solarpeq hall, booths that, in many cases, seemed to be unmanned. Solar products were, in fact, spread throughout the trade show floor, while the portions of the hall dedicated to solar technology focused on items more of interest to solar module producers than glass fabricators.

Bekaert Advanced Coatings showcased its latest range of rotatable sputtering solutions at the event.

“In the early days of solar cell fabrication, the focus was on achieving acceptable energy conversion efficiencies,” commented Koen Staelens, product market manager at Bekaert Sputter Products. “The traditional approach of using a planar magnetron cathode for depositing a thin film on the substrate offered good performance, but targets became exhausted very quickly in large production runs. With the current trend toward high volumes, rotatable sputtering solutions will achieve the same or better cell performance while reducing the cost of ownership considerably.”

There were other types of coatings on display as well, including a unique solar solution from Ritec. As numerous experts have pointed out in the past, the transparency of the glass impacts the efficiency of a solar module. Typically the more transparent the solar window, the less effective it is—unless you’re talking about dirt. Ritec set out to solve this particular efficiency challenge with a ClearShield System that upgrades glass to ClearShield High-Light Glass™. This high-performance glass has durable surface protection with “non-stick,” easy-clean performance. For solar energy panels, the benefits include reductions of 50 percent on average in the frequency of cleaning and easy maintenance of the original appearance, performance and light transmission.

Manufacturers did have products on display for attendees looking for the latest in building integrated photovoltaics. Schüco promoted is window and façade ProSol TF module in a variety of formats. Façades can be retrofitted with a ready-to-install façade, which the company says can improve the energy balance of industrial buildings in a short timeframe.

Handling Solar Glazing
In addition to the glass-related products, attendees interested in solar glazing had a number of new options on-hand for fabricating and handling these coated products.

For many attendees, the show provided the first opportunity since the announcement of Glaston’s strategic cooperation agreement with Beneq, a provider of industrial coating equipment and technology based on aerosol technologies, to see the TFC 2000™ system for continuous flat glass TCO coating. Company representatives say this product provides easy entry to TCO.

Among Grenzebach’s introductions for the solar industry was a backrail mounting system based on ultrasonic welding.

“We are trying to find a possibility to bond glass and metal together 100-percent,” explained Alfred Schlosser of Grenzebach during a demo.

The technology creates a chemical link, between the glass and metal for a watertight weld. Schlosser pointed to the numerous possibilities for this product, such as connecting the mounting systems for rooftop modules directly to the glass cover or linking the junction boxes to the solar panel itself.

In the solar industry, ISRA Vision has been focused on inspection of thin film and parabolic mirrors, but representatives said they are now expanding their focus to other technologies.

The company has since released and updated new products for this segment. Among the new offerings at the show was an updated PATTERNSCAN system for optical, in-line inspection of solar glass. The system has been updated to recognize previously ignored defects in the glass and on its surface as it’s further processed for solar applications. An unlimited number of different views can be simultaneously generated with just one camera or a camera bank.

Putting Together the Façade
Among the displays at the Glass Technology Live demonstration was a record-breaking insulating glass (IG) unit, measuring 59 feet long by nearly 11 feet tall, fabricated by Henze Glas in Germany. Attendees who inspected the large lite have left a fingerprint here and there, but there were a number of solutions on the floor for protecting and cleaning glass products such as this.

RenoVio, a company that works with GlassRenu Europe, provided information on its new Liquifoil peelable coating for temporary surface protection. The product is rolled or sprayed onto windows or other smooth surfaces to protect them from dirt, paint, scratches, etc. When finished, the product can be peeled or jet spray off, revealing a clean surface behind.

Representatives of the Cleanfix Group were informing attendees about their services in the industrial cleaning sector. The company’s specialty is its onsite cleaning process for lehr rollers during flat glass production.

Cleanliness may not be the first goal for Swedish company Brunkeberg, but it’s one of the solutions its new track system offers. Representatives of the company walked the floor looking for representation for their new system for installing unitized curtainwall. The system is made up of vertical tracks permanently installed on a building to allow first for installation of curtainwall, then throughout the life of the building can accommodate the installation of stable access platforms for maintenance work or façade cleaning systems, as well as features such as sun shading, façade lighting and display systems.

The wind-secured track system is intended to help glazing contractors avoid unnecessary handling and interim storage and lead to considerably shorter installation times. Following final tests on the system for structural safety, water and air tightness, the company hopes to introduce the system on projects next year.

These glass cleaning solutions were perhaps not so unusual when one stepped back and took a look at this year’s focus on quality control at large. As Glassopolis’ Jordan Richards and Rob Botmann walked the floor looking for innovative new products, they were among the attendees who pointed out that glasstec’s focus this year was on quality and value-added, as opposed to low costs.

Handle with Care
In addition to quality control machinery, handling systems also were prevalent on the trade show floor. Germany-based Hegla took up a lot of floor space with a number of systems. Attendees could check out the latest version of the ReMaster storage system, a space-saving buffer system that can be installed above the cutting system, and which now can feature multiple lites per slot. It went from a 25 to 75 lite capacity, a “huge capacity gain,” according to Tom Bechill. A number of visitors to Hegla’s booth watched the SortJet demonstrate its swivel conveyor for online production, transferring materials from cutting to the IG line. Its performance features include simultaneous glass transportation to the buffer and outfeed transportation, dynamic single-direction material flow and multi-loading for all buffer compartments.

Among other things, Intermac displayed a Comby R-A37 line for alternate cutting of monolithic and laminated glass for fabricators that want two automatic lines but are short on floor space. With Comby it is possible to maintain the same productivity levels on the single machines composing the line, while obtaining a significant reduction in overall dimensions.

Two laminated glass cutting solutions also were presented: the semi-automatic Genius 37 LM and automatic Genius 37 LM-AC37. The machines offer customers a very fast machining cycle—the LA, in fact, stands for accelerated cutting—and have the operator’s comfort in mind. The machines are able to cut strips as narrow as 20-mm; “no one can cut as narrow as this,” according to Carey Brayer, vice president of sales.

Brayer was eager to point out a series of symbols that will in the future mark machines as offering one or more specific green characteristics: separated waste collection, automatic standby, monitoring consumption, energy recovery, vacuum pumps switching off and compressed air interruption.

“With every machine we’re evaluating energy efficiency,” he said. In the future, the company will be selling energy efficiency product packages.

For.El. presented a wide range of machinery solutions. In response to a growing interest in the use of warm-edge spacers, For.El developed machinery to automatically apply flexible spacers from reels directly to the glass sheet, and optimized bending for rigid box spacer systems produced from metal or plastic. According to representatives with For.El, there has been a great deal of interest of late in the manufacture of triple-glazed units, for which the company designed high-speed systems that allow for their production on comparable times to that associated with double-glazing composition. The company continues to focus on the performance and solutions for gas filling. At the show, three levels of automation were presented: from the manual 4-station 8-probe fill and detect system to the universal gas filling conveyor which performs automatically in-line just after the coupling press process. The third gas filling solution exhibited was the multilevel gas filling press, which combines the two operations of lite coupling with gas filling at seriously high levels of production and efficiency.

In visiting Bystronic’s booth, many attendees went first to see what new developments the “Top Secret” area held. As it turns out, the area revealed a system for manufacturing high-quality laminated glass: the eco’convect is a unique heating and press system that works with significantly reduced cycle times and is also suitable for shaped formats and multifunctional glasses.

“Even with coated glass, it’s much faster than other machines,” shared Iris Minten, PR manager.
The company also introduced there a high-speed sealing machine for IG units. Minten said the speed’sealer is able to produce up to 200 IG units per hour. She also noted that next year the industry can look for the next product in the line, the forthcoming speed’assembler, which will be able to produce an IGU in 30 seconds. The machine makes it possible, even with different production conditions, to actively and consistently mix the two sealant material components, thanks to a dynamic mixer.

At the booth of Austrian IG machinery supplier Lisec, always one of the largest in the show and arguably the most attractive this year, was another new product, a warm-edge IG spacer from new company Infinite Edge Technologies, which is headed by Eric Rapp, formerly with Cardinal IG.

According to David Rapp, Eric’s son and the chief financial officer for the White Bear Lake, Minn.-based company, the system works in a conventional manner of having the spacer on a spool and feeding it through the machinery to add butyl and desiccant. The spacer, however, is made of stainless steel, allowing for a thinner design with the performance of steel. The product, being shown for the first time, is “more flexible for making shapes,” according to Rapp.

“It’s not news that energy is one of the key themes people are talking about today,” commented Arto Metsänen, president and CEO of Glaston during a press conference on Glaston’s recent developments. “I think it’s a general understanding that solar energy will grow something like 30 percent annually for many years to come.” The company promoted its new FC500™ flat tempering machine as a solution for helping fabricators cope with rapidly increasing demand for low-E glass. The line was developed to increase low-E production, decrease energy consumption and offer overall high quality glass.

For pulling all that machinery together, a number of software solutions were present on the trade show floor.

Fred Montgomery, former managing director of Albat + Wirsam, provided information about new software from SynerGlass-Soft at the show as he is now heading up the Belgium-based company’s North American office in Bellevue, Wash. Montgomery says what makes the software so intriguing is that it was developed by a fabricator that “is a glass company first.” For years, he shared, he’s been asking when they’d be bringing the software to North America and now he’s doing just that. He says the software handles all major sorting equipment, among other things, and its concepts are easy and fairly intuitive.

The next glasstec and solarpeq will take place in October 2012 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Megan Headley
is the editor of and Charles Cumpston is a contributing editor for USGlass.



 


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