Going Green at glasstec

Left to right: Mark Abbott and Eric Hegstrom of LiteSentry wear zebra print because prior to their product's invention, they say glass manufacturers had to use what is called a "zebra board" to tell whether glass was flat or not.

Left to right: Mark Abbott and Eric Hegstrom of LiteSentry wear zebra print because prior to their product’s invention, they say glass manufacturers had to use what is called a “zebra board” to tell whether glass was flat or not.

While glass itself is the star of the show at glasstec, something else comes in a close second: the machinery that processes, handles and even paints it.

As consumers and governments push for more energy-efficient glass, there is also a push for this machinery to go green.

“Our primary concerns [for our machines] are quality and efficiency,” said Tom Bechill, sales manager at Hegla, a German machinery manufacturer. “Energy efficiency is part of that and our focus has turned to it.”

Praxair of Tonawanda, N.Y., has come to glasstec to rev up excitement for the company’s product, which is specifically designed to save energy. The company’s Optimelt Thermochemical Regenerator System recovers and reuses previously wasted heat in glass furnaces, saving as much as 20 to 30 percent in energy, according to the company.

Uyi Iyoha, business development manager for the company, said there was much interest in the machine.

“[Our presentation] was well-attended. We had about 60 to 70 people there,” he said. “We are commercializing the product next year.”

Currently, the regenerator is used on furnaces that make bottles and jars but the company wants to go bigger and adapt it for float glass furnaces.

“Container glass is the entry point,” Iyoha said. He explained he expected the company to produce a similar product for float glass furnaces within three years.

Another company was seeking to save manufacturers energy by reducing waste, but this time by reducing the amount of imperfect flat glass.

Coming to glasstec all the way from Northfield, Minn., LiteSentry manufactures machines that measure the flatness of glass coming out of furnaces.

“We’ve been doing this almost 15 years,” says Eric Hegstrom, vice president of technology. According to Hegstrom, that means the company’s been saving float glass producers energy expenses for that long.

“Using machine like this increases [companies’] through-put,” he said. “They’re able to use only the energy they need in the furnace in order to temper the glass. It’s a large amount of money saved on energy.”

Gernot Pirnbaum, sales engineer at Bystronic, also a German machinery company, said there’s no big or uniform way for companies to make their products more green.

“We have to look into the details,” Pirnbaum said. “Every machine has special processes.”

One example he gave was that Bystronic’s machines now have a property that much of the cars in Europe have: a sleep mode.

“If the glass machine stops, it momentarily shuts off or goes into a ‘waiting mode.’ It’s not something very big but it saves when you have a lot of machines,” Pirnbaum said.

He also explained that with increasing building regulations and energy demands, companies continue to advance their technology.

“Our engineers are always looking to improve things,” Pirnbaum said.

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