It’s all about efficiency—or at least that was the overarching takeaway of the Glass Processing Automation Days (GPAD) conference hosted by FeneTech, which was held at the JW Marriott in New Orleans this year.

Syndi Sim discusses the benefits of hydrophobic protective coatings with members of the glass industry at the 2017 GPAD conference.

During this three-day conference, members from various sectors of the glass industry discussed how automation can make for a more efficient manufacturing process, as well as increasing market trends such as oversize glass and hydrophobic protective coating applications.

Wednesday, Jorma Vitkala, chair of the organizing committee for Glass Performance Days (GPD), addressed the state of the industry, as reflected by the GPD 2015 conference. In a presentation that honed from more than 140 presentations and 8,000 slides, Vitkala demonstrated worldwide market trends, from newcomers such as iconic skin glass sandwich panel to an increased demand for large and thick glass in commercial buildings. However, a point he drove home was issues that may arise from daylighting.

“The whole industry needs to work together with the designing industry,” Vitkala said. “Building orientation is very important—what is the window to wall ratio; how can we avoid direct or indirect heating of the building?”

Large commercial buildings with all glass façades emit large amounts of heat onto surroundings buildings and automobiles which can have damaging side effects, as he demonstrated by showing the audience slides of melting car mirrors. He concluded by saying, “We need to find a way to bring more daylight inside of the building while at the same time redirecting the heat outside of the building.”

Picking up where Vitkala left off regarding the increase in demand for large-sized glass, Chris Cullum, area manager of CMS Brembana North America, discussed how manufacturing glass that size produces a set of challenges but, with automated machinery, accommodating big glass has become more efficient and safer.

“When it comes to huge sized glass, which has become increasingly popular, you have to rethink your process because handling becomes a much larger issue than it used to be,” he said. “Large glass processing takes planning—you have to have the infrastructure to accommodate these large pieces of glass. You don’t want to have to do anything twice; it needs to be as efficient as possible.”

He added that the first thing you need to consider is the cutting line. “How are you going to get the glass off the truck? How are you going to store your glass? How are you going to transport your glass?” he continued. His answer was blatant: automated devices and machinery. Cullum discussed the company’s KART, a free-standing machine that automates the handling of glass that changes the way it grabs depending on the product.

He adds that, in turn, by adding automated machinery into the manufacturing process, the risk of workplace injury is greatly reduced since less manual labor is needed.

As large-sized glass becomes increasingly popular in the construction of commercial façades, maintenance of the glass may become a key issue for some business owners. Syndi Sim, director of marketing at Diamon Fusion International (DFI), addressed how hydrophobic protective coatings, a water repellent, is a growing trend in the building envelope and other exterior and interior applications.

“Every day, commercial exterior glazing not treated with a protective coating can fall victim to weather related damage,” Sim said. “Glass is easily damaged when exposed to air conditioning runoff, cement slurry, construction debris and welding slag.” This, she said, can costs building owners “hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on damaged glass.”

Sim added that glass fabricators can distinguish themselves from competitors by educating architects and building owners about the benefits of protective coatings on their IG units.