GPD ’19 Advances the Industry with Collaboration, Education and Networking

More than 1,000 participants from around the world journeyed to Tampere, Finland, in June for the 2019 staging of Glass Performance Days (GPD). The biennial event included two days of specially focused workshops, followed by two days of education, networking and entertainment. The event is always memorable and this year was even more so as it marked the retirement of organizing chair Jorma Vitkala, who will continue for some time as a senior advisor to Glaston, organizer of the event.

“Many have told me that this year’s GPD was the best ever in terms of the positive GPD spirit that was enjoyed by all throughout the entire four-day event. This stands out for me as the most positive feedback I possibly could receive. It’s truly special to hear that,” said Vitkala.

Just as in 2017, the event was held at the TähtiAreena exhibition and sports center. The venue allowed all of the conference activities, including presentations, coffee breaks and lunches, to take place in one large, open area.

“It was only a short walk to find what you were looking for, and much easier to meet with the speakers and other participants face-to-face,” said Vitkala. “It was really wonderful that so many participants turned out for this year’s event. It was rewarding to see their support and receive thanks for my work in helping to take the entire glass industry ahead into the next era of development.”

An Opening Spectacular

The conference opening began in the typical GPD fashion: with impressive entertainment. Acrobats and dancers lit up the stage—literally—as they were clad in fluorescent attire. The entertainers provided a glowing, laser-light show that featured the use of radiant props, such as batons and hoops.

Following the entertainment, Vitkala took the stage to welcome the crowd. In his opening, he explained that changes are happening faster than ever before and the industry must continue to meet the needs of its customers and customers’ customers.

“We must be the catalyst for new ideas, technology and relationships,” he said.

As part of this focus, GPD again included the Step Change program to showcase start-ups and change-ups, all focused on a “smart” future.

“The clear objective of this is to display new ideas and changes,” said Vitkala.

He also recognized and thanked Glaston, the event’s main sponsor. “None of this would be possible without [their] belief and support,” he said.

Glaston CEO, Arto Metsänen, next spoke of the importance of industry collaboration, which he said will help develop meaningful outcomes for customers.

“We [as an industry] must continue to develop and work toward a common good … and keep up with the growing demands of our customers,” he said.

“No company or person can do it all alone; it calls for ever-stronger collaboration in the industry.”

This, he said, was the reason for developing the Step Change program two years ago.

“I’m happy to say some of those start-ups have seen growth in two years’ time,” he said.

Metsänen was followed by the evening’s keynotes. These included a session titled “Language of Places,” led by Stefan Blach, partner-in-charge, with Studio Libeskind. He explained his firm is deeply interested in what architecture can do to transform places, and provided visual examples of unique applications where they have transformed or created places.

He was followed by Mike Pilliod, director of manufacturing innovation with Tesla, who talked about the company’s focus on innovation and technology development, particularly in regard to its use of glass in vehicles.

“Glass has been a part of every project we’ve launched,” he said. “We always
talk about the glass … glass is an enabler for the design,” he said.

The final keynote was presented by Sener Oktik, chief technology officer with
Sisecam, who provided a global glass forecast and overview.

He said the global demand for glass is 82 million tons, the majority of which,
82%, is for the construction segment.

He added that global flat glass demand is expected to grow from 82 million tons to 112 million tons in 2022; 91% of that will be for construction. The majority of this growth will continue to be in Asia, which he said is expected to grow from $49 billion to $81 billion by 2022. North America is expected to see smaller growth, from $16 billion to $20 billion.

First-Timers Club

Vitkala said 280 participants took part for the first time. Jean-Paul Hautekeer, global strategic market director, high performance building, Dow Consumer Solutions, has been a long-time participant and supporter of GPD. He was impressed with the high number of those attending for the first time.

“It’s really great and encouraging as it means companies are sending their younger people to come here and learn. What can we expect as a better recognition than when you see those young engineers for the first time at GPD,” he said. “This means that the conference principles about learning, sharing and networking work.”

Kirk Tretick, engineering technical writer/resident tempering expert with Vitrum Glass in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, was one of those first time attendees.

“Even though I have been in the glass industry for 26 years it was great to attend this event and still learn new things,” he said. “I thought GPD was an amazing event that was very informative with all the presentations. And, it was great to see some exciting new technology.”

For many attendees, the biggest take-away was the huge focus on collaboration.

“We work at the high end of the glass environment in the U.S. and things don’t get done anymore without collaboration,” said Paul Becks with National Enclosure Co., a contract glazing firm in Ypsilanti, Mich. “Coming here, you see people talking about it and more importantly, you see it being done … You get smart people in a room and you collaborate
and that’s being done here.”

First-timer Sean Ross, vice president of research and development with San Francisco-based Safti First, agreed that collaboration is important.

“We’re collaborating with other individuals around the world to understand new products and new opportunities,” he said, adding they’re also exploring development of new ideas and new products, as well as enhancing their current product line.

Trending Discussions

Presentations throughout the event focused on a wide range of topics, ranging from high-performance glass, research and development, automation and inspection and many others. One subject, however, seemed to draw a lot of interest: curved glass. Bent and curved glass found its way into multiple presentations, in areas such as complex geometries and façade case histories, among others.

One of those presentations was led by Georgia Ewen-Campen from Heintges Consulting Architects & Engineers. She discussed the design of the Nike flagship store in New York, which opened last year. The project features unique, slumped glass fabricated by Cricursa and installed by seele.

“It wasn’t a stretch to think glass could be implemented into this shape, but more a question of whether anyone would sign off on it,” said Ewen-Campen of the project’s design. Given the nature of the project, the engineering analysis of the geometry was an important detail. She said the design team looked at thermal stress on the glass and also evaluated the insulating glass performance under climatic loads.

“We knew we would need to bring on the glass fabricator early,” she said, noting the challenges in being able to create the glass. Cricursa, however, came through successfully. “When we saw the image of the samples, everyone let go of the breathe they were holding and said ‘ok, we can do this.'”

The final geometry of the glass was done based on the samples. The team decided to make the glass sizes uniform, due to cost and to limit the number of molds.

“It also made the façade stand separate from the structure behind it,” she said.

Driving Innovation

The Step Change program also returned this year. According to program coordinator Victor Jason, when the program began in 2017 start-ups pitched their company/products to the industry, but this year they did something different.

“This year we had a reverse pitching-event, where corporates shared how they work with start-ups and what possibilities there are within their organizations for collaboration and open innovation,” said Jason. “Each company discussed how their internal innovative processes work and how startups can get involved.”

This was the second time that Tampere-based Stealthcase participated in the program. In 2017 the company presented its initial concepts for transforming insulating glass units (IGU) into passive signal repeaters designed to enhance indoor connectivity in energy-efficient buildings.

“The concept was based on an idea to transform the coatings on glass into passive antennas that aid wireless signals to flow through building envelopes,” said Juha Lilja, chief technology officer. “We just finalized the first commercial versions of our glass integrated passive repeaters. We got a great chance to meet all the major players in the glass industry in a single conference, to demonstrate our technologies in real IGUs, and to get feedback directly from potential customers.

Now That’s Entertainment

While there’s no comparison to the educational sessions that GPD offers, the same can also be said for the networking and social activities. For the conference dinner, the literal stage was set in the Tampere-Talo performance hall. The tables were located on the stage and the entertainment took place from the audience.

But the big finale was the lakeside, wild, wild west-themed farewell party. From the moment the buses arrived, guests were greeted by Samba dancers before making their way toward the lake for food, games and music.

“This year’s farewell party in particular was a memory of a lifetime for me, because it also served as my retirement party. I was deeply touched by the fact that so many companies and sponsors helped to make the party something truly special for the record-breaking number of 700 [party] participants,” said Vitkala. “All who attended enjoyed themselves immensely. They enthusiastically took part with tremendous spirit in the many different activities that had been arranged. The sun shone brightly throughout the evening, providing the guests with a true ‘Nightless Night’ experience.”

Plans for GPD 2021 have not yet been announced. Dates and additional information will be published as it’s made available.

Deserving Recognition

Much of Glass Performance Days (GPD) this year was a celebration in recognition of Jorma Vitkala’s service and dedication to the industry. That included the presentation of the Jorma Vitkala Award of Merit, a recognition first given to to Vitkala in 2017 during the 25th anniversary GPD. The award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding personal contributions to the progress and development of the international glass industry. This year, it was presented during the opening ceremonies to James O’Callaghan with Eckersley O’Callaghan.

Vitkala also received a special recognition during the conference dinner. While Bill O’Keeffe, CEO of Safti First, was unable to attend, he still had a presence. O’Keeffe had a unique light glass sculpture commissioned by artist Mery Crystal Ra, who presented it to Vitkala in honor of his dedication to the industry.

Ellen Rogers is the editor of USGlass magazine. Follow her on Twitter @USGlass and like USGlass on Facebook to receive updates.

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