Glasstec 2018 Showcased Automation, Robotics and Amazing Glass Creations

By Ellen Rogers and Jordan Scott

When Bill Lingnell, technical director for the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance, decided to attend glasstec 2018, he didn’t know what to expect from the massive trade fair. As soon as he arrived at the four-day fair, he had his answer.

“The trade fair gave insights into many technological innovations, new production methods, products available to the glass and glazing industry (existing, new and coming), along with highlights about the use of glass in many of the futuristic possibilities,” he said. “The technologies relative to thin glass, large jumbo glass, energy efficient glass products and unique glass/production capabilities let those at-tending know that the glass industry is alive and well.” He added that the high caliber of new materials, tools, components and ideas that are valuable to the entire glass industry made glasstec an excellent event.

Excellent indeed. After all, it takes two years to bring the all-encompassing event to life. Held in Düsseldorf, Germany, those familiar with the show anticipate its biennial return. What will it bring? What machines will we see? Who will be there and what wonders will the glass technology live exhibition bring? With so many questions and queries in mind, when it finally does return, the expectation is that it will be like no other. Glasstec 2018 did not disappoint.

A total of 1,280 exhibitors from 50 countries showcased their products in nine halls to more than 42,000 visitors from more than 120 nations. According to show organizers, exhibitors unanimously reported promising new contacts and solid business deals. More than 70 percent of show visitors traveled there from outside of Germany, including a strong number from North America.

Jim Gulnick, vice president and director of operations for McGrory Glass, attended and said there was a lot to see and take in.

“Technology and integration have moved downstream,” he said, pointing out that many companies highlighted the move toward greater industry 4.0 friendliness. Other trends he saw included robotic loaders for polishing equipment, as well as more complex and sophisticated loading and retrieving systems to handle offcuts and to keep yields high.

“The overall show was again too short for me to see all the companies, products and people that I wanted to meet with,” he added.

Some U.S. companies exhibited for the first time, including Ergo Robotics of Queensbury, N.Y. Alan Nudi, director of sales and rentals, said that while his company chose not to bring any large equipment, it accomplished the goal of finding dealers to help them expand more into the European market. In fact, Nudi said he expects they will have a new partnership established by 2019 allowing for sales and rental of their handling and lifting equipment in Europe.

“Most [people we talked to] had not heard of us and now they know who we are,” said Nudi. “I’m excited to return with our equipment in 2020.”

He added, “Our goal was to meet and finalize the potential for dealers in Eu-rope and I feel confident we’ll be entering the European market.”

Primary Row

If Hall 10 had streets instead of aisles, the main one would have been called “Primary Row” as companies such as AGC, Guardian Glass, Pilkington NSG, and Vitro Architectural Glass all exhibited in this area. Companies used the opportunity to introduce and highlight a number of new architectural glass products.

Anti-reflective glass and acoustic laminated glass were two of the products featured by Guardian Glass. Lance Altizer, the European marketing director, explained that the Clarity anti-reflective product provides a high level of transparency, which remains a major architectural trend.

“We’ve seen a desire for lower and lower reflectivity for architectural applications, with the exception of some iconic buildings where maybe you would want some really high reflectivity,” he said.

The company also featured its acoustic laminated glass, which has a special interlayer that helps provide very high acoustic damping.

Glass is becoming more interactive, and MirrorView from Pilkington is one product that fits this description. The coated glass can change from a mirror when it’s not activated to an actual touch screen. Ken Schraufnagle, one of the company’s key account managers, said the product is often used in restaurants, shopping malls and hospitals, among other applications.

In addition, Pilkington also featured its vacuum insulated glass, which Schraufnagle said they’ve been manufacturing in Japan for a number of years.

“We’re seeing a lot of uses in historic operations,” he said. “Somebody can go in and replace the existing units of glass with [this] and not have to change any structure of the window, and keep the integrity of the window, with a much higher performance than the standard 6-mm glass.”

For the first time, Vitro Architectural Glass had a significant presence at glasstec. The company exhibited in a large booth that highlighted a wide variety of its glass products. Glen Davis, director of international sales and licensing, explained the company was highlighting a number of products, including the newly launched Acuity glass.

“[Acuity] is our mid-iron glass—it’s a low iron, but it’s going to be used more as a substrate for our coatings, in lieu of Starfire [ultra clear glass].”

Davis added that it’s also interesting to see the differences in what’s trending internationally compared to North America.

“It’s really pretty fascinating because [international markets] are using a lot of curved glass, complex curves, and a lot of triangles. The façade wall is not flat; it’s 3-dimen-sional which creates a lot of shadows and different lighting within the building itself,” he said.

Shapes, Sizes and Decoration

Hall 10 wasn’t the only area devoted to glass. Hall 9, for example, mainly featured handcrafted glass, such as intricate sculptures and unique vases, and the artisans that produce them. Mirror seemed to be making a modest comeback as a trendy material, shown used in everything from clothing to artwork.

Among the other companies, ICD High Performance Coatings exhibited with its products for coating glass, including their Opaci-Coat-300 and CeramiGlass. The company also displayed its TextraCoat, a glass coating that can mimic the look of textured glass.

ICD CEO and president Kris Vockler said some of the trends and requests she’s hearing from customers are the same as much of what the entire architectural glass industry is seeing: bigger sizes and more color. Just as with clear glass, coating jumbo sizes can become a challenge, as the process requires larger coating machines, among other types of equipment.

Several companies within Saint-Gobain featured new developments. Harmony Glass was the big new launch for SageGlass. The new glass provides a gradient level of tint, allowing occupants to balance the amount of day-light and reduce heat and glare.

Vetrotech, another Saint-Gobain company, featured its multi-functional solution range of products. These focus on providing a combination of capabilities, such as protection from both fire and blast, in one product.

Automation and Robotics

For many attendees, the machinery and equipment represent the show’s biggest draw. Given the industry’s struggles with a serious labor short-age, it’s no surprise that more and more companies are turning to automated processes. This trend was evident, with terms like Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT) and automation abuzz throughout the week.

The move toward automated processes and providing real-time customer support was also a focus for Glaston. The company demonstrated how artificial intelligence and augmented reality can be used in glass processing and services. The company’s Insight Assistant, for example, gives operators their own assistant to automatically achieve the best furnace settings based on measured glass information. Likewise, Insight Reporting allows fabricators to monitor their machinery online, helping improve production from anywhere in the world.

Bigger and Bigger

Jumbo glass is here to stay. As more and more companies get involved in this segment, that also drives the need for machinery and equipment to fabricate these super-sized products. In fact, Forel featured equipment in its 13,000 square-meter booth that comprised a complete glass fabrication operation. One of the machines was the No Limits line for insulating glass production. Ac-cording to Giacomo Molucchi, marketing manager, the line was developed in response to market needs for increasingly larger sizes of glass.

Bystronic set up several of its new machines, including its automated jumbo sealer. The XXL version of the machine can seal glass up to 18 meters, or approximately 708 inches, in length. The B’Vacoom handling machine was created, in part due to increasing safety standards. The machine includes integrated load control which prevents overloading of the vacuum cups.

As glass sizes become larger, the entire supply chain must make adjustments to accommodate these heavier lites. Several companies addressed this trend, including SmartLift, a Danish lifting and handling equipment manufacturer. The company’s lifting equipment can handle up to 2,204 pounds.

The next glasstec will take place October 20–23, 2020 in Düsseldor f , Germany. For more , visit

Glass Technology Live Projects Wow Crowds

With nine halls full of companies representing approximately 50 nations, there was plenty to see at glasstec. One of the more experimental parts of the show is the glass technology live (gtl) exhibit, which features projects from university research, exploratory concepts and student competitions. Here’s a look at some of the most eye-catching displays.

  • The glass seesaw was a major high-light. The seesaw was approximately 393 inches long and weighed 1.3 tons, and was a collaboration be-tween Eckersley O’Callaghan and sedak. It consisted of 11 layers of low-iron laminated glass bonded with SentryGlas from Kuraray.
  • The “Gravity” exhibit from Define Engineers, Carpenter Lowings and seele featured a car suspended upside down by two thin glass lites bonded to stainless-steel edge strips, showing the strength of glass technologies. The 2-mm, heat-strengthened glass lites were laminated with SentryGlas by sedak. It also featured high strength and crystal clear structural bonding technologies from Dow.
  • The glass swing included pre-stressed glass bundles developed by the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and the Glass & Transparency Research Group.

Spotlight on Hardware and Components

While machinery and glass have a big presence at glasstec, a number of exhibitors also featured new hardware and component products. Here’s a look at what just some had to offer.

Bohle featured a MasterTrack system for interior sliding door applications. Versions are available for both commercial and residential applications. The company is also showcased its FrameTec demountable system, also for interior applications, and featured a number of new products for the shower door market.

Likewise, C.R. Laurence showcased a number of new hardware products. Some of the newest highlights include a sliding door system with a black matte grid pattern. A fixed panel/wall option is also available, allowing de-signers to create a complete look. In addition, the company has a number of new shower door products, including a new Hamburg hinge, which has a square look, and the new Clear Space bi-folding door for shower enclosures.

Ensinger focused on improving aesthetics. The German company’s Thermix black flank hides the spacer and sealant of insulating glass for a clean look. In addition, the company highlighted its new low-psi Thermix warm-edge spacer, which provides a low thermal transmission coefficient.

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