Automation Leads the Way at GlassBuild

By Jordan Scott, Ellen Rogers and Drew Vass

Companies increasingly are turning to automation as a solution for production inefficiencies and as a way to manage the shortage of skilled labor. It’s neither the next big thing nor something to worry about later—automation is here and companies are working to implement it into their production process to stay competitive. The trend was evident across the show floor—particularly on the equipment and machinery side—at GlassBuild America (GBA), held in Las Vegas September 12-14, 2018.

Robotic Solutions

Several equipment and machinery suppliers featured new developments in robotic technologies for the glass fabrication industry. Adelio Lattuada, for example, offers robotic options as part of its edging and washing lines that can assist in increasing productivity, operator safety and also providing cost reductions. The company plans to demonstrate these lines at glasstec, which takes place this month in Düsseldorf, Germany. According to Michela Lattuada, communications manager, these options aren’t just for large companies, but can also be a solution for smaller fabricators as well.

Chris Cullum, national sales manager, glass division for CMS North America, agreed that robotic equipment for glass fabrication isn’t just for big companies. He said these options are also ideal for small companies as well.

CMS North America showcased a robotic system as part of its vertical CNC line. According to Cullum, the machines are customizable for specific needs and provide integration solutions. He added that a full processing line will also be featured at glasstec.

Erdman’s new Unmanned Robotic IG Work Cell combines robotic handlers with a series of automated work stations to accommodate the functions of around four employees. Erdman’s unmanned line retrieves glass automatically and identifies low-E coatings, before loading and advancing through washing, quality scanning and spacer application. The system then passes glass through the full assembly process, including gas fill, roll press, laser etching and cork application, before secondary sealing and automatic palletizing. It’s a full front-to-end process that involves no humans. The system is designed primarily for large, commercial units, but it can also handle glass sizes suited to residential windows—down to 27 by 30 inches.

“The integration of robotics is what makes all of this possible,” says Morgan Donohue, vice president, pointing out that those robotic “arms” are required not only to fuel processes, but to transition products through various stages or modules.

Make the Connection

Automation continued to be the big focus for companies such as Mappi, which promoted its Mappi ATS 4.0 tempering solutions that connect the company, as the machinery supplier, to its customers to help aid in areas such as production and service.

A new Neptun vertical washing ma-chine was on display in the Matodi booth. Matteo Rolla, Neptun managing director, described it as an intelligent machine. The line, for example, can be programmed to start at a certain time so that it’s ready to begin when the operator starts each day.

“It takes the operator out of the equation,” said John Lloyd, vice president of Matodi, the U.S. distributor for Neptun.

Benteler is pushing automation for the U.S. market since it is more established in the European market, according to sales manager Josh Schenkel.

“We have automated seaming, grinding and multi-spindle drilling machines,” he said. “Customers are re-questing these to minimize labor.”

Software Solutions

Jacqueline Liger of the Italian equipment manufacturer Intermac said her company is focused on automation and how it can help customers save labor, time, space and cost. Not only is the company automating processes on its cutting tables and handling, but also recently introduced the Parts Sophia software platform for ordering parts, checking availability and tracking purchases 24/7. The program allows customers to view a schematic of the machine that provides a breakdown of the exact parts needed. During glasstec, the company will launch its Internet of Things Sophia platform, which will provide production connectivity between both the customer and the machine supplier.

The Internet of Things and connectivity of all business areas was the focus in the Albat+Wirsam booth, where the company invited customers and attendees to “connect the dots,” referring to all connection points of the business. Marketing director Cindy Lieberman explained that the software enables all of that. One program the company featured was the iQuote web tool, which can be customized to each user’s needs.

Automation was key for the DeMichele Group, which featured RhinoFab automated CNC fabrication equipment for curtainwalls and storefronts. The company also highlighted its new automated fabrication center with CNC routers and compound miters.

“Everyone’s going CNC,” said Bill Cole, president of Glaziers Center, a distributor of the RhinoFab equipment. As automation continues to sell in the U.S., Cole said that business has been good, leading to a facility expansion.

Autoclave optimization was a hot topic at the HP3 Software booth. The company plans to launch its Batch-Ban Autoclave software to help companies determine the optimal loading and layout sequence to maximize the capacity of each cycle. The program bases its optimization on rack height, width, depth, rack load capacity and total square footage of usable space within the autoclave per cycle. With the software, companies can get the most yield per autoclave cycle and, ideally, increase lead times.

Automation is here to stay and companies can expect it to further penetrate the glass and glazing market in the future. The next GBA will be held in Atlanta, September 17-19, 2019.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.