While jumbo glass has been around for a while now, the number of companies that manufacture it has increased rapidly. You’ll see offerings from so many companies that I bet within the next five years jumbo won’t be jumbo anymore; it will just be one of many glass sizes available. These new sizes are serving as the impetus for new products and variations of current ones in a variety of related fields. Specifically:
1. Jumbo coated glass: While jumbo glass gains in usage and popularity, so will its ability to be coated with a variety of coatings. Vitro’s new high-performance magnetron sputtered vacuum deposition coater debuted last month in Wichita Falls, Texas, at a cost of $55 million. Vitro expects to coat even larger sizes next year. Guardian’s 12th jumbo coater worldwide is debuting in Carlton, Mich., as well, and will likely take advantage of all the research and development that a company like it does. And Viracon’s large-sized coater is already in operation in its Owatonna, Minn., plant, which is a model of efficiency. There’s more to come as well.
2. Insulating glass technology: This area continues to change as a result, ironically, of some of the same trends in larger glass. Jumbo IG units mean new types of spacers, such as Viracon’s new warm-edge spacer technology for insulating glass units called Viracon Thermal Spacer (VTS). VTS replaces a traditional spacer, desiccant and primary sealant with a single component spacer—and it’s available in glass sizes up to 130 by 236 inches.
3. Robotics: You’ll probably see more of this at glasstec in Düsseldorf, Germany, in October than anywhere else, as robotics comes of age on the glass fabrication floor. A dearth of qualified labor is even moving traditionally cautious fabricators to incorporate automation into their lines. And we’re just starting to see the move toward critical mass in robotics with artificial intelligence. This combination will be especially helpful in the quality control arena—and in fabricating large lites.
4. Manipulators: Those mobile vacuum lifters now have a category all their own as they continue to gain in market share and advance in sophistication. This equipment is no longer just for the early adopters as new and enhanced variations come to market. And driving this development? The need to move jumbo glass of course.
These are just a few of the many areas involved in glass fabrication and handling that will evolve as the size of glass lites increases.