The Top in Technology

Well, alas, our look back at the last decade—the 10s— is coming to an end. So far we’ve tackled the top glass business stories of the decade and the top contract glazing stories of the same. It’s been a bit of pressure, a bit of fun and a bit of nostalgia to look back and choose among all the changes that took place during the past ten years. Just a reminder that these stories are my take on the biggest ones, pulled from my memory, our archives and statistics. Though they represent my opinion only, they are built from a lifetime in the glass information business.

The Top Glass Industry Technology Developments of the Decade

  1. Glass Coatings: More than anything else, the decade at end will be known as one in which glass coatings came of age. As R&D scientists completed their march through the periodic table to find new elements that gave new characteristics to glass, striking new capabilities emerged. “We, as an industry, really haven’t seen what properties every element can bring to glass,” then Guardian Industries director of science and technology Scott Thomsen opined at the end of the 90s. “And we haven’t tackled multiple coatings on glass much either. There’s still a lot exploration to be done.” And done it was.
  2.  Supersized Us: Whether you call it giant, jumbo, oversized or “big-ass,” size limits for glass were literally shattered in the 2010s. Driven by architects’ desires for wider and taller uninterrupted views, and a bit of glass-shaming by Apple, manufacturers responded with the technology for bigger glass and better views.
  3. Smarter Glass—The 2010s was the decade where glass learned to think. While the seeds of one technology dates back 20 years before, many of those technologies became viable between 2010-2019. Advances in high performance glazing, variable transmittance glass, and moisture-sensing glass—not to mention the intersection of glass with computer display technology—made the decade a delight for everyone from early adapters to technocrats.
  4. Robotics—Construction technology came of age in the tens. From advancements such as drones on the website, RFID and other tracking and the new manipulators, technology is radically changing the way glass is transported and tracked and how it is monitored on the jobsite. Advancing automation complements the increased tread toward unitized and shop fabricated work. And virtual reality has changed the way projects are imagined and planned. Technology will make the 2020s even more exciting.
  5. Thin is No Sin—Oh sure, the technology to create thin glass as been around for quite a while, but the glass made was usually lacking. “Oh sure, it’s thin,” they’d say “but can you temper it? Is it strong? How about acoustics?” All those disadvantages and more disappeared in 2010s. As today’s thin glass has increased strength and acoustical properties and can even be chemically tempered, the resulting thin glass has helped enhance triple glazing and vacuum insulating glass (VIG) technology as well.
  6. Units Unite with advances in unitized technology—could you hear it? The whisper in early 2018 was barely noticed when the number of unitized jobs outpaced traditional installations in most metropolitan areas for the first time—a seismic shift from which there will be no return.
  7. The Energy for Efficiency–The last decade brought us advancements in energy efficient glass, including everything from new generation low-emissivity (low-E) through more advanced insulating units and VIG technology as well as more practical triple glazing. This new arsenal of energy-efficient products will be needed in the ongoing battle for the wall.
  8. Yours. Surely you can think of one or two I neglected to include. Please let me know what you would include on this list.