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‘Necessity - the mother of invention’

In the space of a decade Halsall Glass has gone from one man start-up to working with some of the biggest high street brands.

As we walk around Halsall Glass’ new 20,000sq ft facility, it’s difficult to imagine that just 10-years earlier, its founder Rob Halsall was still an undergraduate. The company moved into the new site last Easter. As the keystone of a major growth strategy and working across multiple sectors, it’s thinking big - and for the long term.

His journey into glass processing began in 2006 when, studying Product Design and Engineering at Northumbria University, Rob started working at Artisan Shop Fitters.  “At that time I was travelling back to make furniture at the weekends in my room at college”, Rob explains.

“Then after around 18-months I exhibited a couple of my designs at Grand Designs and BBC Good Homes and picked up a few orders for coffee tables and shelves - but really I was just scraping by”, he continues.

“Things probably turned when I picked up a recommendation from my old foreman for some work for the Imperial War Museum down in London and then for a couple of commercial catering companies.

“After that I picked up a few display and jewellery cases for John Lewis and Marks & Spencer but I was still doing a lot of commercial catering.  At that point, the business could have gone either way – glass processing or shop fitting and joinery”

It was to meet his own demand for glass that Rob began to invest in glass processing equipment, Halsall Glass’ move into this new territory, more the product of evolution than revolution.

“We needed a lot of processed glass to meet the demand we were seeing from the commercial catering sector and for furniture”, he says. “We just couldn’t get the reliability and the quality that we were looking for buying in, so invested in our own machinery.”

At that point, around 2013, commercial catering represented around 80 per cent of Halsall Glass’ business. Painting accounted for a further 10 per cent and the remainder going into architectural work, including balustrading.

“To give you an indication of how much our business has changed, commercial catering now represents less than 20 per cent”, Rob adds.

The shift in Halsall Glass’ strategy coincided with the appointment of Steve Dakin as Sales and Marketing Director in 2013. “The equipment and expertise was here to expand what we were doing into other markets”, he says.

Steve continues: “We have capabilities to work with annealed and toughened glass from 4mm through to 19mm, plus painting facilities, so the foundations and capabilities to work with other glass companies but also across other sectors was there.”

This took Halsall Glass on a journey, which has seen it expand rapidly into new markets including interior fit out, leisure, retail display, construction plus other niche markets, and the company’s partnership with Bohle has been a key element of its success. 

“We only use Bohle UV bonding technology”, says Rob.  “This includes in the manufacture of display cases, glass furniture and but also wider commercial applications, for example restaurant serveries.”

Among its recent projects of note is Halsall Glass’ construction of four ‘over-sized’ display cases for the Design Retail Centre in York. Measuring 2m x 2.5m x1.3m, each was bonded and installed on-site last year, using Bohle’s MV760 UV bonding Adhesive System.

Delivering a sheer strength load capacity of 25 newtons/mm2, MV760 features Bohle’s pioneering spacer technology, which uses transparent 90 micron spacer granules, to achieve the optimum bondline gap. This prevents the pressure exerted by glass weight in larger bonds from forcing adhesive from the joint, guaranteeing the structural integrity of the bond.

Halsall Glass also used Bohle’s Verifix clamping range and UVA Star UV bonding tube lamps, for on site manufacture. Part of Bohle’s leading-edge Verifix UV bonding range, the new UV lamp range is can be used to bond lengths of glass of up to 1410mm.

“The cases are in a public space and had to be manufactured in 10mm toughened glass, which put a lot of weight on the joints, so the use of spacers in the adhesive was key”, says Rob.

He continues: “The assembly was completed on site and vacuum clamped because dimensions were too large for pre-fabrication. We then used Bohle’s fluorescent lamp range which gave us the length to achieve as consistent a cure as possible.

“It was a complex installation because of on-site fabrication and the health and safety issues that went with it so it won’t necessarily be for everyone but it’s an interesting area of the market and the growth potential is there.” 

Halsall Glass has also recently purchased a Bohle straight-line edger and sedimentor. “Again, we were looking for quality”, says Rob. “In furniture manufacture in particular, you really need that edge quality and the Bohle straight-line edger gives us that finish. Running the sedimentor with it, simply made sense.”

Suitable for elementary to chain-linked, double-sided straight-line edgers, Bohle manufactures and supplies three different sedimentors, the 2.4, which has a filling quantity of 2100 litres, the 1.0, (1,000 litres) and the 0.3, which has a filling capacity of 320 litres. 

The fully automated system uses a sophisticated multi-stage process to pump water, first into a settling tank, removing around 70 per cent of heavier glass particles from coolant.  Powdered flocculant is added, and mixed using a programme of currents, which then bonds to the remaining glass particles, making them sink.

At the end of the cleaning process, a valve at the floor of the tank opens and the accumulated sludge is flushed into a filter bag by the water pressure. This leaves the cleaned cooling water ready to be returned back into the cooling circuit.

“With costs increasing, extracting additional efficiencies and cost savings by recycling water and reducing downtime is something which we see as important to our continuing growth but also in maintenance of margin”, continues Rob.

“The sedimentor probably saves us around six to eight hours per week in downtime and lost production”, he adds.

So what of the year ahead? “In addition to the straightline edger and sedimentor, we have also recently invested in upgrading our painting facility to increase our production capacity and we can paint glass to any RAL or Pantone colour, which gives us scope to grow our business from individual splash backs through to through to complete hotel room refits and modular pods”, says Steve.

He concludes: “We’re also looking to expand what we do with other glass companies. The critical thing for us is that the investment we have made in our facility in the last year, gives us the infrastructure that we need to give us the right quality and make that growth sustainable for the long-term.”

Watch the video here


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