Developments in UV-bonding technology are supporting glass processors in driving innovation in the built environment, delivering great architecture and higher margins.
Glass is the architectural material of the 21st Century. It defines our cityscapes, dominating the facades of commercial and office buildings. It’s also increasingly defining the architectural features of our homes.
This isn’t new, there have always been exponents of glass. The American architect and trailblazer Frank Lloyd Wright, writing as early as the 1940s of the merits of connecting indoor and outdoor spaces: ‘The outside of any building may now come inside and the inside go outside, each seems as part of the other. Continuity, plasticity, and all the new simplicity they imply have at last come home’.
It’s only now, however, that we as homeowners are embracing glass in the mainstream of UK house design and that is driving innovation in the glass processing sector and the technologies to support it.
Bohle remains at the forefront of global leading innovation in UV bonding technology and has developed a complete range of cleaning agents, pre-treatments and curing adhesives to UVA lamps, bonding tables, rigid fixing and clamping devices.
But while the application of UV bonding is established in the manufacture of everything from glass furniture to shop fit outs, its use in external applications is only now beginning to establish itself - and that’s creating multiple opportunities.
“It was the quote from Frank Lloyd Wright, that got me thinking about how as an industry we handle corners in window design, especially when those windows are looking out onto panoramic views”, says Alex Simpson, Managing Director and owner, The Glass Man. “Pillars and supports interrupt and ruin them.
“The concept was simple – develop a glazing unit that turns a corner to maximize the view outside. It was doing it that was the hard part.”
Having initially developed the concept more than a decade earlier, The Glass Man manufactured its first 90-degree seamless Infinity Corner IGU in 2009. “It wasn’t delivered overnight”, continues Alex. “In part because I was developing the unit alongside running a business and in part because it took a lot of investment to get the process right. “
The patented Infinity IGU is suitable for use with timber, aluminium, composites and PVC-U frames, in either double or triple-glazed, argon-filled options. These are manufactured from 8mm toughened external glass and 6mm Pilkington K toughened internally.
“These units are invariably going out to somewhere sitting on top of a sea cliff or half way up a mountain so you need to factor in wind loadings”, adds Alex.
Creating a single IGU unit that in effect seamlessly ‘turns the corner’ of building, presented a unique set of challenges. “We worked very closely with Bohle to identify the right UV bonding solution”, says Alex. “There are other suppliers out there and they’ll all supply you with a product but what you get from Bohle is incredible technical expertise.
“We made a number of trips across to Haan in Germany to work with their technical team to identify the right bonding solution for what we were trying to achieve.”
He continues: “It sounds simple but in manufacturing a 90-degree unit, you’re applying at least five disciplines. You have to understand glazing, edge-working, polishing, toughening and bonding, before you even get to sealing and filling the unit.
“Manufacture at 90-degrees creates a lot of different challenges, not least how you turn spacer bar on a 90-degree angle.”
Manually manufactured, units also have to be specially packaged before shipment to minimize risk of damage in transit “you’re exposing the unit to stresses across three dimensions, so we use indicators and special packaging to make sure that units aren’t damaged”, says Alex.
This hasn’t, however, stopped the Infinity Window from ‘travelling’. For a window manufactured a stone’s throw from the banks of the River Clyde, this has included shipments as far afield as Penzance and Sligo and London to Estonia.
“It’s more expensive than a standard IGU but as a percentage of a larger high-end installation it’s negligible and in defining a room, or even the architectural style of a property, it delivers a huge number of benefits to the end-user”, says Alex.
He continues: “The real opportunity here is for window companies. It’s such a stunning architectural product selling it as a fabricator or retail business delivers so many USPs and opportunities for high margin.
“That’s what we have always tried to do. Manufacture innovative high quality products that deliver high margin to us as a business and our customers.”