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Two centuries in the making - Novaglaze curved and flat glass

With a prestigious list of projects to its name, including the London Eye, Novaglaze is has turned glass curving into an art-form. We find out how Bohle sedimentors are supporting its finish quality.

Its work defines some of the UK’s most iconic structures. Amongst them, the London Eye, one of the many examples to illustrate, Novaglaze’s almost logic defying mastery of glass bending and curving. Others include contemporary spiral staircases to heritage roof lights. What defines each is a flawless finish.

“When you’re processing glass to this sort of standard, finish quality is absolutely key. That’s what we’re known for and have built our reputation on. Processing glass in ways that other glass processors don’t have the equipment or expertise to do but also doing it to a very high standard and delivering a high quality of finish”, says Gary Smith, Site Director, Novaglaze, Huddersfield.

Novaglaze’s product offer is comprehensive. With 60% of its orders going to other glass processors, it has focussed on the development of specialisms. It supplies standard but increasingly outsize IGUs, a large-scale crane and rig system plus 3.5m by 6.5m jumbo-sized oven giving it incredible flexibility.

This is in addition to edge-working, drilling, sandblasting, and CNC work, it also offers acid etching, waterjet cutting and screen printing. But its curved glass, as evidenced by its installations to the pods of the London Eye, which is where Novaglaze has built its reputation. 

The company has an impressive lineage dating back to 1836 and Gardner & Newton, which was acquired by Novaglaze in 2006. The acquisition trail has continued more recently, with the expansion of the group to include Wholesale Glass in Ossett and Tower Glass in Bournemouth, each giving it increased specialism in supply and a pan-European customer base.

“We have a very long history in glass manufacture and processing. What we have done is to develop real specialisms across the group”, explains, David Chambers, Managing Director, Novaglaze. “In Huddersfield in addition to the investment we have made in our manufacturing capability more generally, we have developed real specialism in glass bending and glass curving.

“It’s something that glass processors don’t generally do requiring a unique skills-set and infrastructure, which has allowed us to develop a dedicated offer to other glass processors and wider markets.

“This includes curving of annealed glass, but also combining those specialisms with broader technologies to manufactured curved toughened glass, curved laminated glass and curved glazed units.”

The applications of these technologies extend from the pods of the London Eye to building facades; elevator and stairwell encasements; to office partitioning, curved spiral staircases, and shop fronts; plus application in heritage replacement work.

“The heritage market is delivering significant growth and we have built a strong reputation within it. It does require a different approach – you’re always trying to balance a remit to replicate or restore an installation with today’s safety requirements”, says Gary.

“Working with heritage bodies, for example English Heritage, we sometimes find ourselves caught between their desire to replicate glass like-for-like and current health and safety requirements.

“For example, if you were installing a large suspended glass roof-light today, there’s no way that it wouldn’t be laminated. That wasn’t a technology available to the Victorians but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used if it doesn’t materially alter the appearance of the installation.”

Working across these markets finish and edge quality is key. Novaglaze has recently invested more than £500,000 in new glass processing equipment including a large single straight-line edger and a twin edger line, which will polish all four sides of glass in one process to an exceptionally high standard.

To support this, Novaglaze has recently completed an investment in three Bohle sedimentors. These guarantee coolant quality, automatically removing glass particles from water, minimising downtime, improving quality of finish and extending the life of tools.

“We purchased our sedimentors from Bohle three-months ago. We process product to a very high standard and water quality is important to a tip-top finish quality. This meant that we lost considerable time to cleaning and maintenance”, continues Gary.

“The addition of Bohle sedimentors to our lines has allowed us to reduce the time lost to downtime cleaning but more importantly has allowed us to sustain a high quality of finish throughout the processing cycle, a key benefit for our customers.

“This focus on quality is really important. We work with either other glass processors, specialist projects or heritage work – there is an expectation of exceptional product finish from all of them.”

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.

Bohle argues that sedimentors will support most glass processors in trimming around 10 per cent off the costs of machinery cleaning and associated downtime - paying back against purchase costs in as little as a year.

“For us quality of finish is key. The time efficiencies and savings that the Sedimentors deliver are additional benefits”, adds Gary.

“Quality will remain key to our long-term growth. This will also be delivered by the heritage market, while solar control technologies are pushing the application of glass in increasingly diverse architectural markets”, he concludes.

Watch the video here


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