A First Glass service

Glass Times editor, Luke Wood, talks to Ian MacWilliam, director of Ireland based glass company, First Glass, which has recently invested 150,000 Euros in new machinery from Unilam.

Luke Wood (LW): Can you tell us a bit more about First Glass?

Ian MacWilliam (IM): We have been operating as a glass merchant since May 1999, and thanks to our state of the art machinery, we have grown to become a leading glass processor and wholesaler based in Ballycoolin, Dublin, servicing the whole 32 counties of the Irish market.

We are agents for a wide range of glass manufacturers, including Pilkington, CGI International, Guardian Glass and AGC, and carry a broad selection of stock products – from 4mm & 6mm float and laminate – through to more specialist options from Pyroguard, Robax and bullet resistant glass.

We supply into all sectors of the glass trade, including shop fronts, double glazing, curtain-walling, balustrade and partitioning – plus associated trades, such as the furniture trade and picture framing.

LW: What has your level of demand been so far this year – and what is your outlook for 2024?

IM: Demand has been steady throughout 2023, we have enjoyed a steady flow of work and there does not seem to be anything that might upset that at this point.

Rising interest rates are a threat, but the pressure on housing and renovation will hopefully outweigh this.

LW: Are you anticipating an increase in demand for triple glazing with Future Homes Standard?

IM: Yes, but we have also seen a constant increase in the demand for triple glazing year on year. We installed a new double glazing line in 2008 and very quickly had to modify it to a fully automatic triple glazed line.

LW: Have you also seen an increase in demand for specialist glass or larger ‘oversized’ glass – for instance, glass that would be used for ‘Grand Designs’ style projects, or big bi-fold and sliding doors?

IM: There has been a constant increase in sizes and oversized units, and recent investment in machinery has allowed us to accommodate larger sealed units and toughened laminate. Our recently installed Quadruple Sagertec ovens, for example, have allowed us to expand our toughened laminate sizes.

LW: Tell us more about the recent investment in machinery from Unilam? What it is, what was the size of the investment and what advantages does it bring to the business?

IM: First Glass has worked with Unilam for over 20 years, and the most recent investment was for over 150,000 Euros, installing two Quadruple tray ovens accessed by one selector rack.

This has greatly enhanced our lamination capacity, while allowing up to four product types to be produced at the same time. The trays themselves are also bigger which gives us better opportunities to accommodate larger sizes.

The new ovens have a super compact layout, but deliver a high production yield. They are capable of laminating 60m2 of glass per load, which produces 180m2 per shift on 17.5mm laminate.

They also feature independent vacuum pumps for each oven, with a top mounted fan cooling system and they are highly energy efficient as they use recirculated convection air heating.

LW: Is this the first machine from Unilam – if not what other machines has Unilam supplied?

IM: This machine is a replacement of an earlier Sagertec oven we had purchased from Unilam.

We had also purchased a Cooltemper tempering machine along with many second-hand machines, including cutting tables, double glazing lines and other processing machines, over the years.

LW: What are the advantages of working with Unilam as a supplier?

IM: Unilam to us are local, readily available, and reliable, with a good backup service. They also retain a good machine spares store and also consumables to assist in the event of a breakdown.

They are also a good source for EVA to use with our ovens, with advise on hand to assist with issues should we have any.