Breaking point

Graham Howatson, director at HWL Trade Frames, explains how a global shortage of PA66 compound, a key component of polyamide thermal breaks, has highlighted the technology of the fabricator’s new Sheerline Prestige product range.

Material shortages have been affecting the industry since the end of 2020. We’ve had issues with glass, PVC resin and hardware, and now we are seeing a global shortage of the polymer that is used to manufacture PA66 – a key ingredient in the polyamide thermal breaks that feature in some major aluminium systems.

If you’re a fabricator that’s reliant on these systems to service increasing demand for aluminium products and bifolds, it’s a big problem. The ‘force majeure’ that’s been declared by thermal break manufacturers has extended lead times by as much as three weeks; it’s added even more complexity into an already challenging situation.

Fortunately for HWL, we are a launch partner for Sheerline Prestige, the new aluminium system from Garnalex. One of the main advantages of Sheerline is that it has been designed around a new multi-chamber system called Thermlock.

That helps it to deliver ultra-low U-values and, crucially, without the need for a traditional polyamide thermal break.

Sheerline forms part of a complete package of aluminium and PVC products from HWL. These comprise the full Residence Collection portfolio (including a non-glass bonded Timberweld R9 window), and the new 70mm Kömmerling flush sash which is also available exclusively from HWL with a Timberweld mechanical joint.

We have moved away from manufacturing standard, commodity products. Our focus is on flush, on the heritage sector, and on servicing increasing demand at the premium end of the market.

Sheerline Prestige is a perfect match for our existing PVC portfolio. It’s highly innovative and it’s feature rich. It delivers on consumer demand for products that are more than just a standard window or door.

A highly versatile system, Prestige is available as a casement and tilt and turn window with options for entrance doors, French doors and bifolds.

All Sheerline windows come with PAS24:2016 as standard, achieving Secured by Design accreditation when optioned with laminate glass, and are available in a choice of two opening sash styles: Stepped, which mimics a traditional steel window; and Contemporary, which offers a more modern aesthetic. Both are available in either a standard outerframe or as a flush option.

Available in eight powder coated matt colours, as well as a high gloss white finish and options for contrasting interior colours – plus a further three anodised finishes – Prestige incorporates patented corner jointing technology that is designed to guarantee an exceptionally high-quality finish by eliminating mis-aligned frames.

With 28mm-44mm glazing options, and a choice of small, intermediate and large outer frames, Prestige is also highly energy efficient. Its multi chamber Thermlock design delivers U-values as low as 1.3W/m2K with double glazing and 0.9W/m2K with triple.

Prestige is a very clever system. It’s going to make a big impact on the marketplace. From a manufacturing perspective, it’s easy to make, it has fewer components than a traditional aluminium system, and that means we don’t need to hold as much stock.

For our customers, the choice of styles, range of colours and quality of finish makes it highly attractive as does its technical performance and its ability to deliver such low U-values.

That fact that it achieves these without using polyamide thermal breaks is a testament to the innovative thinking that has gone into its design.

In this case, the timing of that innovation couldn’t be better. The popularity of aluminium and bifolds is at an all-time high, but the material shortages on polyamide thermal breaks are expected to last until the end of 2021.

That’s going to cause a lot of additional frustration at a time when the industry is already struggling with a number of other challenges.

With our Sheerline Prestige offer, however, we have an outstanding solution that mitigates these challenges and allows our customers to continue to take advantage of increasing homeowner demand.