Going super size

With over-sized units already making up a sizeable chunk of the IGU market, super-sized IGU manufacture has arrived at Glasstec. Joe Hague, managing director of Promac Group, Forel’s exclusive supply partner in the UK, explains.

Size, it seems, does matter. Exhibition space at this year’s Glasstec has been defined by high volume but also production on an increasingly gargantuan scale. The exhibition is moving to the beat of efficiency, increasing automation and high capacity as expected, but also ‘super-sized’ production.

This has been epitomized by Forel in its offering at this year’s expo. Having turned glass processing on its head (or at the very least on its side) with the launch of its vertical laminate cutting table, the global glass machinery specialist has brought unparalleled scale to production, with the launch of its new IGU line.

This draws on Forel’s heritage glass processing and IGU machinery manufacture, doses it with growth hormone, and brings a new offer to IGU manufacturers, which gives it the production scale to meet increasing demand for bigger and over-sized IGUs.

Forel revolutionised glass processing, with the launch of its Vertical Cutting Line in 1996. Two decades on the company remains true to its founding design philosophy: reducing machinery footprint, increasing productivity and performance, while reducing manpower and handling.

Showcased at this year’s Glasstec, Forel’s newly refined Art VC Laminate Cutting Line is geared up for large scale processing; it’s capable of handling sheets of up to 6,000mm x 3,300mm.

This includes cut-to-size accuracy to within +/-0.2mm/linear meter, while the square cut is guaranteed by revolutionary cutting bridges that pivot 15mm in either direction to adjust automatically to glass that is out-of-square.

This is a product that is really coming of age now as those efficiencies are multiplied as laminated glass is specified more widely, and glass processors manufacture in increasing volumes.

Forel has again kept things vertical and geared towards scale manufacture in the development of its processing lines. Also featured at Glasstec, it comprises: Forel Art. EM Vertical Edger; Art DM Vertical drilling machine; and Art VW Vertical Washing Machining.

The EM Edging Machine is optimised for processing float and laminated glass, delivering high levels of flexibility. This includes edge arrissing, graded edge grinding, and edge polishing. Able to square glass to final dimensions, it can also be used across IGU, tempering and grinding lines.

The operating head is built around a 200mm diameter grinding wheel powered by a 9.2kW spindle with a rotation speed of 4,500rpm to deliver rapid and efficient removal of material, while delivering high levels of accuracy and low wastage. This is achieved using a patented glass detection system, which guarantees high precision contact between the glass and grinding wheel.

It also employs a high-performance carriage, which holds the glass rigidly in place using an array of suction cups. These have the capacity to hold weights of up to 200kg/m, minimising deflection – again, making the EM Edging Machine ideal for handling large sheets, diamond tooling offering a high precision finish.

This technology is also employed on one of the latest developments in the Forel range, the EG Arrissing Machine. This features a high-speed double head system and the capacity to handle the largest sheets.

This same design philosophy sits behind the six-axis ART DM Drilling and Milling Machine, which features two opposing electronic spindles and automatic tool change, guaranteeing high precision and rapid drilling. In common with the Art. EM Vertical Edger, it can handle rectangular or shaped glass, at the same impressive weight loadings.

Collectively what these lines give you is the ability to process very large sheets or units, while taking cost and people out of the process, increasing capacity, efficiency, lowering overheads improving product quality, while improving handling and therefore safety.

It is, however, Forel’s IGU line where the advantages of super-sized manufacture are perhaps most obvious.

The shift to aluminium has delivered a step change in demand for large IGUs. Individual panel widths on inline sliding doors are regularly 3m or 4m, while fixed lights can be into double figures, and that increases complexity in handling and footprint.

Keeping production in the vertical is the logical decision as IGUs become larger.

Forel has pushed the scale of IGU manufacture into completely new territory with its ‘No Limits’ range. This introduces new capability to process panes of up to 15m long and 3.3m high, with a load capacity per linear metre of 350kg for a single pane and 600kg for the assembled unit.

The line on show at this year’s Glasstec, with a capacity to manufacture units 3,300mm x 9,000mm, sits within this heavyweight offering. It features a washing machine, quality scanner, frame application and inspection station, turning conveyor, gas filling coupling press, and sealing robot complete with pumping system.

If you’re manufacturing in these sizes despite high-precision processing you can still get some very significant tolerances. You’re talking centimetres not just millimetres. Developing a line that can handle the weight and bowing in the glass on such a large scale is an exceptional achievement.

This uses a highly sophisticated platform which features structural stepped units with vertical offset of up to 250mm and leading horizontal offset up to 1mm, supporting the processing of bowed glass of up to 2.5mm per linear metre (15mm on 6m glass length).

As well as delivering on scale the line also features Forel’s SQD01 Automatic Quality Control Scanner. This captures an image of the glass at a rate of 2,000 times per second. Images are then combined with the onboard software, automatically detecting surface defects on both sides of the sheet.

These technologies – along with Forel’s Vertical Washing Machine, its revolutionary APG coupling press, and its Automatic Spacer Bar Bender – are collectively geared up to automate process and reduce manual handling.

That does a number of things: it reduces errors, increases quality and efficiency, and facilitates the handling of larger including over-sized units. Something that is key in meeting increasing demand for larger IGUs.