The next step in window design

Seamless welding technologies have redefined PVCU window manufacture but until now sill manufacture has remained more or less the same. Jamie Munday, Promac’s sales manager, explains how the SLS Seamless Sill Welder is about to change that.

Graf Synergy and FOM announced the formation of the new FOM-GS Group at the end of last year. It brings two global leaders in PVCU and aluminium manufacturing technologies together and, with it, the resource to accelerate the delivery of next generation innovations.

Promac Group’s exhibition stand at this year’s FIT Show was dominated by a raft of products from this machinery manufacturer: FOM’s LMT65 aluminium machining and cutting centre, and Graf’s new generation SL4-H FF, which introduces a new capability to insert butt welded transom and mullions into a seamlessly welded frame or sash for the first time – each attracted high levels of interest at this year’s expo.

The same was true of the new ProfteQ External Timber Look cutting and welding centres. A FOM-GS partner business, its new platform allows fabricators to switch between PVCU systems without tool change to achieve either a 45° or 90° internal or external welded joint.

If interest was high for these innovations, it was, however, phenomenal for the SLS Seamless Sill Welder from Graf.

With a foot-print just a fraction of that of the SL4FF but exploiting the same seamless zip welding technologies, it brings a dramatically enhanced finish to the manufacture of bay window and conservatory sills.

It also does it more quickly compared to traditional methods. The SLS supports fabricators in manufacturing sills in as little as two minutes, with no need to buff, knife off or penning in – cutting window sill production time by almost 90%.

We’ve been asking customers how long a bay or conservatory sill weld would normally take to process and it’s anywhere between 10 to 15 minutes, whereas the SLS total cycle time is less than two minutes per weld, while removing all of the abrasive processes. That’s time and money in the bank.

What it also gives fabricators and installers is a great sales platform. Seamless welding technology and high end systems have changed what we can offer homeowners but sill manufacture has barely changed at all.

You get some really high-end premium finish bays with sills that look like they’ve been chewed by a dog. The SLS allows fabricators to match-in product to seamlessly welded windows or just deliver a better sill and do it more quickly if you don’t have an SL4FF seamless welder.

Although the direct sell market fell by 1.1% in volume terms in 2015 (Palmer), it grew in installed value terms to £2.35 billion. Rolling this out to deliver a longer-term view, analysis reveals that since 2000, the home improvement market as a whole has recorded a 36% drop in volume while its value has dropped by just 6%.

Margins and value have been held up by a shift to premium products in a second-time replacement market. As homeowners have moved onto their second or even third-time purchase of windows, they are looking for something which delivers more, not just in terms of energy efficiency and security but also aesthetics.

The Window, Door and Conservatory Markets in Housing in Great Britain (Palmer) suggests that PVCU colour and woodgrain foils recorded growth of 2% between 2013 and 2015 – a trend forecast to have continued last year.

At the moment the end-user doesn’t know any better. The finish they get on sills is the finish that they get, because the market hasn’t been created yet.

It was exactly the same when the first flush casement or seamlessly welded windows were launched. There was no market but as soon as people saw it, fabricators switched on to the opportunities that it delivered to them and installers did the same; these products and finishes reached the end-user and the market exploded.

If you’re up against a competitor as an installer and you can offer a sill with a far better finish or one which matches the finish that has been achieved on their windows – you’re going to take that business.

If you’re a fabricator and you’re an early adopter now, not only can you save time and increase your production capacity but you can win business and your customers can win business.

Zip welding has revolutionised the manufacture of foiled PVCU products. We’re now about to see the same revolution in sill manufacture through the SLS.