Seeing is believing

Fraser Caithness, sales and marketing director at Birmingham-based glass processor and manufacturer MiGlass looks at issues regarding the verification of heat soaking for toughened glass and how having his car serviced gave him a bright idea for a solution.

Despite modern production methods and quality controls, glass can be subject to contamination by a variety of elements, including nickel sulphite. Although relatively harmless in standard annealed glass, problems can occur with nickel sulphite when the glass is toughened. As a result, heat soaking is an essential destructive test for all toughened safety glass and significantly minimises the risk of glass panel failure due to natural inclusions present in float glass.

The issue with heat soaking is that, while it is an essential test, visually it is impossible to tell whether the toughened glass has been through the process so contractors must rely on the certification provided.

In recent years, there has been increasing concern from large contractors about the authenticity of some of the heat soaking that takes place and, in turn, the certification that has been supplied relating to the heat soak test. The lack of rigorous policing of such certification to ensure it is valid and that the heat soak test has taken place, means not only a potential threat to human life should a panel fail at height, but see the contractor facing huge fines too.

The high-profile case of glass panels shattering at a Blackfriars development in London resulted in a fine of almost 10 million euros to the contractor.

It is probably true to say that in the past, heat soaking toughened glass was a money spinner and many contractors were being charged for certification, without having proof it had taken place. For contractors working on large-scale commercial developments, being able to verify to their customers that toughened glass has been through the heat soak process is now more important than ever.

But how to prove it has taken place? The solution is actually very simple. MiGlass has taken a tip from the motor trade, where cars are recorded being serviced so that the customer can see for themselves that the work they are paying for is taking place.

We decided that investing in heat soaking equipment wasn’t enough for our customers who are installing our toughened glass in a variety of applications, including balustrades, overhead glazing, structural glazing, balconies and atria, and that we wanted to add real value.

As part of our commitment to customer service, MiGlass now provides each customer with a video of their glass going through the heat soaking process, along with certification as reassurance to the main contractors and their clients that each glass panels supplied has been heat soaked in accordance with EN14179-1.