Supplying a high spec sealed unit

Oakland Glass’s production director Paul Hutton, explains what the market expects from the company’s sealed units today and what manufacturers have had to do behind the scenes to meet this demand.

Quality can mean different things to different people. For some it’s about the price point of a product, while for others it’s about longevity and service.

In our sector, fabricators and installers want reliable sealed units that stand the test of time and, particularly high on the agenda today, is the reliable supply of those units.

But how easy is this to do in 2018, and what are IGU manufacturers doing differently today to deliver on ever changing industry demands?

At first glance, a sealed unit may not have changed very much over the years – two or more panes of glass sealed together with an airspace in between. That’s what it was 30 years ago and that’s what it is now.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the IGU industry has seen significant changes in terms of the materials that go into a unit and the machinery used to put them together.

More stringent legislation has played its part in continually driving the industry forward and any manufacturer worth their salt will ensure their products meet the necessary standards, if not exceed them, and that they have all the necessary paperwork to prove it.

Working with an industry specialist certification company helps to ensure that you have all the necessary product certification to ensure no loop holes for the manufacturer, or for customers down the line.

It may sound obvious but it’s an area in which some manufacturers are lagging behind and putting their customers at risk. Homeowners at the end of the chain are driving the demand for better quality too as they become more and more discerning. They want quality, but they often want something different too.

For us as a manufacturer, that means offering a choice of glass, spacer materials, double or triple glazed units, decorative options and any other product our customers need.

So, what have we done as an industry to meet these changing demands? What goes into making a sealed unit today that didn’t 30 years ago?

We’ve introduced warm edge spacers – now common place in IGUs – as well as low-e and low iron glass, with glass manufacturers continuing to innovate and update glass coatings. Plus argon and even krypton gas filling.

We can now deliver more choice in terms of types of glass, types of spacer, and double or triple glazed units.

To ensure products stay ahead of the competition in terms of quality, choice and reliability, automation has become a must have for any serious IGU manufacturer. Not at the expense of skilled labour, but a combination of the two is even more crucial than ever before. At Oakland we have achieved this with four fully automated machines (a combination of Forel and Igis lines), a Lisec semi-automated line, two Hegla cutting tables and a laminating table, a Lisec KSL, an Isis edging machine and a CoolTemper toughener. All of which gives us the capacity to manufacture the 14,000 high quality units we make every week.

This combination of people and machinery gives us the capacity and flexibility to deliver the vast array of options now on offer when it comes to sealed units, while continuing to maintain the high level of quality units we have built our reputation on for the last 30 years.