Each year, we dedicate many pages in Glass Magazine to the phenomenal advancements in glass products—from next-generation, high-performing dynamic glass, to decorative glass, to energy efficient glass and more. This attention is rightfully deserved, as these value-added products mark incredible feats of R&D, not to mention creativity and ingenuity.
Often overlooked, however, is the root process that makes everything else possible: float glass manufacturing, the process of floating molten glass over a bath of molten tin to create a flat ribbon of glass. This remarkable method was invented by Sir Alastair Pilkington in 1952 and is used to manufacture more than 90 percent of the world’s flat glass for construction and automotive applications. Between 350 and 400 float glass lines are in operation worldwide, with an output of about 1,000,000 tons of glass per week, according to estimates from NSG Group.
Possibly more impressive than the global reach of float manufacturing, is its scale. A float glass line will operate continuously for 10 to 20 years, producing 3,728 miles (6,000 kilometers) of glass annually. In a single year, one float line will produce enough glass to cross from New York City to Los Angeles and halfway back again. In a 15-year lifetime, a float glass line produces about 56,000 miles of glass. That’s enough glass to circle the Earth at the equator more than two times. Most float lines are designed to allow for several “lifetimes,” after major repairs and upgrades. This means a single float line, from initial construction to final shutdown, could produce 170,000 miles of glass—enough to reach three quarters of the way to the moon.
Such production requires a notable initial investment of $100 million to $250 million or more for a line, depending on size, location and technology. Repairs and upgrades can cost between $30 and $60 million.
In the January/February issue of Glass Magazine, we introduced an ongoing project that recognizes the companies around the world that have taken on the challenge of float glass manufacturing. The float glass industry is continually evolving, embracing new technology to meet demands for performance and value. To keep pace with the industry it serves, Glass Magazine is launching a new interactive website, WorldofGlassMap.com, that allows users to search for companies or individual plant locations, sort float plants by company and location, and access website and contact information for float manufacturers. Additionally, users can submit new information regarding float manufacturing for use by Glass Magazine staff in their regular site updates
Website visitors can purchase a subscription to WorldofGlassMap.com that also gives them access to a downloadable database of global float plants and related information. Subscriptions are available to National Glass Association members at a discounted price.
The World of Glass map and database are the result of many months of research. I would like to thank the many glass manufacturers that provided assistance in gathering float location data for their companies. And, I extend a special thank you to Wendy Vardaman, our editorial assistant, who dedicated countless hours to this project.
The world of glass is ever-changing. We do our best to keep up-to-date on all of these events. However, it is only with your assistance that we are able to present the most accurate information. Please visit the WorldofGlassMap.com to provide updates or changes to any float information, or contact me.
Katy Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.