Glasslam launches new spacer production process

By John Swanson, Glass Magazine
March 18, 2011

Glasslam NGI Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla., is licensing a new process for the production of silicone foam spacer. To be introduced first in Glasslam's own operations, the new system enables window and IG producers to manufacture their own foam spacer in-house "at a significantly lower cost," according to Steve Howes, Glasslam CEO.

The company is working with a number of industry suppliers to develop the modular equipment that can be put together in a spacer production line, he reports. Any manufacturer that can justify the investment in an automated IG line using flexible spacer products will be able to justify the cost of bringing foam spacer production in-house, Howes says.

What makes the new Glasslam process unique is that rather than extruding the spacer material to size, it is extruded as a ribbon and cut to the proper shape and size. That allows for increased volume, Howes says, as traditionally, foam spacers are extruded in pairs. With the material extruded as a wide ribbon, it can be slit to make multiple spacer shapes and sizes at once.

This approach cuts down on expenses by reducing changeover times to about 10 seconds. "In extrusion, the cost isn't in the material. It's the downtime it takes to change over from one size to another," Howes states. It means stopping production, changing the die and starting up again, a process he estimates costs about $1,000 every time at Glasslam's spacer manufacturing operations.

The new manufacturing process also differs in how the oven is used. Traditionally, the material comes out of the extruder and is placed in baskets that are placed in ovens for heating and drying prior to application of the adhesive, Howe explains. In the new process, the oven is inline with the extruder, and the spacer material runs through it continuously. This not only increases the efficiency of the operation, it provides more consistency in the final product, he states.

Howes expects the new equipment will be fully operational in Glasslam's Bahamas' plant–where it produces its Air Tight spacer products–in about 10 weeks. The company plans to host potential customers there, as well as show the equipment at the glasstec show in Germany next fall.

Glasslam plans to offer two types of licenses for the product: one for manufacturers that plan to produce spacer for their own use only, and one for companies that plan to supply spacer to others. Glasslam will supply licensees the desicated sillicone pellets and adhesives used to make the spacer.