Feats of Installation

Bigger glass, fewer workers, higher expectations demand new tools for glaziers
Bethany Stough
December 4, 2016

Glaziers from Architectural Glass and Aluminum use the WPI-EXT from Ergo Robotic Solutions to install glass at a corporate headquarter building.

Business is booming for contract glaziers. The construction industry is strong, marking robust growth in most segments throughout 2016. And architects are demanding more glass, including heavier, larger and more custom pieces.

The increase in jobs requires quick work and more workers, and the increase in more custom, complex jobs requires more experience. However, the skilled labor shortage presents a host of logistical challenges for glaziers, particularly during installation.

“Glaziers are doing more work. They’re doing bigger work. And, they are having a hard time finding skilled labor,” says Alan Nudi, account manager, Ergo Robotic Solutions.

To combat these challenges, many glaziers are turning to on-site handling tools, such as vacuum lifters, carriers and mini-cranes.

The lack of skilled labor is a primary concern for companies turning to lifters, particularly when it comes to worker safety, Nudi says. The inexperience of workers on a job site could create an environment where accidents and even injury might occur. Nudi says that the emergence of its automatic lifters and handling tools can help reduce that risk. “The cost of one worker’s comp claim could pay for one of these machines,” he says.

Officials at Wood’s Powr-Grip also note the increasing complexity of glazing systems as a challenge. “As glass becomes more complex, the need increases for us to create machinery that gets it all done correctly and safely,” says Holly Anderson, technical sales for Wood’s Powr-Grip.

The company developed vacuum lifter technology to alert glaziers to installation issues, such as low battery life, inconsistent suction, etc. It keeps the focus on the installation rather than the operation, ultimately increasing glazier safety, says Anderson.

Norbert Wienold, president of Wienold Lifte, wienold-lifte.de, says that bigger, thicker glass offers opportunities for glaziers and handling equipment manufacturers alike. But, it also makes transport and installation more difficult and increasingly dangerous. “Now more than ever, quality and efficient handling equipment is needed,” says Wienold.

Not only do advanced lifters and handlers allow installers to manage larger, more complex jobs more safely, they also allow glaziers to complete these jobs with fewer workers.

Cody Hagel, co-owner of glazing company TC Glass, says, “The fewer hands you have on the glass, the better off you are. Equipment cuts out the need for more guys and increases their safety.”

With the support of increasingly diverse and advanced handling equipment, glaziers are able to tackle more jobs—and more complex jobs—faster and safer. The following pages showcase the handling equipment used to solve challenges in three recent notable installations.


Architectural Glass and Aluminum was contracted for the all-glass façade of a corporate headquarters building in California. The design/build curtain wall and window system manufacturer and installer handles many one-off large commercial projects, often requiring specially-designed glass and unitized curtain wall panel handling equipment, according to Patrick Dunne, superintendent for AGA.

This particular project presented several challenges. First, every level has interior raised access floors, requiring that all of the glass be set from the exterior. Additionally, the architectural design has poured-in-place sunshades that extend past the face of the floor-to-ceiling glass from 6 to 10 feet. Finally, the sheer size and weight of the panels created installation challenges as well. The 1 5/16-inch insulating units made up of 9/16-inch laminated, low-emissivity, double silver and ¼-inch tempered glass, measure 8 feet by 17 feet in size and weigh up to 1,500 pounds each.

To handle the challenging logistics, AGA worked with Ergo Robotic Solutions which built two extended-reach glass manipulators for the project: a WPI EXT-7, which reaches past the sunshades by 7 feet, and a WPI EXT-11, which reaches into the building 11 feet. Both manipulators have a handling capacity of 2,200 pounds, are wireless remote-controlled and designed to be used with various size below-the-hook cranes.

AGA also used Ergo Robotic’s GL-1200 for the headquarters project. Used specifically for ground-level setting conditions, the GL-1200, at 34 inches wide and 6 feet 6 inches tall, has a maximum lifting capacity of 1,200 pounds, and a lifting height up to 13 feet. It features a double redundant vacuum system and comes standard with power rotation.

According to Dunne, the equipment was necessary to accomplish the needs of this job. “The client was able to occupy the building sooner than if the glass had been installed from the interior, which would have delayed the [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] trades starts,” he says.


A National Historic Landmark, the Hahne & Co. building is being fully renovated into 160 mixed-income housing units, retail space and a new arts and culture center for Rutgers University, which includes 400 new architecturally accurate but energy-efficient windows.

Window installation company JAJ Construction worked with manufacturer Universal Window and Door to produce and install the 13-foot by 6-foot, 600 pound-plus windows. Made of aluminum with Pilkington Energy Advantage insulating glass, the custom pre-glazed windows are held in place to the old openings by an attached factory panning system. They maintain their traditional look using Hanno Werk GmbH & Co.’s joint sealing tape, BG-1, that conforms to the existing brick, and requires no external sealant.

JAJ Construction used the Vector 400 from Quattrolifts to install window units at the Hahne & Co. building in Newark, New Jersey.

“Big cranes [were] needed to place [the windows] on each floor from the outside, but there was no way to have these cranes set the windows in the openings without much effort and safety issues,” says Stu Erling, president, JAJ Construction.

After considering a crab hoist, chain block and forklift with suction attachments, the team solved the handling hurdles with the Vector 400 from Quattrolifts. The Vector 400 is a self-propelled robotic glazing machine, with an

880-pound lifting capacity. With a dual vacuum system and adjustable vacuum cups, it allows for overhead glazing up to 10 feet.

“This job has an accelerated schedule with the carpenter right behind us framing walls,” says Erling. “One of the main reasons for purchasing the Vector was the fact that we could get it through standard doorways. If a window was left out (due to hoist run, etc.), the other methods were way more costly to get back in to a finished room.”

Reduced labor costs and increased safety also played a role in JAJ’s purchase decision. Even at massive scale, with the Vector, one carpenter can pick up a window horizontally and steer it into place vertically. With an overall clearance of 1 inch, using the Vector allowed the JAJ team to set the window sill on the wood blocking, slowly tilt it into the opening and secure the brackets with the window still attached to the machine. “Maneuvering man lifts was much easier knowing that the window was secure,” says Erling.


TC Glass Inc. is installing the curtain wall system for the Hunthausen Activity Center at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. The facility, expected to open in spring 2017, will consist of a climbing tower, bouldering wall, outdoor recreation center, multi-purpose exercise rooms, gymnasium, and cardiovascular equipment and weight equipment areas.

Installers from TC Glass Inc. relied on the URW 295 from SpyderCrane to complete glass installation at the Carroll College Hunthausen Activity Center in Helena, Montana.

Cody Hagel, co-owner of TC Glass, says the type of project, including access, material, weather conditions, elevation and other factors all come into play when determining the right equipment to purchase and use. “It’s hard to do something when it’s not necessary. We buy handling machinery when a job requires it,” he says. “Then, you have to figure out ways to keep using the machinery. It’s really fun to use, but most importantly, it increases productivity and safety.”

For the Hunthausen Center, the weight of the IGUs, elevated location and limited access of the work area eliminated certain equipment due to limited capacity, mobility or size. The TC Glass team is installing the building’s stick-built 7 ¼-inch Reliance curtain wall with insulating glass units consisting of ¼-inch PPG Solarban 70 XL, ½-inch airspace, 90 percent Argon and ¼-inch clear glazing using the Wood’s Powr-Grip MRT4 and SpyderCrane URW 295.

The Premium MRT4 vacuum lifter offers three frame configurations, 90-degree tilt and continuous 360-degree rotation, for maximum versatility and range of motion. It comes equipped with a premium dual vacuum system, featuring two independent vacuum circuits, designed to reduce the risk of falling loads. The TC Glass team used the MRT4 to install oversized units over uneven ground. SpyderCrane’s URW 295 mini-crawler is designed for use in confined or limited access areas—at 24 inches wide in the stowed position—and has a lifting capacity of 6,450 pounds. For the Hunthausen, the mini-crane was used for heavy lifting to increase glazier safety.

Dowling Studio Architects designed the Hunthausen Activity Center. Dick Anderson Construction serves as the project’s general contractor.

Stough is managing editor for Glass Magazine, GlassMagazine.com and e-glass weekly. Write her at bstough@glass.org.