A Smart Future in Glass

The future of the glass industry is smart—smarter glass for smarter buildings in smarter cities, according to presenters and organizers at the 2019 Glass Performance Days, June 25-28 in Tampere, Finland. “Smart cities, smart buildings and smart glazing are our future,” said Jorma Vitkala, chair of the GPD organizing committee, during the GPD Opening Ceremony. “Changes are happening faster than ever before. But we need to continue being the catalysts for ideas and innovation. … We must embrace new ideas, new technologies, new relationships. We must be ready to meet the needs of our customers and our customers’ customer.”

Many of GPD 2019’s seven simultaneous, all-day sessions—covering a variety of topics including smart technology, glass and sustainability, R&D, façade and market trends, and more—looked at the next-generation glass products that could be essential to bringing the industry to the next level.

Some takeaways:

  1. Performance. The market will continue to demand better performing products, and codes and standards will continue to require the same. “The global need for environmental energy and sustainability is reshaping the nature of glass,” said Arto Metsänen, CEO and president of Glaston. “Energy efficiency has always been a challenge. As a material, though, glass is very competitive in terms of CO2 reduction. It provides a unique opportunity for the sustainable development of the world.”
  2. Collaboration. Innovative industries require collaboration, said Teppo Rantanen, executive director of the City of Tampere. “Companies talk about new ideas because they know what they get back will be better,” he said. “How do you work together with other companies? How do you share?” 

    Developing next-generation products and processes, and achieving next-level performance goals, also requires this collaboration, added Metsänen. “We can only succeed if we work together,” he said. “No company or individual can do this alone.”
  3. Complexity. The adoption of digital design has changed what’s possible with the building façade, allowing complex shapes and curves that were never before possible. “We’re not building rectangles and squares,” said Stanley Yee, façade design and construction specialist for Dow. “We are seeing complex architecture, complex units, oversized glass, curves.” 
  4. Digital factory. Glass industry manufacturing has also seen advancements. Most new machines are networked. Companies can track products, and progress and performance of individual machines, the full factory floor, or even global factory locations. “We’re looking beyond Industry 4.0,” said AJ Piscitelli, application engineer and project manager, FeneTech Inc. “It’s the digital factory. It’s Industry 4.0, IoT, supply chain management.”
  5. New methods and materials. The GPD exhibit floor offered a sneak peek at product and production solutions to come (or in some cases, what’s already here). Innovations included transparent insulating glass spacers; next-generation coatings for performance, bird-friendly design, switchable capabilities and more; and advancements in the way products are made, including laser technology and additive manufacturing, or 3D printing.  

Katy Devlin is editor in chief of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. Follow Glass Magazine on Twitter.

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