As Technical Services Manager Karl Jones supports customers with help and advice on all aspects of IGU manufacturing.
When I started at Edgetech 13 years ago, things were very different. The new Approved Document L had come into force the year before and Pilkington K glass was leading the way in glass unit energy performance.
It was an exciting time for the glazing industry. The replacement window market was getting back on its feet and Dr Robin Kent’s vision of a national window energy rating scheme was starting to take shape.
The glass unit was now crucial in achieving Part L Building Regulations and cost was a big factor. The revolutionary Super Spacer® offered insulated glass unit manufacturers a way to improve energy performance and productivity. The early adopters of warm edge technology helped window system companies meet the U-value requirements without adding extra cost.
The differences in U-values between insulating Super Spacer and traditional metal rigid spacer bars were huge. Super Spacer flexible warm edge spacer created a whole new market sector for the industry.
Edgetech warm edge technology is still making cost savings for IGU manufacturers today — with Super Spacer making A+ and A++ windows achievable and cost effective for fabricators and installers.
Super Spacer offered a real breakthrough in productivity gain for IGU manufacturers because even a starter set-up with air float table application improved the cost per unit. Nowadays, an automated IGU line with a high speed Super Spacer applicator robot can produce a double glazed warm edge unit every 15-20 seconds, and a triple glazed in a little over thirty seconds.
When I started work in the technical division at Edgetech back in 2003, the only piece of equipment we offered was a small manual operation rotary table. It was 500 mm square. And it worked in partnership with Edgetech’s SuperShuttle; a pneumatically powered tool developed for Super Spacer application. It took about a minute to manufacture an IGU. This early manual set-up was perfect for the average Super Spacer user at that time who was manufacturing up to 500 warm edge units per week.
At first it was mostly door companies using Super Spacer, as they immediately recognised the benefit of a flexible spacer for curved, round or oval glass shapes in door designs. And flexibility remains a core benefit for Super Spacer today as it handles the most creative and radical glass structures with ease, allowing architects to push the boundaries of design.
Back in 2003, though, the majority of rectangle glass units for windows were being made with the industry standard aluminium spacer bar. These took between one and five minutes to manufacture depending on the level of machinery used.
But then we saw a shift in the industry.
The introduction of Window Energy Ratings in 2004 by the British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC), combined with rising energy costs, saw window thermal efficiency take its place in the spotlight and the race to achieve the highest performance started.
Edgetech had been working closely with machinery companies, who also saw the potential of a continuous warm edge technology flexible spacer, to automate IGU manufacture. First came semi-automation, still popular with customers today, which features a clever air float table within a vertical machine.
Semi-automation reduced the time it took to manufacture glass units and allowed companies to increase productivity with fewer operatives. Automated machinery using warm edge Super Spacer meant that manufacturers could offer the higher performing IGUs required for the new thermal performance standards to their customers cost effectively. This drove adoption of Super Spacer throughout the market.
And then we had the jump into full automation – a complete game-changer for IGU manufacturing processes. The first fully automated Super Spacer robot line was in the Edgetech manufacturing plant in the States. The second was at an IGU manufacturer in Northern Ireland in 2005.
How Does Automation Work?
For double glazing the two glass pieces are sequenced and loaded onto one end of the line. After being cleaned and dried, the first glass pane continues down the line ready to be matched up. Super Spacer is applied to the second piece of glass by the applicator robot, referencing the edge of the glass to create an accurately measured gap for the sealant and a consistently level sightline.
The two pieces of glass are then moved along the line into a chamber where the unit is filled with gas and the panes matched together. Finally, a second robot seals the Super Spacer glass unit with hot-melt butyl.
And off the end of the line comes a completed warm edge insulated glass unit.
Benefits of Fully Automated Super Spacer Application
Automation of warm edge technology enables better accuracy and increased productivity without the need for more staff. In Edgetech’s technical division, it’s our job to help customers get the very best from their automated Super Spacer IGU line. Basically, this means working to the tightest tolerances.
We carry out regular, rigorous online quality checks during IGU manufacture. Because we’ve worked closely with our machinery partners over many years to develop the technology of automated lines and Super Spacer to a fine art, the speed, accuracy and reliability of these automated machines is truly astounding.
Standard Super Spacer automated lines can manufacture a sealed unit every 30 seconds. And changing the machines over to a different cavity size of spacer doesn’t delay manufacturing; machine down time can be eliminated using an automatic bobbin changer.
Machines designed for manufacturing triple glazing have two spacer head applicators, for applying two different widths of Super Spacer to a unit. This has been an extra bonus for companies who manufacture lots of double glazed units – it can be set up to start on a new reel when another has finished. And, as previously stated Super Spacer references the glass edge for application, which makes it the best product for consistent sightlines within triple units.
Super Spacer started a revolution and now approximately 80% of units manufactured in the UK feature warm edge technology spacer bars. It’s been a complete transformation for our industry, so what’s next?
There are fewer companies manufacturing glass units now than ten years ago, but those companies are producing massive numbers of sealed units every week, and they want to make more. So how do you squeeze 1,000 extra units out every week, without having to move premises for more space, and without having to set up a night shift?
This is where high speed automation comes in.
How Does Super Spacer Help High-Speed Manufacturing Lines?
The next generation of Super Spacer machines have a two-spacer head applicator and high speed feeding applicator, so to manufacture a warm edge sealed unit from start to finish takes just 15-20 seconds and a triple glazed unit in as little as 33 seconds. That means, potentially, over an eight-hour shift, companies can manufacture almost 1,500 sealed units.
As IGU manufacturers continue to grow, we’re working with companies who want to make sure the machinery investment they make now is going to future-proof their businesses. Whether retro-fitting new applicators to existing machines or investing in automated lines for the first time, high speed automation and the capacity it enables is proving a popular choice.
Super Spacer is a flexible warm edge spacer. It allows efficient production with virtually no wastage. During application, it references the edge precisely, so it’s great for square units and for shapes too. Super Spacer also offers tighter tolerances for consistently accurate high-speed manufacturing.
How Edgetech can Support IGU Manufacturers
With the UK headquarters based in Coventry and a dedicated team on the road, support is only ever a phone call away. If you’re looking for on-site advice, our technical team provide coverage throughout the country so we can easily visit you too.
We have loads of experience manufacturing warm edge technology IGUs and we’re always on hand with help and advice on all aspects of IGU manufacturing.
We’re there during machine installation and can provide training on using the entire line. We also carry out comprehensive quality audits and help to pre-empt issues, so productivity remains at its optimum level. We have the expertise to help customers get the best performance from their Super Spacer IGU line.
With this level of support and back-up, we find that the most forward thinking glass unit manufacturers are putting their trust in Edgetech and investing in Super Spacer automation to future proof and grow their business.
For more information on using high speed automation to manufacture insulated glass units using Super Spacer, call 02476 639931.