One of the most fascinating things about the Engineering Plastics Industry is that these materials are used in every industry, at least every industry I’ve come across so far, and that’s a lot! So when I recently visited a glass manufacturing plant I wasn’t entirely surprised to find they had a need for plastics.
As Old as Humans
Glass was discovered by stone-age hunters in the form of obsidian long before it was first manufactured in any form. The first manufactured glass that we know of dates to Mesopotamia in the 16th century BC. In this day and age it’s hard to imagine a world without our automated glass manufacturing techniques. All you have to do is look at skyscrapers in any city. The beautiful glass that you see on the outside is engineered and produced to some amazing standards. The same is true of the safety glass in every automobile on the road. Without automated lines that take the sand, sodium carbonate, and calcium carbonate (soda ash and lime) through the process, cars would not be the same. Modern glass has improved safety, part life, and given designers a freedom to create a virtually endless array of shapes.
Modern-Day Glass Factories
Where do plastics enter into the modern-day glass factory? Inside glass plants, technology has led to many innovations that keep prices down and the design capabilities endless. Automation allows glass to be consistently formed, tinted, laminated, and packaged, and all at high speeds compared to earlier methods. In this process the conveyors rather than humans handle the glass from furnace to delivery on the factory floor. To keep the lines moving, glass is sent across conveyor lines while it is still at extremely high temperatures. This has created some challenges on the manufacturing side to be able to move the glass in a way that is gentle enough that the fresh material is not scratched, marred or broken. This is where Engineering Plastics offer benefits to the glass manufacturer as it can minimize these issues.
Over the years glass plants have made stops, a small piece that acts as a ‘bumper’ of sorts. Glass hits the stop which helps to cushion and redirect hot glass as it moves along conveyor lines. Some plants have used phenolics or other plastics to make glass stops. Although these materials work, customers tell us they need to be replaced often as the high temperature of the glass degrades the plastic stops. DuPont™ Vespel® is a unique family of polyimide materials that many glass manufactures have moved to because of their ability to withstand the high temperatures and impact of hot glass. As one of the highest performing materials for high temperature environments, engineers have designed rollers, stops, fingers, and wear strips out of DuPont™ Vespel®. In addition to performing well under extreme heat DuPont™ Vespel® has been noted for its ability to handle the constant impact of glass without deformation or causing marring, scratching, or breakage of the glass. While this material is not inexpensive, customers continue to specify DuPont™ Vespel® due to benefits that include –
- Reduced downtime of lines to replace stops
- Reduced furnace downtime to cool and reheat while production lines are down
- Minimize product loss due to scratches or other damage
- Decrease downtime to clean up after product breakage occurs
In a recent application in an auto glass factory, we replaced a graphite based material used to make glass stops with DuPont™ Vespel® SCP-5050. The customer reported the service life of the stops improved over 5000%! It’s a great reminder to me as we look at engineering plastics that it’s not all about the initial cost of the material, it’s about the savings and improvements to your manufacturing process that can happen when you choose the right engineering plastic for the job. So, feel free to call up your local plastics professional when you are looking for improvements. We may or may not be the right fit, but if we are, you’ll be glad you made the call.
Sales and Marketing Manager
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA
AIN Plastics Division
For more information about Engineering Plastics for Glass Stops download a pdf here Flyer – Glass Handling w Vespel 01-15
For more information about AIN Plastics please visit our website at ainplastics.com