To understand how you make commercial glass, it’s important to know just what glass is made of—liquid sand. By heating ordinary sand, made of mostly silicon dioxide, you can make glass; however, it’s not that simple.
Continue reading in today’s blog to learn how commercial glass is made and how Northern Utah Glass has the best glass products available.
What is Glass?
To turn sand into a liquid, it has to melt at incredibly high temperatures of 3090℉. When molten sand cools, it transforms into a completely different inner structure. It doesn’t matter how much you cool the sand, though, it never gets to a complete solid rather just a frozen liquid or an amorphous solid, as materials scientists call it. It’s a cross between a solid and a liquid involving some of the crystalline order of a solid and the random molecular structure of a liquid.
Origin of Glass
The ancient process of glass blowing and mold blowing was said to be invented by Syrians in the 1st century B.C. and has since evolved to the beautiful process of today. It wasn’t until the second half of the 19th century when glass changed from hand gathering, blowing, and finishing the neck to an automated process. After 1850, the raw materials were automatically mixed and fed into a furnace. Around 1904, manufacturers began using glass in light bulbs.
How Commercial Glass is Made
In a commercial glass plant, you mix sand with waste glass from recycling collections, soda ash (sodium carbonate), and limestone (calcium carbonate) and furnace-heated. The soda decreases the sand’s melting point, helping to save energy during the manufacturing process. The end-product results in soda-lime-silica glass—the ordinary glass we see everywhere.
When the sand melts, it’s either poured into molds to make bottles, glasses, and other containers, or in commercial glass, “floated” (poured on top of a large vat of molten tin metal.) This produces perfectly flat sheets of window glass you can use in many applications.
The method for making flat glass was first designed by Sir Alistair Pilkington in 1952 and is now the standard way of making it, with a six-step process. This process includes:
- 1. Melting and Refining: A furnace melts the glass at the required temperature and refines and homogenizes it to ensure the glass comes out at 2012℉ without any bubbles or insertions.
- 2. Float Batch: The glass is then pushed out of a spout and onto a layer of liquid molten tin. The high viscosity of the molten glass doesn’t mix with the liquid molten tin, so it sits on top and “floats.” With a little gravity, it creates a perfectly leveled contact surface. The control at which the speed of glass is spread over the line of molten tin determines its thickness.
- 3. Coating: According to customer specifications, coatings are added to the glass. It uses advanced high temperature wielding robots at the cooling ribbon of glass involving the area in the line.
- 4. Annealing: A long furnace cools the glass at varying temperatures, which keeps the glass perfectly suited to customer specs. It includes a sensor that detects the stress levels of the glass, which controls the temperature of the furnace.
- 5. Inspection: A sensitive automated method inspects the process to prevent any grain of sand or bubbles that could produce lower quality output.
- 6. Cutting to Order: Now, it’s time to cut the glass with a computer program and sell it to the client. Any waste material is fed right back into the furnace as cullet. (recycled broken or waste glass).
Types of Glass Processes
Glassmakers use different types of processes to create various kinds of commercial glass. They typically add other chemicals to change the appearance or properties of the finished glass, such as with the addition of iron and chromium added to molten sand to create green-tinted glass.
Stained glass is made up of metallic compounds added to the glass while it’s molten, and different metals create the separate segments of glass that give it different colors. Adding lead oxide produces a fine crystal glass that can be cut easier. Highly prized cut lead crystal shine with color as if refracts (bends) the light passing through it.
Different Uses for Glass
Glass has many uses and provides numerous options with which to choose. Whether you’re looking for windows for restaurants, schools, churches, storefronts, or apartments, there are a variety of sizes and styles. You can also use commercial glass for mirrors, screens, shower doors, sliding doors, windows, French doors, entry doors, tabletops, etc. with plenty of styles, colors, and materials to match your decor. There are many hidden places where glass is located, such as bulb thermometers, cement fillings in teeth, fiberglass hulls of boats, and more. Because of the attractive and inexpensive aspects of glass, decorating with it is commonplace in many buildings.
Contact Northern Utah Glass
If you need commercial windows or glass doors, give us a call. You can expect a professional and beautiful look from our expert technicians, regardless of the type of business or size of your property. We’re more than happy to provide a FREE quote and schedule a free in-home estimate. Contact us today!