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Global Glass Industry Well Placed to Meet Major Challenges, says GTS

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Wednesday 20 March 2013

Global manufacturers and retailers are well placed to meet major challenges across the glass industry, according to independent research, test and design specialist Glass Technology Services (GTS).

The company, which works with glass industry clients across the world - including Europe, the Middle East, India, America, China, Australia and South Africa - to ensure their products meet all the required and pending standards for export across the world, says 2013 will see increasing legislative, product quality, brand identity challenges and anti-counterfeiting measures across the flat glass, container and domestic glassware markets. GTS Commercial Director, Dr Malcolm Glendenning, explains:

“We work with highly innovative global glass manufacturers and suppliers and they face new challenges every day, in terms of quality standards and regulations, but also from brand owners and product developers, who want to push the boundaries in specialised and technical glass as well as in flat glass and containers.“

“Over the past two years, we’ve invested in staff, equipment, infrastructure and training and grown our team of specialists by more than 25%, recruiting material sciences, physics, chemistry and mechanical engineering graduates as well as apprentices, to work alongside our leading technical experts, who have some 380 years’ combined experience in the glass industry.”

Construction Products and CE Marking

GTS provides Initial Type Testing (ITT) for CE Marking of Glass Construction ProductsCE (Conformité Européenne) marking of construction products – including flat glass, glazing, architectural glass and ballotini for road markings - becomes compulsory from July 1 st 2013, which will mean major changes for many manufacturers and companies wishing to supply their products into or within the European Economic Area (EEA).

Designed to harmonise conformity for the regulation of construction products across the EU, the new Construction Products Regulation replaces the Construction Product Directive and demands performance assessment (initial type testing) by a legally and technically independent notified testing laboratory. The new regulation is enforceable across the European Union and applies to all construction products that are covered by harmonised European Standards (hENs). Manufacturers and processors were previously able to self-certify or simply opt out of CE marking their products.

GTS is in the process of becoming a Notified Testing Laboratory, which will mean it can carry out Initial Type Testing of glass products under attestation of conformity (AoC) System 3, covering insulating glass units and glass used for impact resistance and burglar resistance.

Assessing pendulum body impact resistance, thermal properties and radiation properties of glass, their test procedures are in accordance with European Norms (EN 12600, EN 410, EN 673 and EN 12898) and are UKAS accredited. Enquiries for the assessment of other performance characteristics are also welcome.

Quality Assurance and Brand Image 

Quality assurance and brand image present their own unique challenges to the worldwide glass industry. Dr Glendenning comments: 

“We’re continually evolving our services to meet those challenges and provide a wide range of bespoke solutions covering all aspects of glass including new product development, melting, fitness for purpose, failure assessment and environmental monitoring.

“We’re supporting their quality and performance credentials, through chemical analysis, durability testing, mechanical performance analysis, product conformity testing, foreign fragment identification and process troubleshooting.”

GTS is increasingly troubleshooting particular issues, such as composition, defect and raw material analysis and working in specialised areas, such as pharmacopoeia testing, colour analysis and UV resistance testing, for example. The ability to address problems goes further than testing of individual samples in the laboratory. GTS experts regularly undertake audits of glass production and filling lines on behalf of glass manufacturer customers, such as international pharmaceutical companies and spirit and beer brand owners, to ensure that the product is manufactured to their requirements.

Environment, Emissions and Energy-Efficiency 

GTS conduct environmental monitoring and sampling for glass industry stack emissionsFor many years GTS has provided support and monitoring services across the glass manufacturing industry – including the provision of stack emissions monitoring – supporting them through the establishment of new and challenging environmental policies in the UK and Europe.

The experience gained through this time, combined with the GTS’s specialist knowledge in glass, allow the team to help with process investigations, the establishment of continuous monitoring equipment and efficiency trials and provides both clients and authorities around the world with consultancy on production, treatment and waste and recycling systems.

The industry is responding to a combination of improved technologies and increasing pressure to cut emissions, and one avenue includes exploring new energy-efficient compositions and reheating processes, according to Martyn Marshall, Principal Glass Technologist at GTS. He comments:

“With stringent carbon dioxide (CO2) targets to be met and some major advances in glass melting and pelletising technology, there is a great opportunity for the sector to save costs and benefit the environment. We’ve been able to slash energy costs by reducing melting temperatures up to 100 degrees celsius and although we’re adding more flux to the batch, which has cost implications, the CO2 emission reductions are substantial and are helping manufacturers to meet their targets. Similarly with pellet engineering, the costs are far outweighed by the benefits: we’re seeing 20% to 30% improvements in the melting process.”

GTS has provided the specialist glass expertise, space and infrastructure to enable Apollo Furnaces to develop a fundamentally new furnace technology.

Developing Technology and Product Innovation

Working closely with clients, suppliers and other industry experts is a fundamental part of the company’s commitment to technological development and enables them to meet demand across the supply chain, from manufacturers and distributors to brand owners and retailers.

In collaboration with leading universities and businesses, the team is continually developing new technology and coatings for glass products, bio materials, photonics and optical devices.

Some of the development programmes are supported under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) – both of which aim to boost research and innovation across Europe and the UK. The TSB’s most recent grants awarded to GTS for research and analysis work are part of a major UK government investment programme. Dr Nick Kirk, Technical Director of Glass Technology Services Ltd, explains: 

“Developing new technologies is crucial to advancing our understanding and capabilities in material science. These grants will enable us to develop prototype production facilities and new glass compositions and apply them in new and innovative ways.”

One of the grants supports the development of a working prototype production facility to pave the way for industrial manufacture of phosphate fibre tows. These specialist fibres can be used for a multitude of biomedical applications, including the treatment of serious bone trauma. Other partners in the project include The University of Nottingham, Controls Interface Ltd, Invensys-Eurotherm and P-D Interglas Technologies.

Another TSB grant supports GTS’s provision of photonics and material science expertise to a development project on eye-safe sensors. Led by Thales Optronics Ltd UK, the Light-MiLES (Miniature Laser-illuminated Eye-safe Sensors) project will develop and demonstrate an innovative, compact, low cost and eye-safe laser-illuminated imaging sensor, capable of long-range operation. Other partners in the specialist consortium include Gooch and Housego Ltd and the University of Leeds. 

Meeting exacting industry and international standards

Product impact resistance testing is just one of a range of performance and mechanical tests provided by Glass Technology ServicesIndependent product testing has become increasingly vital to demonstrate due diligence and compliance, even where the materials were not directly covered under standards or best practice guides, according to Dr Glendenning. He comments:

“Rather than simply presenting the analysis or data, whether we’re assessing product quality and fitness for purpose, analysing fracture and failure, or examining colour and light transmission, for example, we help to provide solutions to manufacturing issues and make recommendations on how to improve the product’s performance as well as to meet legislative requirements and industry, national and international standards.

“The industry uses a number of agreed standards for minimum performance such as TEC-7 and TEC-9 for annealed beverage bottles, for example, but general product and food safety regulations, which apply across the European Union, have as much legal weight and associated responsibilities and liabilities, so it is vital to show good practice.

“Increasingly, before bringing products to emerging markets, major globally recognised brands are turning to recognised independent testing and assessment providers to ensure that their glass suppliers are producing ware which is fit to bear their name.”

Training and Consultancy

GTS training services and online consultancy are in increasing demand across the glass industry, particularly for global suppliers, who want individuals and teams in many different locations to tap into the latest knowledge, best practice and industry developments.

An independent specialist, GTS works across the glass supply chain for manufacturers and manipulators, fillers, brand owners and retailers, architects, building contractors and consulting engineers. Its international client base is drawn from a wide range of markets including architectural and automotive, food and drink, pharmaceutical and technical, defence, photonics and biomedical.

For more information please visit www.glass-ts.com , email enquiries@glass-ts.com or telephone +44 (0) 114 290 1801.

Reproduced with permission from Middle East Glass Magazine. Published in Middle East Glass – April 2013.

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