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Tuesday 19 February 2013

Flat-glass manufacturers are gearing up for major changes this year in the way they get their products to market in the construction industry across the European Union, while manufacturers of domestic glassware and packaging continue to face increasing quality and brand image demands.

For independent research, test and design specialist Glass Technology Services (GTS), it has meant a period of considerable investment and technological development, as it moves to become an accredited performance test laboratory for CE product conformity testing and to help meet the industry’s ever increasing legislative, product quality and brand identity challenges.

“We work with highly innovative glass manufacturers and suppliers across the world,” said GTS Commercial Director Dr Malcolm Glendenning. “They face new challenges every day, in terms of quality standards and regulations, but also from brand owners and new product developers, who want to push the boundaries in specialized and technical glass as well as in flat glass and containers.”

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

Construction Products

GTS is in the process of becoming a Notified Testing Laboratory in order to enable manufacturers to use its test results to contribute towards the CE Marking of their construction products and comply with the new Construction Products Regulation 2011 (CPR), which governs entry of all flat glass products to the EU market.

Replacing the Construction Products Directive (CPD), it comes into effect on July 1 st 2013 and effectively limits the ability of manufacturers of building products from CE marking their own products.  Therefore, they must use an independent testing laboratory such as GTS to undertake product conformity testing in order for the manufacturer to CE mark their products.

Bespoke Solutions

“This is just one of the many challenges facing glass manufacturers worldwide,” said Dr Glendenning. “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.

“Working in partnership with our clients we’ve been able to design, manufacture and bring to market some highly innovative glass products across the glass packaging, glazing, fibre insulation, continuous fibre and technical glass sectors. At the same time, 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.”

Export Standards

Increasingly commissioned to undertake long-term consultancy contracts as well as one-off projects, GTS works with global manufacturers and retailers across India as well as in the Middle East, America, China, Australia and South Africa, to ensure their products meet all the required and pending standards for export across the world.

The team regularly undertakes 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. Its specialists are also increasingly being commissioned as Expert Witnesses, in both criminal and civil cases, giving independent advice and findings on all aspects of glass quality and performance.

“Seeing our test facilities in operation, is a great reminder of just how extensively used and valuable a commodity glass is,” said Dr Glendenning. “At any one time we could be testing glass for new office buildings, shop windows, car windscreens, furniture, lighting and containers for food and drink or pharmaceutical products and from a wide variety of international manufacturers and suppliers.

Manufacturing Solutions

“Rather than simply presenting the analysis or data, whether we’re assessing product quality and fitness for purpose, analyzing 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.”

Independent 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, Dr Glendenning added.

“Toughened glazing has to meet extensive safety breakage standards, automotive glass must meet the very specific requirements of the R43 guide and annealed beverage bottles should comply with TEC7 or TEC 9, to name just a few,” said Dr Glendenning.  

 “But General Product Safety Regulations which apply across the European Union have as much legal weight and associated responsibilities and liabilities. Independent test laboratory reports are becoming an essential part of the due diligence process across every glass product area.”

Innovation and NPD

GTS specialists also have extensive experience in new product development. In collaboration with leading universities and businesses, the team is 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 £20 million UK government investment programme.

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, P-D Interglas Technologies and DePuy.

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.

The technology has far reaching applications, especially where human exposure is unavoidable – and could include applications such as optical communications, medical diagnostic use, remote sensing (LIDAR), range finding and targeting across defence, medical, construction, domestic and commercial markets.

Dr Nick Kirk, Technical Director of Glass Technology Services Ltd, said: “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.”

Independent Specialists

GTS training services, through webinars 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 info@glass-ts.com or telephone +44 (0) 114 290 1801).

Reproduced with permission from The All India Glass Manufacturers' Federation (AIGMF). Published in Kanch (Glass), Vol 6, No 2 - January-March 2013




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