Flat glass refers to all kinds of glass manufactured in sheets, including float glass, cast glass, and what is known as blown flat glass. The Flat Glass Trade Section unites the German flat glass manufacturers. It represents float glass, cast glass, blown flat glass and special flat glass companies, many of which are international corporations.
The flat glass industry and the flat glass finishing and processing industry manufacture flat glass products for construction, architecture, automotive construction, and furniture making applications. Flat glass can be found everywhere – at home, in the car, in shops, and at work. It adorns building facades, is used to make car windscreens, car mirrors, wall mirrors for our homes, and glass table tops for our living rooms. Furniture made of glass, in diverse colours and designs, is still very popular. Interior furnishings with glass can be found everywhere from doors to kitchens and bathroom tiles. Walk-on laminated safety glass and glass partitions also play an important role in the furniture and interior decoration industries.
The most frequently used type of flat glass is float glass, which has now replaced most other types of glass manufacturing processes, such as for vehicle safety glass and mirror glass for example. Around 95 percent of all flat glass is now manufactured in a float process. This involves the molten glass being floated onto molten tin. Glass made in this way has a very smooth surface and is ideal for processing and finishing. Cast glass, on the other hand, is opaque as a result of the casting and rolling process. It is used where transparency is not necessary or desired, such as bathrooms, home and office doors or glass partitions between the teller counters in banks.
Flat glass performs a wide range of functions – from heat insulation to soundproofing and from safety applications to solar protection.
The glass industry develops insulated glazing products to prevent the heat inside a building from escaping through the windows. One of the major contributors to the development of this glass was the German flat glass industry. The insulated glass products unite the positive properties of glass, such as transparency, with the excellent emission properties of precious metals. A thin, functional metal coating (approximately 0.01 micrometres thick) is applied to the surface of the glass. This ensures that sunlight can enter and prevents heat from escaping. In addition to the coating, the space between the glass panes can also be filled with a special gas, which is absolutely safe, for better insulation. The advantage of insulated glazing is that it lowers heating costs, which translates to added ecological value.
From traffic to construction work and loud music, noise can be an everyday disturbance. Although we can’t always prevent the noise from happening outside the building, we can install soundproof glazing to ensure that it doesn’t penetrate the inside. Soundproof glazing consists of either two panes of glass of different thicknesses or two panes of glass with an inner layer of PVB (polyvinyl butyral). This type of glazing also makes the building more secure and improves personal safety.
One of the trends in flat glass is self-cleaning glass and works according to a very simple principle. Organic dirt is broken down by the ultraviolet light in sunlight, making it easier to remove. When it rains, the broken down dirt is simply washed off the windows leaving almost no streaks because instead of forming droplets as it would on conventional glass, the water forms a film that covers the entire surface of the glass and takes the dirt with it as it runs off. This is why self-cleaning glass offers better visibility than conventional glass when it rains.
UV filter glass provides effective protection against excessive ultraviolet exposure. It also helps to save energy by reducing the amount of sunlight entering the room. This reduces the heating effect and the need for air conditioning systems. The German glass industry produces a wide range of UV filter glass types with reflective or absorbent properties, tinted or transparent, to meet every demand.
Laminated safety glazing consists of two or more glass panes that are joined together by one or several PVB foils to create an inseparable unit. If the glass breaks, the PVB foil prevents it from shattering into pieces. Modern safety glazing products also provide effective protection against intruders because the panes are more difficult to smash. This makes it much harder to break an entry and therefore, it actually prevents break-ins in many cases.
Current flat glass innovations include multifunctional glazing or electrochromic glazing that turns from transparent to opaque when an electrical current is applied. There are also “green” projects such as buildings with bioreactor façades.
Bioreactor façades are made up of flat, low-reflection white glass panels. Microalgae that produce biomass and heat through photosynthesis and solar thermal energy are cultivated in these glass elements.