Glass Fabrication and Tempering Process
Join us on a tour through our Fabrication Shop where we process raw annealed sheets of glass and fabricate them into finished products ready for installation on your jobsite.
There is always a lot of activity at KGa, so let’s jump right into the tour and get some glass unloaded from that tractor trailer so the technicians can get started.
Receiving and Staging
Most days, it starts in the early hours of the morning. Three to four tractor trailer loads of glass a week are unloaded inside KGa. Each load weighs in at 44,000 pounds of glass or mirror. That’s a lot of glass, but that’s how much we need to keep up with the production capacity of our Fabrication Shop.
In fact, we stock glass in clear and low-iron composition as well as acid etched – in thicknesses from 3/16″ to 3/4″. In addition, we also stock clear and etched mirrors and some patterned glass. Most material arrives in stock sheets of 96” x 130” to allow us to fabricate the larger shapes required for today’s designs.
That overhead hoist lifts 4,000 pounds of glass straight from the trailer to our staging racks.
To make sure we have enough material on hand for the wide variety of orders that we process daily, we have to stock even more glass, aluminum and hardware, so let’s move over there now.
With our in-house material handling and stock capabilities, we can ensure that all varieties of material are available for jobsite delivery or customer pickup. Up to 800+ high quality annealed glass sheets, Kawneer aluminum framing, door hardware and service parts – equally important – are also well-stocked. This inventory allows for the quick shipment of standard orders as well as those occasions when something doesn’t go exactly according to plan.
The first step in our fabrication process requires cutting these material down to precise size as required by the order so let’s step over to the Cutting Line and see what is going on.
The first step in the fabrication process is cutting the stock sheets down to working blanks. With our precision, computer-optimized cutting line, we can cut full stock sheets down to blanks within a single millimeter of the required size. That’s tight. And, it’s not easy. But what it does is minimize waste and keep the Fabrication Shop well-supplied all day long. Moreover, each blank is barcoded to ensure tracking and accountability through the entire process right out to the job site.
Straight Edge Polishing
Two straightedge multi-spindle polishing machines mean we can run multiple glass types simultaneously. The end product is, of course, the crisp, high-quality edgework many of our projects need – as well as high-precision miters from .5 to 45 degrees.
Each polishing machine is equipped with lifting assistance devices to let a single operator rotate and move large sheets of glass weighing a couple hundred pounds each with ease. This machine keeps the production line moving smoothly, helps minimize handling and defects and ensures the safety of our employees.
Not every piece of glass is finished when the edges are polished. Some pieces require more detailing like holes, shapes and custom edgework. For this, we move on to the Fabrication Areas.
Hand Fabrication Tables
When custom one-off details are required on panels and shower doors like notches, holes or finishing details like relief cuts, the glass moves to the fabrication tables where skilled KGa craftsmen take care of all the small details.
If it a piece requires even more intricate details, high precision dimensioning or there are large repetitious quantities, we look to our CNC Fabrication workstations for that work.
We have two options for Computer Numerical Control (CNC) fabrication and polishing – a horizontal CNC milling center and a vertical CNC Vertmax. This gives us a high production capability in what is a high-demand, high-precision market niche.
Cutting unique and complex shapes, curves and interior cut-outs isn’t easy, but we’re able to do it thanks to our skilled CNC operators. These machines not only create complex designs, they reduce fabrication time. Our state-of-the-art Intermac Vertmax machine allows for laser registration of blanks prior to cutting as well. The consistency and precision of these machines make them ideal for doors and stair railing glass, whether common or complex shapes are required.
Behind the scenes there is a lot of high end infrastructure to keep all this equipment running every day and turning out precision glass. So, let’s take a look inside the Filtration Area.
High-quality polishing and fabrication depends on clean water, and our multi-stage filtration plant does the job. Not only is the water recycling process environmentally friendly, it also results in reduced downtime for machine maintenance and extended tool life, which means increased production.
Clean water leads to clear glass.
Making it Shine
If a glass product is going into a framed application and doesn’t require highly polished edges, the edges are “seamed” prior to tempering to relieve edge stress, Immediately following the seaming or polishing, the glass receives a thorough cleaning, drying and inspection.
For glass going to the Tempering Line, we offer multiple custom logo options for client branding, as well as our standard tempering logo. These are applied, per SGCC certification requirements and verified by daily testing.
This is where things get really hot around here.
Tempering strengthens glass, and our 84” x 144” Tamglas tempering line can handle from 3/16″ to 3/4″ glass. Each piece requires a custom recipe based on material details, thickness and ever changing environmental conditions to ensure compliance and performance.
When the glass leaves Tempering, it is not ready to go out the door just yet, we still have more work to do before the glass is ready for its intended purpose.
One of the most critical stages in our process is Quality Control – something that occurs at every step and is tracked through barcoded labels along the way. This allows us to reprocess any piece that may be rejected anywhere along the way and initiate a replacement through any technician at any workstation.
Going beyond the basic fabrication offerings is where our in house Heat Soak oven comes into play for customers that need higher assurance of material quality.
An Extra Quality Assurance
Our heat soak oven is the single best way to detect nickel sulfide inclusions in tempered float glass that may be too minute to be visually detected. And it’s a unique process in the mid-Atlantic region.
Through a computer-controlled heat ramp-up cycle, followed by a long-duration soak and a controlled cool-down over eight hours, the risk of spontaneous breakage in an installed tempered glass product is greatly reduced.
The cutting, shaping, polishing and tempering are all over now but we still are not done, we need to get the glass out to our customers.
It’s not enough to make or fabricate something; you’ve got to be able to deliver it too. We have a fleet of specialized glass transportation and service vehicles that lets us deliver glass to your shop or jobsite. From side-loaded or dock height trucks to, crated glass for forklifting or craning into buildings, loose lites, or even will call, we’ll get your glass to you safely and on time.
This process continues every day from the early morning until late into the evening in order to keep up with the demand for our high quality glass products from small mirrors to massive wall panels that end up in homes, hotels, museums and corporate offices throughout the growing Mid Atlantic market.
And it all starts over again tomorrow morning with the arrival of more glass for fabrication.