GlassBuild Enjoys Strong Turnout

October 5, 2009
Meetings & Events

Atlanta—Signaling better times ahead, GlassBuild America enjoyed a strong turnout last week, with more than 7,100 industry professionals and 400 exhibitors gathering at the Georgia World Congress Center. Window and door industry suppliers exhibiting at the annual event remained cautious about next year’s outlook, but most reported good traffic in their booths and suggested window and door manufacturers may be moving out of survival mode to prepare for future growth.

"I'm very pleased with the turnout," said Denise Sheehan, vice president of industry events for the National Glass Association, which organizes the annual event. "Everyone was in high spirits, and has commented that their expectations have been exceeded."

Among window and door industry exhibitors, much of the talk focused on ways to improve performance to meet new energy efficiency demands and enhance product appearance to better differentiate manufacturer lines.  Bystronic Glass used the event to launch its new Sashline for automated production of windows incorporating Sashlite technology. The integrated sash technology continues to attract interest because of the performance it offers, but previous generations of Sashlite equipment have not been able to meet the needs of high-volume manufacturers, said Sashlite’s Bob Hornung. The new line meets those volume needs, and also incorporates a number of unique features, such as a gas-filling process that eliminates the need for holes, he added.

Given the state of the economy, strong turn-out at GlassBuild was a pleasant surprise for many.

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A significant number of big manufacturers were in Atlanta specifically to see the new line, Hornung reported, predicting that with window performance demands increasing, more would be ready to move to the new process. The Bystronic line on display, meanwhile, will eventually be set up at Northeast Building Products’ plant in Philadelphia. The company, which has been offering windows produced using the integrated sash technology for several years, has enjoyed continued growth for its windows throughout the recent economic downturn, reported Northeast’s Fran Levin, who predicted steadily increasing demand as well.

Another busy display at the show was hosted by GED Integrated Solutions, which featured its new ColorTru decorative foil bonding system for adding color and woodgrain finishes to vinyl profiles. The foils offers a number of benefits compared to traditional laminates, including unlimited graphic and color capabilities, explained Bill Weaver, GED president. In addition, the profiles can be processed immediately after the films are applied. The company was demonstrating the machine for the process, which he noted, was modular, enabling it to be set up for large high-volume users, as well as smaller manufacturers. “We see this doing for colors and finishes what Intercept did for spacer technology,” Weaver asserted, pointing to a list of performance and processing benefits of the system. “It’s going to change the whole industry.”

There were plenty of other window and door machines on display at this year’s event. In the vinyl arena, Stürtz Machinery used this year’s show to showcase its LinealPro cutting and fabricating line, as well as a number of welders and cleaners. Greller & Co. featured its four-point welder, corner cleaner using linear drive technology for faster processing speeds. Urban Machinery brought fewer machines than in past years, but reported sales on the floor. Noting the weak demand for new equipment that resulted from the recent downturn, the company’s Volker Lamprecht said, “It’s a nice change.”

The show once again featured a variety of glass processing and insulating glass equipment, including vertical spacer applicators designed for Edgetech’s Super Spacer in the Lisec and For.El booths. Fenevision, the supplier of software for window and glass fabrication companies, used the GlassBuild show to highlight its entry into the equipment business. It showed two specialty glass machines, including the LineScanner, designed to detect glass defects, scratches, fingerprints and other sources of potential problems. Additionally, it featured a new laser marking system for glass. In addition to taking care of all glass marking needs, the equipment can also help smooth production flow in glass cutting and breakout operations, explained Fenetech’s Ron Crowl.

Many of the machines were targeted at processors of aluminum fenestration products. Emmegi, Elumatec, Mecal and Fom were among the companies showing CNC processing machinery for commercial windows, curtainwall and storefront. Joseph Machine Co. also showed a new line of CNC machines. The company continues to highlight its custom capabilities, reported Joseph Pigliacampo, company president, but there is also a need in the market for basic machines. The new line enables provides Joseph the flexibility to better serve that segment, as it can still adapt the machines to meet specific requirements, he explained.

Demand for Higher Performance
Supporting manufacturers' efforts to meet increasing performance demands was a theme in many of the booths in Atlanta. Edgetech returned to this year’s GlassBuild with its Edgetech University booth. With sections and experts devoted to such topics as certification and testing, it once again highlighted education. With increasing performance demands in the market, and growing interest among manufacturers to offer triple-glazing, one product Edgetech highlighted was its Super Spacer Cushion-Edge u-channel spacer. The product enables manufacturers to build triples without adding a second spacer or an additional moisture path because its u-channel construction suspends the middle lite as units are assembled.

Components and equipment upgrading energy performance once again accounted for much of the activity on the GlassBuild America floor.

Photos by Robb D. Cohen Photography

“Demand for higher performance continues to increase. We’re benefiting from that,” reported Edgetech’s Larry Johnson. Given current market conditions, many manufacturers are still waiting to make a move as far as upgrading their own products, but Johnson predicted that may change soon. “We have a few more months,” he said, suggesting that activity will accelerate once the industry gets past the usual slow winter months that many foresee could be still be very slow despite signs of economic recovery.

“We’re at the tail end of upgrades to meet 30/30 requirements and the front-end of the move to the next phase of energy efficiency requirements,” observed Pete Donoghue of Truseal Technologies. The company was highlighting its Envirosealed Windows Advantage program, designed to show how its Duralite spacers can be combined in glass packages, as well as with high-performance frames, to help manufacturers meet both current and future performance criteria. The program features Envirolite glass packages, optimized combinations of triple- or double-pane glass, low-E coatings and argon gas filling, already modeled to help manufacturers achieve U-value targets without wasting resources on unnecessary modeling.

Also promoting its warm-edge spacer systems designed to meet higher performance criteria was Glasslam. The company has re-formulated and expanded its Air-Tight foam spacer line launched at last year’s show. It was showing improved versions of its EPDM and silicone products, but “what’s really attracting attention,” suggested the company’s Matt Hale was its new all-in-one product featuring sealant pre-applied to the foam spacer. “Once it’s applied to the glass, it simply needs to be heated around the perimeter and it’s ready to go,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of buzz with it.”

Vinyl Colors and Finishes
One trend evident, not only in the GED booth, but elsewhere on the trade show floor was the growing demand for colors and woodgrains on vinyl windows and doors. Also busy at the event was American Renolit, which highlighted a new line of woodgrain laminates. The firm’s David Harris noted that many in the industry have been using the same selection of woodgrains for many years, and demand was growing for an updated look to better match current design trends. Demand for laminates continues to “explode,” he reported, as more vinyl manufacturers add woodgrain and color offerings to differentiate their product lines.

Several of the vinyl extruders at the show were featuring color and woodgrain products in their booth. One of the newest offerings being featured was NuGrain, a paint-based system for applying woodgrain textures to vinyl being shown by Royal Window & Door Profiles. Westech Building Products took the trend one step further, showing a hybrid design with real wood on the interior.

The trend was not limited to vinyl, however. National Fenestration Products Inc., a one-year-old manufacturer of aluminum impact resistant products, was showcasing a line of honey cherry, mahogany, and walnut brown windows, offering not only a wood look, but a wood feel . The finish is deposited onto the aluminum in a process said to make the products much more cost competitive than other woodgrain finishes.

Vinyl extruders were featuring a variety of products as well. One of the newest offerings was Mikron’s new EnergyCore replacement window line, featuring an “air-cell insulating core” designed to create a superior-performing thermal barrier. Produced using a tri-extrusion manufacturing process, the lineals offer the benefits of foam-filling with a material that is corner-weldable. “We set out to provide differentiating energy-saving technology,” said David Wemmer, president of Mikron. “With both OEM’s and homeowners expressing a desire for more energy-efficient replacement windows, EnergyCore delivers a competitive advantage to manufacturers.”

Deceuninck North America emphasized materials technology at this year’s show, including a new polymer structural reinforcement, designed to eliminate the need for metal stiffeners. Veka highlighted a new double hung line designed to meet the needs of the commercial market. Many vinyl window makers are looking to diversify into the commercial market, reported the company’s Rich Karner. Of particular note, he observed that one of the company’s customers sees housing projects eligible for stimulus funding as part of DOE’s weatherization efforts as a good opportunity.  P.H. Tech was showing a unique new single-hung window design that allows the upper panel to be removed.

Hardware
Among the other busy window and door industry suppliers exhibiting in Atlanta were several hardware producers. Much of the emphasis was on style and finish options, but suppliers focused on new functional products as well. That was evident in Truth Hardware’s display, which featured an expanded line of patio door hardware, as well as a new version of its PAL sash lock. "The first day started especially strong,” reported the company’s Matt Kottke. “We saw quality activity and a lot of interest.”

Interlock continued to highlight its expanded line of magnetic sash locks offering automatic locking. In addition, it featured a new screen system for wide-opening doors that was also proving to be popular with attendees, according to the company’s Axel Husen.

Also attracting attention was Lawrence Industries. The supplier of injection-molded composite hardware was touting the fact that its sash locks and other components are lead free, providing manufacturers a greener alternative to die cast products. The company’s Brandon Lawrence noted that lead continues to face more public scrutiny, citing the Environmental Protection Agency’s new initiative to require remodelers to be trained and certified before working on older homes where lead paint may have been used. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is also tightening its lead content criteria, he said. “And manufacturers are getting the message,” he continued, pointing to strong growth in demand even during the recent downturn.

While only a handful of companies reported growth in the recent downturn, the strong turnout at GlassBuild suggested window and door manufacturers and industry suppliers are ready to talk about growth again. It may be modest, and it may not be immediate, but the industry may see growth next year, many in Atlanta predicted. Many also suggested that the next GlassBuild America, which moves back to Las Vegas next year, will serve as an important gauge of that growth, and what the long-term holds for the industry. That event is scheduled for September 14-16. More information is available at www.glassbuildamerica.com.
 

Click here to see photos highlighting many of the window and door industry exhibitors in Atlanta.