GlassBuild Proves to Be Big Event Once Again

By John Swanson
September 12, 2007
Meetings & Events

Continued strength in the commercial market and an influx of international exhibitors helped GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door Expo set new records in September. Window and door manufacturers made their way to the Atlanta event as well, despite weak demand in the residential market, with many focused on finding new options to add to their lines and opportunities to lower manufacturing costs.

Exceeding expectations, about 9,500 glass and window and door industry professionals came to the Georgia World Congress Center for the three-day show, according to the National Glass Association, the event organizer (and publisher of Window & Door). “We saw a boost in attendance from glass dealers and distributors and contract glazing companies, while the residential window and door dealer and manufacturer numbers held steady with previous years, even with the challenging market conditions in that segment,” says Denise Sheehan, vice president of industry events for NGA. “The attendance overall exceeded our original estimates and that was a very pleasant surprise.”

The largest event in GlassBuild history, the show floor featured an all-time high of 537 exhibiting companies. That total included 160 international exhibitors and 130 first-time exhibiting companies, both record highs. More than 50 countries were represented around the aisles, with traditionally large contingents from Germany and Italy joined this year by a growing number of Chinese firms. Also noteworthy within the window and door segment were several equipment suppliers from Turkey, which made their debut this year.

EQUIPMENT
Given today’s market, not many window and door manufacturers may be ready to make big investments in new machines, but still a sizeable number of fabricators were looking at the equipment on display in Atlanta. Window equipment suppliers at the show reported buyers are looking for ways to come out of the current slump better positioned to grow, with needs ranging from simple machines like saws to more complex automated equipment aimed to increase productivity.

Carlson Systems, Stürtz Machinery, Urban Machinery, Elumatec, Atech, Billco, Lisec and other suppliers on the floor opted to bring some of their simpler machinery, noting that customers are looking to replace basic equipment like saws, sealant applicators and IG production pieces on the heels of years of high output during the housing boom of 2004 and 2005. For those seeking technological advances, the suppliers brought more automated options as well.

The baseline models are attractive for those who are looking to enter the market, said Wes Schneekloth, Carlson’s regional sales manager. “While the market is slow, some people are trying to break into the business so they’re looking for start-up equipment.”

Still, sluggish market or not, the industry continues to move into the future when it comes to automation and technology, said Kevin Schrock, national sales team manager for Elumatec USA. “The industry as a whole is coming around to more and more automation,” he said. “For a long time, we’d just throw more people at a problem. Now, with wages, insurance and difficulty in hiring, [producers] have decided to spend money on machines.”

Stürtz Machinery dedicated a significant portion of its booth to a double set-up of its compact welding and cleaning line for sash. Two of these machines set up as mirror images of each other are configured to be loaded by a single operator with minimal movement. The goal is to produce more frames more consistently, said the company’s Mike Biffl. “This technology provides precision,” he notes. “For customers looking for more automation, this gives them the quality they’re looking for.”

For those companies that have slowed down, some are taking the breather period as an opportunity to clean house and replace tired equipment. “Because production is slow, [manufacturers] actually have the time to replace equipment without bottlenecks,” Carlson’s Schneekloth noted.

Atech Machine used GlassBuild to tout its new relationship with Turkish equipment producer Murat Machine—featuring an automated four-point welder in its booth. As its customer base grows, Atech wants to be able to meet their expanding needs, says Murat Cil, vice president. “We are adding the new upscale equipment to capture some of the market at the high end,” he continued. “We started with traditional equipment, but as our customers grow, they might want a four-point welder and a higher technological level.”

Automated IG lines continue to be in big demand as more companies adopt warm-edge spacer technology, according to Edgetech IG’s Larry Johnson. The company wasn’t showcasing lines in its own booth, but could point to several equipment manufacturers on the floor with automated Super Spacer application lines on display, including Bystronic, Forel and Lisec. In addition to its core competencies in warm edge technology, Edgetech also showed its Eco Coat glass and window protection product, E-Z Rad muntin starburst station, and Form8tor vinyl bending machine.

Truseal Technologies highlighted the energy efficiency focus of its Dura platform, touting a new “Envirosealed Windows” logo and marketing campaign for manufacturers that use the Duraseal system. Rather than number crunching U-values and R-values, the Envirosealed initiative focuses on the reduction of carbon dioxide outputs, and in particular, how windows can contribute to increased efficiency. “In this business environment, customers are really looking to tell a story to their dealers that’s simple, clear and has an impact,” said Gus Coppola, president. “When the playing field is leveled, people are looking for different ways to get to the next higher level.”

Supporting Truseal’s program, as well as other flexible spacer systems, Lisec’s display included in its floorplan a compact version of its flexible IG spacer line, targeting smaller customers looking to pick up a warm edge spacer applicator that claims a smaller footprint in the factory.

Haeco highlighted its new Versa-Glaze 1500, which uses linear servo controls to consistently provide a uniform bead of sealant as the operator slides the profile along a smooth-top table. “What this allows, especially for people getting into wet glazing, is that they can do it at a low cost,” explained Brandon Rediger, marketing manager. “It also allows for consistent application on specialty shapes, which is a really unique niche.”

Billco Manufacturing featured a prototype of its new Titan glass washer, scheduled to make it to the market in the first quarter of next year. Representing a complete re-design of the company’s washer, the model was engineered with easy maintenance in mind, including features like stainless steel panels, individual brush motors for improved part life, and quick-change plastic bearings. “Pretty much everything in there is designed for maintenance,” said Billco’s Danielle Allemang.

Bystronic and Lisec demonstrated their automated warm-edge IG lines, as well as other glass processing equipment.

“It’s still very good for us to show our capabilities for the IG sector,” said Manfred Lesiak, Lisec’s marketing and event manager. Its compact applicator is designed to work with various products. “For sure, the demand is growing,” he noted, pointing to flexible warm edge spacer systems from suppliers like Edgetech and Truseal.

Aside from replacing necessary equipment, suppliers are reporting that customers are looking also to upgrade their production capabilities in an effort to reduce costs. With pinched sales, cost-saving equipment can offset some of the effects of the current environment, said Rick Wilson, product line manager for Winpro. “We’re seeing more and more people making their own screens, muntins and even vinyl stiffeners,” he reported. “There’s a lot of interest in the industry, especially among the bigger manufacturers, to bring these processes in-house.”

GED Integrated Solutions focused on ways for manufacturers to stand out in the current crowd, highlighting its new SmartWeld i-3 line for vinyl frames and NxWare Look-Ahead glass optimization software as part of its i3 equipment system. As some manufacturers are holding back on big-dollar equipment purchases, features like the look-ahead technology, and the savings it brings, make it easier to justify the investment. “People are looking for something to give them a leg up in this market,” said GED’s Pete Chojnacki.

Carlson displayed in its booth primarily foreign-made equipment, hoping to convey to attendees that American-designed, Chinese-made machinery carries with it cost benefits. “For the longest time, everything we heard from the industry is that Chinese equipment is inferior,” explained Schneekloth. “The reason we’re doing this is because it’s American-designed and we’re showing them that it’s rugged, durable. It’s heavy duty, just like American-made equipment, but it’s made overseas.”

Other American and foreign producers from Italy, Germany, and this year Turkey, also talked up their national and international pride, noting that domestic headquarters provide customers with the service and support they would expect.

VINYL PRODUCTS
GlassBuild featured a wide variety of new product introductions—one of the most unique being the WISP (window integrated storm protection) system developed by vinyl extruder Veka Inc. and garage door maker Wayne Dalton. An alternative to impact windows, the system combines a standard vinyl window installed into a vinyl receptor, which incorporates a Wayne-Dalton’s impact-resistant Fabric Shield that rolls up into the receptor frame when not in use. Said to be cost competitive with impact windows, the system provides a higher level of water resistance under storm conditions, explained Veka’s Steve Dillon.
The system can be operated manually, but is also available with electronic features to operate via remote or even the Internet, noted Fred Higgins of Wayne-Dalton. The technology, adapted from electronic systems developed for the firm’s garage door openers, enables people to operate the shutters and prepare for a storm, even if they don’t live full-time in a home.

The show featured several other vinyl extruders with new products. Deceuninck North America was showing its latest generation impact window design. The company’s Phil Morton reported increasing demand from fabricators for such products. Code requirements are one reason, he noted, but a number of vinyl window makers see growth opportunities in selling higher performance and new capabilities for sound control and enhanced security.

Mikron Industries used the show to highlight color capabilities for its vinyl products, but also featured a new replacement version of its composite window design. Also targeting vinyl fabricators was Royal Mouldings, which was featuring several new trim packages designed to create a variety of enhanced looks on windows. Royal’s Kaye Evans said the complete packages make it simpler for fabricators to offer these upsell options.

HARDWARE
As usual, the show produced a number of hardware introductions. Interlock, once based in New Zealand but now headquartered in the U.S., has been developing custom hardware for a number of here. It made its North American show debut featuring a new automatic lock incorporating a magnet to engage automatically, even when the window isn’t closed in a perfectly aligned position, according to the supplier’s Steve Gledhill. The lock, which can be used in hung and slider windows, is also unique in that it is placed not on the top of the sash rail, but on the vertical face.

Automatic sash locks continue to attract interest from more vinyl window manufacturers, said Dan Gray of Roto Frank of America, which was also showing a new automatic sash lock. It’s a feature that consumers see a real benefit to, he noted. “They know how often they close the window and then forget to lock it.” Other suppliers showcasing new automatic sash locks included Ultra Hardware and Vision Industries.

Coming from England, Mighton Products was showing a number of new products targeted at high-end wood window manufacturers. Designed to provide higher security and enhanced energy performance in a traditional wood look, the supplier’s EcoTilt system conceals non-wood parts and provides full tilt functionality. The company has found a niche in the North American market already with its Fenestrator, noted the firm’s Richard Papa. Targeted at seniors and others that may have a hard time opening a hung window, the hardware provides an option to add a crank operator to wood, aluminum and vinyl products.

Ashland Hardware Systems and Truth Hardware continued to promote their hung window systems combining locking and tilt latching operations through the sash lock. Ashland also displayed a new casement hardware system designed to provide higher water resistance with a watertight, O-ring seal technology integrated within the operator. The new system’s multipoint lock is designed to provide better pull-in of the sash when closing the window. Truth was featuring a new finish offering the popular look of oil-rubbed bronze at a lower cost.

OTHER PRODUCTS
Preferred Engineering Products continues to expand its line of retractable screen products and window hardware, highlighting new window designs that not only incorporate retractable insect screens, but also retractable solar screens. A third option is a retractable blackout fabric, where further light control might be desired. One of the company’s customers is already selling the solar screen product in the Texas market where it is being well received by homeowners, reported Preferred’s David Goldenberg.

Manufacturers had an opportunity to review several new software products in Atlanta. FeneTech was showing its new WebCenter, a standalone online sales package for window manufacturers. “The start of FeneVision was on the shop floor,” said Ron Crowl, president. “Now we’re extending it all the way through the supply chain.”

WTS Paradigm promoted its new TrackPoint software module integrating with inventory and materials management with the company’s CenterPoint and MasterPoint applications. The system tracks materials across multiple locations with support for item transfers, material labeling, purchase order creation and forecasting.

TDCI was showing the recently released BuyDesign Version 5.0, designed to make the quoting process even faster, and incorporating some aesthetic improvements. Also on display was its new visual selling system developed for Therma-Tru Doors, designed to allow consumers to look at various styles and options in a variety of home types and styles.

In the Wakefield Equipment booth, software developer Opticut Technologies was demonstrating a new system designed to ease the grid fabrication process. It consists of a special projector placed above a table that takes the computer drawing from a window order and projects the grid pattern down onto the table to scale.
New exhibitors with new products at the Atlanta show included Plastic Technology, which showed its InnoFoam, an extruded polyethylene product designed as an alternative to corrugated cardboard in packaging windows and doors. Texas-based Luna Piena came to show its new TableauxIG, a decorative composite material offering the look of wrought iron at a significantly lighter weight.

Serving the entire flat glass industry, GlassBuild America featured a wide variety of other products and equipment. Commercial window manufacturers, such as Efco, Kawneer, Quaker and Traco were well represented, as were numerous suppliers of architectural glass, such as Viracon and Oldcastle. AFG Glass came to the show under its new AGC corporate banner. Looking around the aisles, one of the more interesting glass products on display was from Moag Glass & Mirror, which featured a large piece of glass with a video display built into it.  
As noted, there was a large influx of first-time Chinese exhibitors at the event. Among these companies were a few suppliers of window and door industry products, including screens, hardware and door slabs, but the majority appeared to be targeting the architectural glass market. A handful also featured glass fabricating equipment.

In addition to the trade show floor, the show featured daylong educational forums, seminars, live demonstrations, the debut of the Auto Glass Pavilion, and an appearance by NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace. A special Microsoft truck offered attendees a look at the software provider’s latest products also.

Window & Door will feature a Best of GlassBuild America report in our November issue, highlighting some of the most noteworthy introductions at the show.   For more detailed GlassBuild product coverage, visit www.windowanddoor.com.

Next year, GlassBuild America is scheduled for October 6-8, when it returns to Las Vegas. More information is available at www.GlassBuildAmerica.com.