High Performance and More at Fensterbau/Frontale

March 26, 2012
Meetings & Events

Nuremberg, Germany–Walking through the busy halls of Fensterbau/Frontale, the international trade fair held here last week, would indicate that demand for improved energy efficiency is accelerating in the European window and door industry. Triple glazing and thermally-improved framing systems of all types were evident throughout the booths of profile suppliers and window and door manufacturers exhibiting at the show.

 Windows said to meet "passivhaus" criteria were evident throughout the halls. Veka, below, was showing a prototype high-performance system featuring a fiber-reinforced profile.

See Snapshots from Fensterbau/Frontale for many more photos

More than 100,000 attendees gathered for the event, which from a North American perspective also featured some notable product introductions in finishes, hardware and equipment. Altogether, Fensterbau featured nearly 800 exhibitors from 36 countries. As usual, the event was held in conjunction with Holz-Handwerk, a woodworking trade fair that featured almost 500 exhibitors, including many suppliers to the wood window and door manufacturing industry. 

One of the primary drivers of demand for the triple glazing and other ultra-energy-efficient products on display at the NürnbergMesse would appear to be stringent criteria set forth by Germany’s Passivhaus Institute. Labels and signs for "passivhaus certified" products with extremely low U-values were common.

In the vinyl category, exhibitors were featuring window systems with foam and other insulating materials within the profiles. Additionally, companies were showing alternatives to metal reinforcements, including various composites. Veka AG, for example, was featuring a prototype framing system that not only featured insulating foam, but a fiber-reinforced vinyl profile. It was also showing a system for structurally bonding the glass to the sash profile to create a stronger unit overall and eliminate the need for reinforcements in some cases.

Joe Peilert, president of Veka’s North American operations, reported that the outlook for higher performance “passivhaus” products is considered to be very strong in the European market, although the actual sales are not quite there yet. The demand is coming, but at this point, he suggested, suppliers and manufacturers need to offer such options “to be credible on the energy efficiency front.”

Enhanced framing systems—and passivhaus-certified labels—were not unique to vinyl product exhibitors. Aluminum profile suppliers, as well as window and door manufacturers, were showing a wide variety of enhanced systems, including wide thermal breaks and profiles with multiple struts. Wood window makers and component suppliers were also showing a variety of thermal enhancement options, including profile hollows, foam inserts and composite materials.

Another development evident in the vinyl arena was the launch of several new finish options. Schuco, the large German system supplier was highlighting an “automotive finish” technology. Vinyl laminate suppliers Hornschuch and Renolit were featuring expanded color offerings as well, including new metallic and textured finishes.

These offerings will be particularly helpful for opening up the commercial market to more vinyl products, said Hornschuch’s Marco Petermann. American Renolit’s David Harris agreed, pointing to increased demand for architectural bronze and several other laminate options his firm offers.

 Roto was one of many suppliers featuring hardware for wide opening door systems. Fingerprint reading devices, such as the unit featured in the KFV booth below, were also prevalent at Fensterbau.

The push for energy efficiency with ever more stringent codes is also influencing hardware worldwide, reported Chris Dimou, who heads up Roto Frank of America. A global hardware supplier, Roto is seeing sash and door panel weights increase considerably in Europe as companies look move to more triple glazing. For North American attendees at the show, he suggested that lift/slide and folding hardware geared to larger, heavier panels in wider opening doors was attracting the most attention. Roto’s lift/slide system was enjoying particular success, he noted, because it doesn’t lift up the panel, instead raising the gasket. This makes the handle easier to operate and still allows panels to move easily.

As in North Amerca, wide opening systems lift/slide and folding systems continue to gain momentum in Europe, he noted. That trend was evident in the booths of several hardware suppliers, including Australia’s Brio, which recently opened operations in the U.S. and made its Fensterbau debut this year. Siegenia, represented in the North America, featured a variety of door hardware systems, including an electronically driven system with the sash frame embedded into the floor and header to offer the look of an all-glass system.

Electronically-powered hardware was evident throughout the show. Both suppliers and door manufacturers were featuring fingerprint-activated locking systems in their products. Jon Walker of Yale Door & Window Hardware Solutions, formerly known as Paddock Fabrication, noted that German market is willing to pay significantly more for entry doors, making the cost of the hardware easier to swallow. Based in the UK, his firm was showing a new electronic lock that opened with the entry of a code on a numeric keypad. The battery-powered unit is designed to require no additional wiring. He described as a more affordable option, which should have potential in North America.

Other suppliers were also aiming for self-contained electronics. Roto was showing an experimental tilt/turn hardware package. Powered by a solar panel that would be installed right near the window, it would allow the window sash to open or close with the touch of a button. STG, a supplier of automated hardware for skylights and windows, was showing a similar solar-powered system for motorized skylights. Perhaps even more noteworthy, the company was showing a new motor for electrical operation that fits within the frame profile to provide both automated opening and closing with a much cleaner looking window or skylight unit.

Most of the window hardware at the show is geared toward tilt/turn and other European style products, and often applicable to limited segments of the market in North America.  One technology that could translate easily to products here, however, was an antimicrobial coating featured on handles in the Hoppe booth. The company sees demand for applications such as schools and hospitals, reported Jeff Shehalis of Hoppe North America.  He expressed even more enthusiasm, however, for a broadening line of handle designs, including new cast aluminum options, which he predicts will attract interest in the U.S. market.

New Equipment
One of the biggest draws for North Americans to the German show is equipment. Once again, the event featured two full halls primarily devoted primarily to vinyl and aluminum fabricating equipment, while Holz-Handwerk, the woodworking show Fensterbau is paired with at the NürnbergMesse, featured woodworking equipment throughout most of its halls.

 New technologies to speed vinyl welding were featured by Stürtz, above, and Rotox.

Perhaps most noteworthy of the new technologies on display for the North American window industry were advancements at Stürtz and Rotox booths in vinyl welding technologies. A new high-temperature welding system will significantly reduce weld times for European producers of tilt/turn windows, reported Mike Biffl, from Stürtz’s operation in the U.S. The technology offers potential for North America , he noted, but the company has not yet had an opportunity to examine just how much benefit it will offer with the smaller, thinner profiles used by window and door manufacturers here.

Rotox, meanwhile, was highlighting a new welding head system incorporating CNC technology for much greater precision and speed, in addition to allowing a higher welding temperature. The firm’s Joe Sigmund said the CNC welding heads, now available for North American machines, can increase output of the four-point machines by as much as 20 percent.

Among the other large equipment suppliers at the show, Urban was featuring a variety of new equipment geared to European manufacturers. Much of the emphasis in that market is on reduced handling, reported Mitchell Hackbert, who is with Urban in Canada. As a result, the supplier showcased a system that automatically unloads frame and sash components from the corner cleaner and buffers them in racks to be mated with glass units coming from a similar system. Of note to North American customers, he added, was a new corner cleaning machine with a flexible tooling system that enables to not only clean corners quickly, but perform additional processing requirements.

Stiles Machinery, which distributes a wide variety of woodworking equipment in the U.S., has increased its focus on machinery for the window and door industry in recent years. As a result, it was touting a number of CNC routers and other machines in the Homag booth at this year’s show and also brought a tour group of North American customers to the show.

Stiles is also stepping up its efforts to service not only wood window and door makers, but producers of other types of products, reported the supplier’s Erik Delaney. He said the distributor now plans to offer profile processing lines from Schirmer, another exhibitor at the show.  Its automated equipment is primarily targeted at aluminum and vinyl profiles.

More products on display at this year's show are highlighted on a special Fensterbau Snapshots.  More information about the next event, scheduled for March 26-29, 2014, is available at www.fensterbau.de.