Volume 27, Issue 5- September/October 2013

Decorative Glass Takes Off
Added Creativity, Technology Drive Spike in Aesthetically-Pleasing Designs

by John Hollis

It’s a process at Goldray Industries that first begins to take its final form when an agreed upon design is printed from the computer directly onto the silkscreen with an opaque black wax.

The screen is then coated with a photo sensitive emulsion and exposed to UV light, allowing for the creation of large, silk-screened patterns, most often repetitive patterns or geometric ones. The UV light hardens the opaque black wax.

It’s into this clear area where the ceramic frit, a fine powder, will be pressed by a mechanical squeegee through all 90,000 holes per square inch of the silkscreen, resulting in a beautiful piece of decorative glass.

That popular method, which is very much similar to screenprinting on a T-shirt, is just one manner in which Goldray, Trulite Glass and Aluminum Solutions, Pulp Studio Inc. and other companies meet a growing demand for aesthetically-pleasing decorative glass.

“The decorative glass business is not a science – it’s an art,” says Bernard Lax, the owner of the Los-Angeles-based Pulp Studio. “It’s like baking. Everybody has flour, sugar and water. The primary elements are there. It’s what you do with them that counts.”

Ceramic Frit Coatings

Ceramic frit coatings are a hot ticket right now because of their cost-effectiveness and durability. Laminated glass has also proven a big hit because of its availability in a wide variety of colors, textures and patterns. It can also be combined during the laminating process to create special effects not possible with monolithic glass panels, writes Connie Cermack, Goldray’s media marketing director, in a recent blog. The company uses a Dip-Tech direct-to-glass printer to apply images to glass, which can then be laminated. The 9-by-12-foot flatbed printer is armed with inkjet printheads and can handle glass up to 19-mm thick.

“Because you can laminate it, it gives architects a lot more design flexibility,” Cermack says.

Other options available at Goldray include two-sided ceramic frit applications, as well as the use of a technographic interlayer frequently used in architectural canopies, ceiling tiles, counter tops, elevator interiors, glass marker boards, interior partitions, signage, stair treads, flooring panels, storefronts and wall cladding.

Other handy products available include glass marker boards. Made by using a coating or interlayer applied to an exposed surface of glass as an opacifier, the glass marker board provides a writable surface.

Two-sided Ceramic Frits
Ceramic frit applications have been around for about 30 years, but two-sided ones are a more recent development, Cermack says. By setting off two patterns on either side of the glass, an illusion of movement is created. This technique has become extremely popular in public art and in retail ranks. The second design is applied by inverting the glass and running through the entire process again so that a second design can be placed on the back of the first. Goldray places its original frit face-down on the rolls, which don’t stick because of a special high-temperature coating the company has developed to make the original baked frit resistant to re-melting.

The silkscreening of both sides of the glass not only gives the illusion of a 3-D dimensional experience, but adds greater flexibility in design possibilities while also immediately captivating its audiences.

Cermack cites the installation of a two-sided ceramic frit at the Louis Vuitton beauty shop on New York’s Madison Avenue as proof of its effectiveness. She noted that intrigued pedestrians regularly stop to observe the beauty of the glass, all the while trying to figure whether it was actually moving or an illusion.

A super-high resolution printed polyester interlayer that’s laminated between two or more pieces of glass, technographic interlayers are perfect for feature walls and public art, says Cermack. Its limitless possibilities in design means it is seeing high demand. The graphic design or artwork that is the basis of the project can be as simple as standard text, a business logo or an elaborate high-resolution photo realistic image, Cermack says.

But the field is hardly wide open to everybody, as each technographic interlayer machine costs nearly $1 million.

Laminated Glass Laminated glass can be found just about anywhere.

Trulite general manager Jon Johnson says his company takes great pride in the high-definition printing and variety it provides its customers, including more than 20,000 available colors.

The company’s line of Visual™ laminated safety glass is not only aesthetically–pleasing and durable, but also resists bacteria and mold, making it attractive to architects. A proprietary company interlayer allows the company to even laminate rice paper machine films, as well as both organic and inorganic images.

“We’ve gotten involved with a variety of projects,” Johnson says.

Pulp Studio also offers specialty glass materials in just about any category, including the Fondo™ glass flooring that can be seen at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Goldray may have taken the decorative glass industry a step further yet, devising a chemical compound that is applied to the film and eventually changes the color of the glass as a person walks around it.

“We have always wanted our buildings to do something,” Cermak says. “We give them these personified characteristics. Now, we’ve created buildings that really create artwork. They’re almost like pieces of artwork.”


Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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