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September  2004

The Next Generation of Machinery and Equipment
What’s Driving It? What Has Changed? What are the Technologies? How will it Impact Window and Door Manufacturers?
by Alan B. Goldberg

At two recent association meetings, speakers referred to the need to raise the bar in terms of quality and consistency. Equipment suppliers are responding to fabricators in a number of ways. Automation, which in its early stages replaced simple, manual operations, is taking on a new meaning as sophisticated machinery adds greater efficiency and requires less labor throughout the operation, from glass washing to unit sealing.

Anticipating and Responding to Trends
“New trends are driving the industry and our challenge (as equipment manufacturers) is to anticipate needs and design equipment accordingly,” said John Musser, sales engineer for Billco Manufacturing Inc. 

Musser refers to labor, the trend toward lean manufacturing as a way to identify and eliminate waste, scarce resources (such as water in some parts of the country) and energy conservation as driving forces affecting machinery and equipment suppliers.

“We supply glass optimization and cutting systems, and with each new model, we are designing our units to help the window manufacturers achieve higher throughput and greater reliability,” Musser said. 

By making equipment more sophisticated on one hand and more user-friendly, with touch screens, on the other, the company has developed a product that does not require a high skill level. Its simplicity makes it easy to train people and to operate the equipment. 

“With the addition of sophisticated self diagnostics, the operator is made aware of problems and often told how to solve them. By creating remote interface with our machines, some diagnostics can be done through the Internet, reducing the need for service calls,” added Musser.

With a growing Latino labor force from coast to coast, the company has added Spanish language screens to its equipment. Responding to the need for water conservation, Billco has retrofitted washers with recirculation and filtration systems, so instead of constantly sending water to drain, it can be reused. 

Automation Continues
For Erdman Automation Corp., the next generation is in automated vertical metering systems. Accord-ing to Morgan Donohue, vice president of sales and marketing, the completely vertical servo-control system utilizes the company’s fluid metering technology. He said the unit will allow any operator to apply properly proportioned beads of sealant reliably and consistently. Described as the world’s first vertical glazer, it utilizes half the floor space of horizontal tables and reduces waste up to 85 percent and clean up by as much as 95 percent. 
Many trends are driving the automation of window and door manufacturing, the most significant of which is product consistency, according to Abe Diehl, director of sales and marketing for Joseph Machine Co.

“This drive toward consistency is coupled with growing complexities in product design, which can hinder the manufacturing process,” he said. 

As an example, Diehl refers to the trend to utilize an integral mullion to combine multiple windows.

“Where this has improved the window’s appearance and eliminated the need for the distributor or contractor to assemble multiple windows together, the design has, at times, proven to be problematic to consistently produce,” he added. 

Diehl said the company started providing equipment that allows the manufacturer to fabricate the assembly holes during the extrusion’s cutting process automatically, which simplifies the fabrication process and ensures the mullion’s proper alignment. 

GED has introduced what it refers to as a “revolutionary glass cutting and edge deletion system.” According to Pete Chojnacki, director of marketing and information technology, it combines a “unique dual-bridge design with simultaneous synchronized cutting and deletion of low-E glass to provide the industry’s fastest cycle times.” He said the system has more than doubled the speed of deletion and it has increased cutting speeds by more than 50 percent. Fabricators can decrease damage to low-E glass while maintaining a high level of productivity. The system also offers an option between selecting traditional cutting and deletion systems that are slower and faster than hand deletion tables, which tend to increase scratching of low-E glass, according to Chojnacki.

Taking automation to another level with systems that have been modified is part of the transition to the next generation.

For Truseal Technologies Inc., this is a redesign of its existing system which reduces fabricators’ production cycle times, improving units per man-hour significantly.

“Insulating glass fabricators using automated production equipment rely on systems to provide labor and capital efficiencies by minimizing labor costs and increasing productivity. (Ours) can match a manufacturer’s growth demand in a building block fashion, in low capital increments,” said Ric Jackson, director of marketing.

In a recent announcement, it was reported that the system—described as the next generation of totally automated IG assembly and application equipment—will help fabricators increase productivity by 25 percent. 

“Unlike others, which only automate the movement of glass or assemble the spacer, (this one) incorporates parallel processing of glass to increase throughput while placing flexible spacers directly onto each lite of glass,” added Pat Kreider, advertising specialist. 

The goal of Spadix Technologies Inc. is to have a fully automated system in place within nine months.

“We’re building an automated (Edgetech) Super Spacer line from the glass washer to the automated spacer application to manual grid inserting to automatic glass matching and automatic sealing. The goal is to realistically be able to produce 1,000 IG units with two-three people in an eight-hour shift,” said Al Simone, president. 
Forel is also working on an automated line using Super Spacer. 

“The new system will be integrated with existing automated lines. We see many attractive benefits, particularly, reducing man-hours. Automation means less handling of the glass, which from a safety and quality standpoint, is a key feature,” said John McKeegan, sales engineer, for International Fenestration Compo-nents, a distributor for Forel.

At Edgetech IG Inc., new developments to the Super Spacer line will provide greater flexibility.

“We are coming out with a T-shaped foam spacer that can come with pre-applied PIB (polyisobutylene primary seal) or the PIB and silicone can be automatically applied via machinery,” said Erin Johnson, marketing director.
Developed to accept a butyl primary seal as well as a silicone secondary seal, the new Super Spacer TriSeal provides the maximum in perimeter insulation. From a manufacturing standpoint, it will improve productivity because of faster spacer application, no spacer bending, no desiccant filling and no corner key assembly, to give high volume production with a smaller labor force. 

“Our new Triseal product allows us to compete in the captured glazed commercial and structural glazed IG markets where we presently have limited penetration,” said Larry Johnson, executive vice president of Edgetech. “We are very excited about the possibility of having multiple equipment options for our customers. Most of these vertical and horizontal options will be complete by year end.”

New Technologies
Following successful trial runs, new technologies are replacing conventional manufacturing techniques. Characterized by partnerships of manufacturers and specially-designed equipment, these technologies provide IG fabricators with fully-integrated systems that combine the expertise of multiple companies. 

Take for example the Intra System developed by Intra Product Development. (This new technology was previewed at the iGm/FW show in 2003 and DWM reported on this equipment in its January-February issue on page 56). It has been described by partners Stephen Field and Michael Glover as a rapid means of joining thermoplastic profiles. What is behind the innovation is an integration of new materials, components and processes from an international partnership of companies. The key benefit to window manufacturers is the opportunity to eliminate fabrication, labor and other operating costs that go with it, according to Field. At the heart of the system is a corner key/web, he said. What makes the system different is the uniqueness of three technologies involving friction welding, fusion welding and a casement hardware system.

For Bystronic Inc., one of the partners and supplier of a robotic sealant applicator and twin-headed frame sealer, the Intra System is the next generation. 

“A vinyl frame is welded around an IG unit, the assembled unit is then automatically glazed, forming a structurally strong window sash with a relatively thin frame. The beauty of the new four-corner welder (supplied by Sturtz, another partner), is that no further cleaning or other treatment is required. The result is a clean, strong window that’s built automatically in just seconds,” said Marcel Bally, Bystronic’s director of marketing. 

Another new technology, also described as innovative, is Sashlite, developed by Sashlite LLC (See Jan-Feb DWM 2004, page 33) with development partners to offer a total system. 

“We’ve streamlined the entire manufacturing process, taking spacer and insulating glass and bringing everything to the sash,” said John France, vice president. 

“We had two profiles available at the outset of the Sashlite introduction. Today, there are profiles for patio doors, casement windows, a slider and a double-hung window with additional double hung profiles to be introduced throughout the remainder of the year and more designs underway,” added Bob Hornung, president.
The next generation of equipment and machinery is but a work in progress. New products have recently been introduced. Others will make their debut at upcoming trade shows. And for window and door manufacturers, the options to increase automation, reduce labor, add efficiency and consistently produce a higher-quality product provide many opportunities to raise the bar. 

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