Volume 11, Issue 9 - November/December 2010


10 Years of Innovations
by Tara Taffera

If your company has ever introduced a new product or if you’ve distributed a new product, you know that it takes time for a new innovation to ingrain itself into the market and realize growth. Look at some of the products introduced over the past ten years—many of them are just now getting increased exposure. Read on for a look at the top innovation categories of the past ten years and our predictions on what’s next for these product categories.

1. Energy-Efficient Products
If you read the feature on page 24 about the top stories of the past ten years (see numbers six, seven and ten), you’ll see that there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the rise of this product category. As an example, R-5 products would fall into this product category, and these windows are being driven by the DOE’s R-5 program.

“The demand for high-performing products will only grow in coming years,” says Gary Delman, president of Sunrise Windows, who also participates in the DOE program.

What’s Next: As energy-efficient codes and standards become more stringent and the Energy Star® criteria is tightened as well, suppliers will continue to develop innovative efficient products that will help their customers get where they need to be in terms of energy efficiency. “I hope R-5 becomes the rallying cry for better performing windows,” adds Sunrise’s Mike Mooney.

2. Multi-Point Locks
Hardware companies have been unveiling multi-point locks in increasing numbers in the past few years. David Johnson, patio door business unit manager for Truth Hardware, says that while multi-point lock systems have been around for a number of years, they have become increasingly more popular with the progression of the energy codes, wind zone requirements and the consumer’s demand for greater security.

“Within the segment we are seeing an increasing number of vinyl manufacturers offering hinged patio doors with multi-point locks,” says Johnson. “This trend was clearly evident during the recent GlassBuild show when I had the opportunity to visit with several vinyl manufacturers that will be offering a hinged patio door with multi-point locks for the first time in the coming year.”

What’s Next: “The hinged patio door segment is one of the fastest growing in our industry and that alone will contribute to the growth of multi-point lock systems,” says Johnson. “Outside of the hinged patio doors we are seeing more and more entry door manufacturers using multi-point locks. In Europe, multi-point locks are used in almost every exterior door in the home, we certainly hope to see that trend continue in our market, but with a North American flair.”

3. Glass Walls
The category of opening walls systems have enjoyed significant growth. In September 2007, DWM featured an article on the growth of this product category and at that time Nana Wall Systems reported its sales had gone up more than 50 percent in the past few years, and other suppliers echoed those same sentiments.

What’s Next: If you’ve attended any of the past several International Builders’ Shows you’ll see that this product category is alive and well—whether marketed as wall systems, or lift and slide products. When DWM magazine visited Panda Windows and Doors in September 2010, marketing manager Cooper Buranen reported that the company just introduced its largest lift-and-slide product yet, which is targeted at the high-end market (for more on Panda look to the January-February 2011 issue of DWM).

4. Expanded Color Options
It’s a safe bet for dealers that the window company you do business with just added new color options. Or, for manufacturers, maybe your hardware supplier just added a new finish. And it’s not just what you would think of when it comes to standard colors. If it’s different wood finishes you’re looking for suppliers make that easy as well. American Renolit’s FAST system offers the capability to add wood grains on the interior of vinyl.

From purchasing profiles in a variety of colors to painting them in house, manufacturers have even more options available. At the 2009 GlassBuild America show GED Integrated Solutions offered its ColorTRU decorative foil bonding system, which allows manufacturers the ability to offer unlimited graphic, color and design capabilities. The machine automatically transfers the foil, while heat and pressure bond it to the vinyl profile.

Royal’s John Vucanovich echoes the sentiments that customers are indeed looking for expanded color options.

“We are seeing a clear trend towards expanded color options for vinyl windows and patio doors,” he says. “Homeowners are using color both outside and inside the home, so beyond solid colors we are seeing demand for textures, finishes (for example, metallic) and various wood grains.”

What’s Next: It’s clear that expanded color options will continue to be a focus of suppliers and manufacturers, and, in turn, dealers, will continue to have an expanded color palette from which to draw.

5. Vinyl Window Improvements
It’s almost impossible to talk about the rise of fiberglass, composites, etc., and not talk about innovations that have occurred in the vinyl category. When conducting focus groups for one of its new products, Mikron’s Rich Anton said the company learned valuable insights from its customers regarding vinyl windows.

“From the focus groups, an almost universal impression among the trades was the belief there had been few major innovations in vinyl windows in the past 20 years,” he says. “Beyond vinyl being the lowest cost option, often of varying quality and at the cheap end of the spectrum, right or wrong, the impression was that not much innovation or added value had been designed into vinyl window systems.”

Mikron sought to change that through the introduction of its EnergyCore™ window system (see October DWM, page 38)—and the company isn’t alone. Companies such as VEKA, Royal and Chelsea (see page 38) all have been working to develop innovative products in the vinyl windows category, all of which also are designed to meet the requirements of the Department of Energy’s R-5 program.

What’s Next: The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency is tightening its Energy Star standards. Suppliers in turn are taking the time to create products that will help its customers meet more stringent requirements and help them be successful in the current economy and competitive marketplace.

6. Wood Window and Door Improvements
While it’s no secret that vinyl has dominated the market in terms of overall market share, wood doors and windows continue to be very popular in certain markets. As the vinyl industry has improved its products in the last ten years, Brad Loveless, marketing and product development manager for Simpson Door, says the same is true for the wood industry.
“I think there has been more product innovation in the last decade than in the 90 previous years we’ve been in business,” says Loveless.

Innovations have been made regarding water infiltration as well as wood doors that can better withstand the elements and that in turn offer longer warranties.

What’s Next: Technology will continue to develop and wood will continue to have its place in the door and window industry. Wood also receives recognition in the USGBC’s LEED for Homes program, and wood is often chosen for those participating in LEED projects.

7. Gas-Fill Detection/Fill Products
There has been much discussion in the industry in the past ten years about how to detect, in a non-invasive way, how much argon (or krypton) is in an IG unit. When Finland’s Sparklike introduced its GasGlass device in 2001 it received a lot of interest in the industry. It still hasn’t received widespread use, but it will be interesting to see if that will change now that Edgetech IG announced that it will distribute the device in the United States.

In 2002, DWM devoted a feature article to the subject of argon detection and looked specifically at the GasGlass. At the time some industry experts believed in the product so much that they said it should be placed on the end of every production line so each unit can be tested.

“This is the first practical, non-destructive test method used to determine argon content,” said Jim Plavecsky, vice president of marketing and sales for Edgetech IG, at the time. “It’s the methodology we’ve all been looking for.”

Eight years later and the argon detection device still is getting attention, along with some other related products. While the GasGlass is for argon detection once the unit is filled, the OptiGas gas filling system was introduced in September 2010 for gas-filling of an IG unit, and also is generating buzz. The product was developed by Integrated Automated Systems which reports that it reduces the labor per unit for gas filling by up to 90 percent and krypton loss per fill from 50 percent to essentially zero (see page 39).

What’s Next: With competitive pressures continuing and pricing pressures remaining, products that will help companies maintain consistency and save costs only have room to grow.

8. Fiberglass Products
In 2004, Ducker Research reported that fiberglass accounted for .9 percent of the total windows market. In 2013 it is forecast to comprise 2.9 percent of the market. That’s a 300 percent increase in nine years—a definite growth area and one in which many companies are expanding.

“With vinyl windows, machinery was readily available in Europe for its manufacturing,” says Tom Prince, vice president for SureView fiberglass. “So as the major extruders set up fabricators those customers could buy the machines, then tool them accordingly to manufacture vinyl windows.”

He says for fiberglass windows, though, it isn’t that easy. Another reason he cites for its comparable slower growth is lack of supply from pultruders.

“The key factor is pultrusion capabilities,” says Prince. “The biggest element is that there aren’t many companies who can pultrude thin wall complex profiles.

When it comes to doors, some companies are now offering innovative fiberglass products. At the recent AMD trade show (see page 32), many companies featured fiberglass doors including GlassCraft. The company’s Matthew O’Shea says, “The look has certainly made it possible for companies to look at fiberglass.” Indeed, many fiberglass doors can have the look of a wood door.
What’s Next: There is no doubt that fiberglass door and window products will continue to grow, but a big question is whether or not more regional companies will start making fiberglass windows.

“If you removed several of these challenges [for windows], you would see it growing as much faster pace even though the economy is where it is,” adds Prince.

9. Composites and Other Alternative Materials
Like fiberglass, composites and other alternative materials are catching the eyes of companies that are looking to offer something new to their customers. In 2004, Ducker Research reported that “other” materials constituted .7 percent of the total windows market and forecasts that it will comprise 1.2 percent of the total market in 2013.

It is still a small percentage of the overall market, but growing nonetheless.

What’s Next: Companies aren’t just using composites for their window systems, manufacturers are looking at composites as an option for many of their hardware needs as well and hardware suppliers are offering such products and this category is poised for growth as well.

10. Improvements in Adhesives
Sally Groome, national market manager, window and door products for Adhesives Research Inc., says many advancements have been made including the introduction of glazing tapes that enable manufacturers to achieve higher DP ratings as well as products that help manufacturers become more energy-efficient.

“As manufacturers expand into new materials there is a need to create an adhesive that bonds to low surface-energy materials,” says Groome.

She also says there have been advancements in product testing, including the Z-tensile test and dynamic shear test to help window manufacturers more realistically evaluate SDL tapes by re-creating the actual application forces.

Mark Toth, sales manager for HB Fuller, says while the above products don’t easily lend themselves to automated applications, for those that have added automation there have been significant innovations over the past ten years.

“Glass is made much differently than it was ten or 15 years ago on a grander scale,” says Toth. “A lot of the processes for insulating glass manufacturing have become automated (Sashlite, for example). And many of the sealant suppliers participating in this market have developed products to be adapted to these automated processes such as GED, Edgetech and others.”

Toth says the adhesive upgrades have helped glazing come a long way as well. Gone are the days when you had to wait days to let a window cure. “Quick-cure two-part or hot-applied products make it possible to ship a window within hours,” he says.

What’s Next: Toth says he sees the trend continuing towards even more automation, and not just for the large manufacturers.

“Small to mid-sized companies can also upgrade their productivity with newer equipment being developed along with improvements in hot-applied IG sealants,” he says. “Standards and codes continue to become more demanding, so better quality sealants will be even more in demand.”

“New developments in raw materials, along with adhesives manufacturers’ ever-increasing technical capabilities, will enable us all to offer our customers new technology to build the high performance products today’s homeowners and builders demand,” adds Groome.


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