Volume 38, Issue 8, August 2003

Discovering Decorative Glass
Thermocast glass from Think Glass is custom made for each customer.
    Decorative Glass Specialists Discuss New Products and 
the State of the Industry

by David Jenkins

In recent years, glass has become increasingly attractive as a durable construction material, an aesthetically appealing canvas for art, or, in the case of decorative glass— both.

“Architects and designers are using glass more and more in exciting, creative ways,” said David S. Cordrey, SentryGlas® Expressions™ business manager for DuPont of Wilmington, Del. “Glass opens up spaces and allows light to enter, creating inviting environments.”

Greg Saroka, president of Goldray of Alberta, Canada, stresses the numerous criteria that architects, designers and consumers look for in a material—criteria that decorative glass meets with flying, brightly lit colors.

“Everyone wants a product that is highly durable, low-maintenance, has great design flexibility and can be produced within the budget,” Saroka said. “Glass is a very durable and cost-effective product that lends itself to a variety of applications. Often, glass makes more sense than a more traditional product like painted dry wall or plastic laminates.”

When asked why a consumer would opt to purchase decorative glass instead of an alternative, Jaime Flatekval, director of marketing for Joel Berman Glass Studio of Vancouver, British Columbia, had a multitude of reasons.

“Decorative glass not only creates privacy and adds texture and diffused light into any room, but is also easy to maintain, does not show fingerprints, has the unique ability to separate space while sharing light and adds decorative accents in residential, hospitality and commercial environments. In addition, decorative glass can be used as a design detail or structural element in construction for interior and exterior applications.

“Most of all, decorative glass is engaging—people want to touch and interact with glass,” Flatekval added.

Left: Joel Berman Glass Studio recently introduced its Echo Edition decorative glass. The main attraction of glass has always been its ability to infuse a room with natural light; decorative glass, through its textures and patterns, adds the benefit of privacy.

“Designs are necessitating more light and more space, and decorative glass can meet these goals while retaining a sense of intimacy and privacy,” said Bertrand Charest, president of Think Glass of Montreal.

Deborah Newmark, creative director for Chicago-based Skyline Design, agreed with Charest.

“Glass is ideal for conference rooms because the patterns can provide privacy while still letting in light,” she said.

Such versatility gives designers and architects new options, allowing them to move forward with projects infeasible with other materials. 

“The market is growing because of the creativity that glass offers architects and designers,” said Kris Vockler, marketing manager for ICD High Performance Coatings of Vancouver, Wash. “Glass is a great medium with which to work and offers many applications for designers to play with.”

Vockler added that since the decorative glass market is relatively young in comparison to those of more traditional materials, it is conducive to fresh faces and new ideas.

“The decorative glass market is a transient market, meaning there are new designers, new products, and new ideas every day. There is a ton of ebb and flow of what is desired in the art glass market. Mostly I think this is due to the highly creative aspect of creating art glass,” she said.

Since glass already possesses a natural beauty unmatched by most building materials, it makes sense that as technology continues to grow, decorative glass will become an even more attractive option.

“Computer-aided graphics allow us to generate artwork that previously could not be transferred to glass,” said Saroka. “The traditional way of transferring art to glass was by using silk-screened ceramic frits or sandblasting the design onto the glass. Now, images can be computer-generated and applied directly onto the glass, eliminating the need for stencils or expensive silk screens.”

Although the use of computer-generated graphics may sound expensive, Saroka said this is not the case.

“Though this process costs more per square foot, there are great savings when set-up costs, screen costs and multiple color print costs are eliminated,” he said. As new ideas and technological capabilities continue to increase, decorative glass will be utilized in more ways.

Dupont SentryGlas® Expressions™
Dupont’s SentryGlas® Expressions™ can be used in a variety of applications. “If you can print it, DuPont can put it into glass,” said Cordrey in regard to SentryGlas Expressions, his company’s new decorative interlayer. “With Expressions, glass can be customized, allowing the designer to develop his own creative ideas in glass versus using stock products.”

According to Cordrey, common production challenges for decorative glass include achieving vibrant color, outstanding image quality, durability and protection in a customizable, easy-to-use product. With Expressions, DuPont has tried to accommodate the needs of all involved in the process—including the architect, designer, building owner and laminator—to ensure the satisfaction of the end user.

Digitally printed in full-color with a high definition ink jet and PVB interlayer technology, Expressions is designed to reduce design-to-production time, while increasing flexibility in image customization and continuous tone control.

“Designers can develop the atmosphere and look they want easily and quickly,” said Cordrey. “Architects, designers and clients are no longer limited to stock patterns and colors.”

Such versatility is made possible by the Expressions technology, which enables textures, company logos and images to be incorporated into a range of architectural glass applications such as entry doors, overhead glazing, balustrades and office partitions.

Indeed, the thrust of the Expressions line is to get customers “from idea to glass” as fast as possible. First, laminators, architects and designers send their original artwork to DuPont as transparencies or high-resolution graphics made with software such as Photoshop, Illustrator or Quark Express. Next, DuPont prints the proofs, which are then sent back to the customer for approval. Following approval, a digitally printed interlayer is shipped to the glass laminator according to the customer’s functional specifications.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, Cordrey also noted that Expressions retains the numerous benefits of laminated glass, such as weatherability and solar and thermal control.

“Because SentryGlas Expressions is a laminated, decorative product, it gives the end user increased security, noise reduction and ultraviolet protection. Compared to screen-printing alternatives, this technology has a economic advantage for small to mid-sized jobs.”

Although Cordrey says Expressions poses no installation challenges any different from standard laminated glass, he did note special attention might be required for projects where registration and alignment of multiple glass panels is specified.

To laminate Expressions, the following criteria must be met. “The architect or designer needs to create a high-resolution electronic file of the design, pattern or image they want in glass,” Cordrey said. “DuPont uses advanced proprietary inks, special interlayers and a special print platform to develop the decorative designs. The glass manufacturer needs a glass laminating line set up to run polyvinyl butyral interlayers.”

The printed interlayer can be purchased from DuPont through a qualified SentryGlas Expressions laminator. The Expressions interlayer is express shipped to the laminator, with the typical cycle time being around one month.

Berman Glass Echo Editions
“With Echo Editions, we want to dispel the myth that designed glass has to be expensive and involve long wait times,” said Joel Berman about his company’s new line of decorative glass.

Developed using a modern machine-made processing technique that pressure forms various textured patterns with exclusive Joel Berman molds, Echo Editions decorative glass marries high-quality design aesthetics with costs more common to lower-quality products.

“The decorative glass market currently is made up of low-cost, machine-made glass and premium kiln-cast glass,” said Flatekval. “The new Echo Editions pressure-formed glass is in a new category of glass that has the premium design quality of Berman’s kiln-cast glass, but is made with a machine-made process to keep the cost down and increase the availability to the end user.”

Created with builders, architects and designers in mind, Echo Editions glass is ideal for ceiling panels, counter tops, doors, windows, shower enclosures and divider walls.

Echo Editions decorative glass is available in panels of up to 80 by 132 inches, and in thicknesses of ¼, 5/16 and 3/8 inches. According to the company, cast glass textures and designs such as linear grande rake and organic pietra will be available in Echo Editions.

“One of the biggest installation challenges is ensuring that there is pattern alignment in the texture. Some installations require several panels to be framed or button-jointed together. Otherwise, the glass is installed just like regular clear glass,” added Flatekval.

ICD Coatings
“We have two product lines that we are excited about for art glass needs,” said Vockler, in reference to Opaci-Coat-300 and Aqua-Vue, ICD’s two new lines.

ICD’s high-performance coatings offer numerous design possibilities. ICD’s high-performance coatings offer numerous design possibilities. ICD’s high-performance coatings offer numerous design possibilities.

According to Vockler, Opaci-Coat-300, a silicone spandrel coating, is applied without heat at the final stage of the glass spandrel fabrication process, meaning that it can be used effectively with annealed, heat-strengthened, fully tempered, clear or high-performance reflective products. In addition, tinted or reflective colors can be matched to eliminate any banding effect.

“Due to the fact that Opaci-Coat-300 is a cold-applied elastomeric material, we can use a wide range of special-effect reflective pigments to give metallic looks as well as a deep appearance to slumped glass and wall-cladding applications,” explained Vockler. “Since Opaci-Coat is water-based and uses non-hazardous pigments, these appearances will also provide safety from the elastomeric nature as well as being acceptable for green buildings.”

Aqua-Vue is a water-based coating that bonds chemically to glass, eliminating the need for high-temperature baking and allowing for the use of specialty pigments. Vockler said Aqua-Vue is a UV-, temperature- and solvent-resistant coating that will not fade or yellow under direct sunlight.

“The Aqua-Vue line can be sold to temperers for dot patterns for shading needs or partitions and wall cladding,” said Vockler. “Aqua-Vue can be screen-printed, sprayed or roller-coater-applied, making it marketable to a full range of glass artisans. Also, since Aqua-Vue is a cold-applied coating, we are able to use high-grade UV-stable pigments in amazing colors and effects.”
Both Opaci-Coat-300 and Aqua-Vue can be used on standard float glass, pyrolytic glass, high-performance glass, slumped glass, wall cladding, spandrel and art glass of any shape that supports a sprayed coating.

When asked about the style varieties of the new lines, Vockler said, “We can use all types of reflective mica pigments, as well as a full range of UV-stable pigments. Anywhere from frost and sandblast looks, tinted color frosts to solid colors, sparkle colors and metal-appearance colors.”

Those interested in Opaci-Coat-300 work with an approved factory fabricator (AFF), from which the finished glass can be ordered directly. Acque-Vue is available through ICD directly.

Skyline Design FotoGlas
“Decorative glass not only brings light into a space, but also has a positive effect on people and works well with contemporary materials,” said Newmark. In particular, Newmark is excited about FotoGlas, which allows photographic images to be transferred onto glass.

“With FotoGlass, we can transfer any type of photo onto glass via a sandblasting process that keeps costs down,” said Newmark.

Skyline Design’s FotoGlas allows photographic images to be transferred to glass.
By utilizing this process, Newmark says that artists can attain a detailed image that is etched into the glass permanently. 

“Our biggest challenge with FotoGlas is actually getting large, high-contrast artwork,” said Newmark. “Since we can produce FotoGlas in sizes up to 56 by 124 inches, finding artwork of that size can be difficult.”

With installation similar to any other glass product, Skyline Design FotoGlas can be ordered by phone or through the company’s website. The product is crated and shipped via common carrier, with delivery time usually taking between three to six weeks.

Think Glass Thermocast Glass
“There are an endless number of applications now possible with thermocast glass,” said Charest. “We can now texture glass with an infinite number of patterns, from artistic masterpieces to geometric minimalism.”

According to Charest, Think Glass makes the product by putting glass sheets on top of custom molds and heating them at temperatures of up to 1500° Fahrenheit.

“The style varieties are infinite because, unlike most cast glass companies, we do not use a predetermined set of patterns and molds,” said Charest. “Consequently, every mold is made to produce a unique piece, and, surprisingly, this process is more cost-effective than traditional methods.”

Although one would think the customizable quality of thermocast glass would provide Think Glass with a new headache for every new, completely unique product, Charest said such is not the case.
“Since everything is custom, each new piece becomes a challenge because every project needs a new production reflection,” said Charest. “However, the innovative nature of our products puts us one step ahead of the competition. We feel that we can do everything that other decorative glass makers can do, but they can’t do what we do.”

Think Glass’s thermocast glass is available in thicknesses ranging from 1/8 to 12 inches, and, according to Charest, can be installed like any other flat glass. 

• Dupont SentryGlas Expressions: visit www.dupont.com/safetyglass/expressions.html or call 800/438-7225.

• Berman Glass Echo Editions: visit www.jbermanglass.com or call 888/505-4527.

• ICD High Performance Opaci-Coat-300 and Aqua-Vue: visit www.icdcoatings.com or call 360/546-2286.

• Skyline Design FotoGlas: visit www.skydesign.com or call 773/278-4660.

• Think Glass Thermocast Glass: visit www.thinkglass.com or call 514/325-0062.


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