Volume 42, Issue 11 - November 2007

Italian Style
Glass Processing Machinery Manufacturers Strut Their Stuff at the 15th Vitrum in Milan 
by Megan Headley and Charles Cumpston  

Just as Fashion Week wrapped up in Milan, the city known for its style prepared for an equally noteworthy event. Vitrum, held October 3-6, gave glass processing equipment and machinery manufacturers the opportunity to model the latest in design and style. 

Spacious booths spread across four halls in the new FieraMilano exhibition complex in Rho, just outside of Milan. They gave regional and international attendees the opportunity not only to see many products new to the European market but to see them in action. 

Renata Gaffo, the head of GIMAV and the person responsible for putting Vitrum together, said there was no doubt in her mind that the show would be successful in its new venue. “It is 3,000 square meters bigger than [it was] two years ago,” she told USGlass. “The new pavilions are wonderful.” 

The emphasis of the four-day, bi-annual event, of course, was on Italy. Sponsored by GIMAV, the Italian association of glass processing machinery manufacturers, the 2007 Vitrum saw 308 Italian exhibitors, versus 273 from around the world, all of which covered 333,681 square feet of space. 

Approximately 80 percent of the exhibition focused on flat glass, while 8 percent was focused on the hollow glass market and 2 to 3 percent on vacuum coating technology. 

Attendee Sheldon Ciment of Gallery and Framing Products in San Francisco said that he comes to Italy for all the shows. “I come for glass as well as woodworking,” he said. “You see things in Italy that you do not see anywhere else.”

Concentration on Glass Processing
The mammoth booths at Vitrum quickly filled up with attendees and, by the end of the second day of the show, it was difficult to find an exhibitor with two spare minutes to speak. Carlo Strappa of Intermac joked that slow traffic on the first day of the show gave the exhibitors a chance to work out the kinks in their booths. 

Regardless, Intermac had its exhibit running smoothly in no time, with crowds gathering daily to listen to an announcer discussing the addition of an LCR—laser coating removal—tool to its Genius cutting tables. 

“The competitors are using a mill. We are using a laser,” Strappa said. 

Macotec was another company that had new developments in cutting to show off on the show floor. The Strato Advance SX cutting line is able to cut pieces of laminated glass of 20 mm. “It saves a lot of glass during the cutting cycle,” said Lorenzo Filippini. He stressed that the line is fully automatic, which is intended to help improve productivity. “The operator is not to touch, (except) to load the glass,” he said. Lovati had a giant new addition on display—literally. 

The company’s new Giant 83 is the biggest CNC machine on the market. The machine is able to work with lites of glass measuring 8.5 by 3.2 meters. The 5-axis, numerically controlled, automatic machine grinds and polishes the bevels and the edges of shaped glass with internal and external curves, straight edges or mitred corners. Bob Murray with Besana Lovati Inc., who handles the installation of these machines, says that a Giant unit was installed in Germany and has now been running for two years without problems. The company currently is in negotiations to sell a machine to an American company.

According to company president Angelo Lovati, his company is now designing a special machine to move these large lites. “We are now assembling in the factory a machine to move glass of 6 by 3.2 meters,” he said. Once complete, the machine will be able to lift a 1,000-kilogram lite, add a spacer and add a second lite—in less than one minute. 

Besana S.p.A. had a new development as well. The company has turned its drilling machine vertical, reducing the footprint of what was previously only a horizontal workstation. The vertical drill type features the same numerical control system as the horizontal unit, making it familiar for operators who know the original. The unit was not available on the show floor, as the most recently manufactured unit was installed in Portugal only a week ago. The new owner couldn’t wait another week to have it installed, Murray joked. 

Manfred Lesiak of Lisec noted that the tempering line showcased at the recent Atlanta show (see page 44) was also on display in Milan and interested some attendees. The line was designed to produce high-quality tempered glass. 

While some companies took this opportunity to launch new machinery, others introduced upgrades into existing products. Stuart Gill of CMS spent time talking to attendees about the Deltashape vertical CNC edger. Gill agreed that European companies are looking to fill different needs than North American companies. With regards to the Deltashape, Gill said that Italian attendees have shown more interest in the drilling and functionality of the equipment over the polishing processes. 

Denver Glass is another company that is offering the overview of its products at this show, with a goal of something new for next year. Maurizio Scaglia said he plans to have a new 5-axis CNC before this time next year. 

Laminating on Display 
According to Lesiak, the Italian show is “concentrated very much on laminated glass and glass processing.” He noted this focus on the many machines available for working with laminated is because these glass products are “definitely” more popular in Europe than in the United States, and in Italy in particular. Lisec spotlighted a new laminated cutting line at Vitrum. According to Lesiak, the new offering furthers the company’s goal of being a one-stop partner for its customers.

Machinery focusing on laminated glass proved important at the show. For.El has traditionally produced machinery used in manufacturing insulating glass units, such as its automatic SuperSpacer applicator, also on display at Vitrum. However, the company has now launched a complete, new line for producing laminated glass. Crowds gathered daily around a video explaining features of the new line. 

Kera Glass also introduced a laminated line at the show. The KPB line is on the other end of the spectrum from For.El’s, as the smaller machine was designed for companies looking to start producing laminated glass. “The laminated line is very important for us at this moment,” said Francesca Benassi with Kera’s marketing department. 

One advantage of a line such as the KPB, according to the company, is the possibility for producing unique decorative options. Outside of Kera’s booth were displays of photographs laminated between the lites. 

Sharing The News
For some companies, the highlights of the show were as much company news as new products.

“Today is an important day for Glaston,” said Mika Seitovirta, group president and chief executive officer of Glaston Corp. (formerly Kyro) at a press conference held during the show. “We are here with Albat+Wirsam Software in Europe and also it is my pleasure to introduce our new management team.” That new team includes Paolo Ceni, vice president of the pre-processing business area, Topi Saarenhovi, senior vice president of the heat treatment business area, and Gunter Befort, senior vice president of the software solutions business area. 

“In January, we decided on new priorities for the company,” Seitovirta explained. “First was that we be profitable so that we could invest for the future. Second was the integration of our brands (Tamglass, Uniglass, Bavelloni and Albat+Wirsam). Third was to partner with customers and fourth was new management.” 

Seitovirta reported the sales figures for the first six months of the year to back up his case. New orders were up 57 percent over the first six months of the previous year. “We have seen growth particularly in China and the Middle East,” he stated. 

Each member of the new management team then spoke about his segment. C

onti said that he is looking for big growth in the architectural segment of the market. 

Saarenhovi said that the capacity of the processing units is a focus for dealing with the increased time needed for solar control glass. 

Befort said that the demand for comprehensive software solutions is increasing as the software ties the production machinery together in an efficient way. “Software has a very big impact on whether a company is profitable or not because it increases efficiency,” he said. 

Machinery manufacturer Bottero was celebrating 50 years in business, and let the crowds at Vitrum know it.

The celebration of the anniversary began September 8, when 1,200 employees and their families gathered for a party held by the company. On October 2, the day before the trade show began, the festivities moved to Milan, where the company rented an enclosed galleria to hold the 150 sales personnel who were to work in its booth. 

“People came out very happy and ready to sell,” reported Bottero communications manager Marco Antonelli.

In its 50th year the company is still making changes and launching products. One of the recent changes involves the company’s identity. Antonelli says the company is now stressing its identity as a full range company, under the name Bottero Glass Technologies, rather than of each individual division. It is now “two to three divisions working together,” Antonelli said.

Several of the company’s machines also have been redesigned to get one specific look for all the units. This provides unity for the number of different lines available from one company. “We want a family feel between all of the products,” Antonelli said. He noted that the company now aims to be a “full-range” supplier, a theme heard in several other booths on the trade show floor. In addition, the company has launched several new products: drill and mill machines, double-edgers and an automatic cutting line for laminated glass.

Decorative Glass Proves Popular in Europe
In addition to the big machines so prominent on the show floor, Vitrum attendees were able to see examples of glass already processed. In particular, decorative glass was highly visible on the show floor. 

Dekormat-Glass S.L. manufactures screen-printed and color glass. According to Maria Jose Trigueros, commercial director for the Spanish company, it is set to launch a push to increase the sales of its products in the United States, where it is represented by General Glass International.

“Our glass can be tempered, laminated and bent,” Trigueros explained. “It can be used almost like float glass. What sets us apart is the size we are able to produce—240 by 321 cm in thicknesses of 3 to 10 mm.” She added, “We have standard designs, but we can make any color or design.” The glass can be utilized as splashbacks in kitchens, for tables and other pieces of furniture, and interior partitions, as well as floors. 

“The color is in the glass, not in the PVB,” Trigueros explained. This allows a unit to be made with two different colors of glass, one on each side of the interlayer. According to Trigueros, the manufacturing method of color and design in the glass with a neutral interlayer is more economical because the glass is already produced and this also allows for quicker delivery of the product. 

While interior applications seemed to be the most popular use of glass, there are also exterior applications. Trigueros said that the use of decorative glass as a barrier to control highway noise is a very big application in Europe right now. “There are glasses available which can be out in the elements,” she said. 

Glass flooring and stairs dominated the booth of Vitrealspecchi. The Italian company produces acid-etched glass that can be utilized for both interior and exterior applications ranging from curtainwall to ceilings. It supplies the lites of glass in standard sizes, which the glass fabricator can then fashion into the product desired by the customer. 

The focus of its booth was its Madras glass, an acid-etched product that features a special varnishing that makes it anti-scratch and non-slip. “Our product can be tempered and laminated,” explained Taguabug Igor, communication and promotion manager for the company. Isoclima had an eyecatching display. Among its decorative offerings was a glass product that featured a special film with LED lights laminated between the glass lites. Company representatives said that the MagicLite product is particularly popular in creating signs for shops. Both the glass and lights are available in several color choices. 

Tommi Salenius, vice president marketing and business development for the Israeli company Dip Tech, said, “The decorative market continues to move forward in North America.”

The company’s much-viewed digital printer has not yet been purchased in the United States. According to information from the company, the GlassJet is best leveraged for small to medium runs, allowing designers to create colorful, limited editions of their original artwork or glass-printed versions of existing digital designs. More companies are using decorative glass as their business plan and, as they succeed, expect others will see the potential of pursuing this market. Salenius said that he expects to sell a unit in North America this year and, based on interest, may well be in Mexico as “we are talking with a lot of companies there,” he said.

The Italian company Vetreria Val di Vara has an attractive booth filled with examples of the fabric glass it produces. Paolo Catena explained that the company can produce units as large as 1 m 92 cm by nearly 4 m. They consist of two pieces of glass with the interlayer and the fabric, which can be standard or a supplied custom-made material. “If a designer wants to use a custom fabric, they can send a sample and we will test it to see if it can be used,” Catena explained. “The material cannot be too thick or made of two different materials.”

Much decorative glass is produced in Turkey and sold into Europe, as evidenced by the number of exhibitors at Vitrum from that country. Company representatives said they are also eager to sell into the United States market as the demand for decorative glass grows. One example is Dost Cam, which makes glass for all decorative applications. A number of exhibitors at Vitrum were showing attractive sinks, which feature one-part construction with bold glasses simulating stone materials. There was also fused glass, for those specialty applications where it would be appropriate.

The range of products on display would spur the imagination of any designer.

Solar Glass Takes Off 
Merja Gronlund, executive assistant at Glassrobots, the Finnish safety glass equipment supplier, noted that the United States market, where solar control is just taking off, remains a good one for the company. “Solar control glass continues to drive this market segment,” said Gronlund. “There is also a lot happening in the Middle East as well.” Solar control products are particularly popular in Europe right now. In fact, Lesiak predicts that the use of all-glass facades will grow in Europe as these facades become more useful. “More and more people will use facades to get energy,” he noted. 

The Solar Glass Conference 2007 held in conjunction with the Vitrum trade show echoed this. The one-day conference featured presentations on glass usage in photovoltaic units and thermal solar panels, the use of embedded films in solar glass, machinery for the production of glass for use in photovoltaic modules and glass vacuum tubes. It attracted approximately 50 attendees and featured moderators and speakers from various European and Italian academic and governmental research centers including CCR, the European association for scientific research.

In welcoming attendees to the Solar Glass Conference, Angelo Lovati, president of GIMAV, pointed out that solar glass is a good opportunity for Italian glass processing equipment manufacturers “because solar is going to use a lot of glass.” He said that solar power would be more important in Europe than some other parts of the world because of the cost of gas and oil. 

Filling the Vacuum 
Also held in conjunction with the trade show was a two-and-a-half-day Vacuum Tech & Coating Conference, which covered a range of topics including the current state of the European and Italian vacuum industry and market, plasma technologies and applications, and nanotechnologies and applications. Nearly 50 attendees came to listen to the featured moderators and speakers from various European and Italian academic and governmental research centers including IUVSTA, the international association for vacuum science and applications.

For the first time ever there was also a special vacuum technology section on the trade show floor, featuring approximately 115 exhibitors. The Vacuum Tech and Coating Expo (VTE) featured exhibitors of vacuum technology and component suppliers focusing on magnetron cathodes and other high-vacuum coating techniques. Mustang Vacuum Systems in Sarasota, Fla., provides equipment to make solar cells in aluminum molds “or what we call foil,” explained Richard Greenwell, president. “We are just moving into the glass segment and into the European market,” he added. “We have been primarily in Asia and South America, but this has been a terrific show for us.”

Ken Harrison, president of GNB Corp. in Elk Grove, Calif., echoed that sentiment. “There are a significant number of big projects that we would not have known about if we had not been here,” he said. The company makes valves and chambers for coating solar panels to create an airless environment for the coating process. For Vacom, the leads gained at the vacuum section of Vitrum have provided a logical way for the company to expand. The German company, which makes vacuum gauges and controllers, began expanding into international business two or three years ago, said Sabine Hermann, technical sales manager. 

Keeping Busy Until 2009 
Overall, exhibitors seemed pleased with the traffic and transactions occurring on the show floor. John Baxter, who heads up marketing and sales for Glasstech in the United States, reported that traffic had been so brisk in the afternoon of the second day that he could have stayed in the booth past the 6:30 p.m. closing time.

Cinzia Schiatti, who handles marketing for Italian glass fabrication equipment supplier Schiatti Angelo, said Vitrum was successful and that the work has just begun. “We have many good prospects which have to be followed up on,” she said.

Attendees have said arrivederci to Milano for two more years. The next Vitrum will be held October 28-31, 2009, at the FieraMilano. 

Megan Headley and Charles Cumpston are the editor and contributing editor, respectively, for USGlass magazine.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.