Volume 45, Issue 9 - September 2010


Scratching the Surface
Scratch Removal Systems Are Saving Glass and Money
by Katie Hodge

The Four Seasons Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wy., had a problem. The windows, which presented a beautiful view of the Teton Mountains, were being ruined by scratches that occurred during the construction process. A few decades ago, finding a scratch on a lite of glass was a huge problem. With recent technology and new equipment, however, glazing contractors—as well as manufacturers and fabricators—no longer find that scratches spell disaster. Several companies are providing equipment that can fix a scratch to distortion-free criteria and that’s just what happened in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming.


Shiloh Spoo, vice president of Bend, Ore.-based GlasWeld, said that the need was certainly there for the development of their scratch removal system, Gforce. Glass companies such as Guardian Glass and Cardinal Corp. were in need of a solution this to take care of scratches during the glass manufacturing process.

“They started recommending us to their window manufacturer customers,” says Spoo. “We came to realize how much of a need there was for not just a piece of equipment, but a solution [to damaged glass].”

Kerry Wanstrath, president of Glass Technology located in Durango, Colo., recalls the difference new technology has made.

“In 2000, we developed different technology than previously used for decades. We developed this system that used a series of discs that have a level of aggression that is very carefully controlled.”

Companies such as GlasWeld and Glass Technology among others often offer training so that fabricators can learn how to make the most of the equipment needed to clean up glass that suffers an accidental scratch during the production process.

Wanstrath says, “You have to be consistent with how you do the process. The methodology or process has to be done a certain way. If you don’t do it you don’t get the same results. We found that just giving them the tools and sending them on their merry way was not very successful. We almost insist that someone receive training.”

That training can be provided in a number of ways for the convenience of the manufacturer.

“We have DVDs that are fairly detailed now,” Wanstrath says. “We also have in-house training, for those willing to send someone to us for a couple of days, on how to use the equipment.”

For training on using this scratch technology, some new computer technology has proved helpful.

“We also have, which has been very well received in the last two years, training via live Skype,” adds Wanstrath. “We have a very good system using a laptop and a high-quality digital camera that we can broadcast through skype. It’s live so the trainer can say, ‘no you’re not doing it right.’ It really saves our customers thousands of dollars in travel expenses and time.”

Spoo adds, “We work with them [manufacturers] to develop a plan to integrate our system into their production line.”

Making the process run more smoothly is a must.

“We look at the plant scheme [of a manufacturer] and help them figure out how to reduce waste, etc.,” says Spoo. “When we go in and do hands-on training, we look at their manufacturing and look at the best place to set up the Gforce. We’re not stopping the whole production flow to move a piece of glass.”

Taking Control
By equipping manufacturers and fabricators with scratch removal technology, scratch removal companies are able to help their customers the exact moment that they need assistance.

“An approach that some more advanced manufacturers take is, ‘Let’s equip them with this equipment. That way if they are on the job they can solve the problem immediately while saving valuable time and expense,’” says Spoo.

Cardinal is one of the manufacturers that has benefited from taking scratch removal into its own hands.

“Cardinal really saw the benefit of the product,” Spoo says. “They recommend it to their customers and work with them on creating a solution. If they can encourage their [window] manufacturers to handle some of the scratch issues there is a benefit to them of doing that.”

Greg Novak, quality assurance manager at Cardinal Corporation’s laminating plant in Wisconsin agrees with Spoo.

“We don’t want to be late,” he says. “More important to us than saving money is saving time in getting our product to the customer.  We believe that this is a tool that helps us in meeting our ultimate goal—providing the best possible service and quality to our customers.”

“The advantage [to customers using scratch removal] is that we don’t have to run the glass down the line again, and then put it on a truck the next day,” he says.

“We may have a laminated lite that costs several thousand dollars and you really want to avoid having to throw it away because of a simple surface scratch,” says Novak. “There is no distortion. It works very well and we have seen no detrimental effects.”

Economic benefits aside, the outcome of scratch removal on glass is positive. The greatest benefit of all is repairing glass to a distortion-free level. Those windows at the Four Seasons Hotel in Wyoming now have a beautiful view of the Teton Mountains and they have scratch removal to thank for it.

Scratched Beyond Repair?
There are times when a scratch can be challenging, even for top-of-the-line scratch removal systems.

“As a scratch gets deeper and more severe it becomes more challenging to remove the scratch to a distortion-free level. That has more to do with the experience of the technician than the method or tools. The technician has to learn to make sure that he is holding the machine flat, that’s he’s feathering it out. The deeper the scratch requires that you do a larger area to dissipate the scratch and feather the scratch into a bigger area of the glass,” says Kerry Wanstrath, president of Glass Technology in Durango, Colo.

In terms of the product, Wanstrath says scratch removal systems have come a long way since their inception. “There are limitations to every product, but over the years we have improved the depth of scratches that can be removed successfully. We’ve done that to a large degree distortion-free.”

Katie Hodge is an assistant editor for USGlass.

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