Volume 48, Issue 7- July 2013

Smooth Operators
The Latest Developments in Edging and Polishing

While not every glass fabricator is running a tempering, laminating or even insulating glass production line, most are likely operating some type of edging, grinding or polishing equipment. Machinery suppliers continually evolve these product lines to ensure operators are getting high-quality, efficient and cost-effective results. While there are equipment lines that polish, cut and edge quickly and effortlessly, contemplating a purchase can leave the glass fabricator with many questions—unsure of what, exactly, he needs. Higher output? Improved quality? Ease of operation or just better customer support than what he’s receiving currently?

“The glass fabricator is looking for a solution to a problem,” says John Lloyd, vice president of Matodi USA in Greensboro, N.C. “Either the company has outgrown its current capacity, or its existing machine has worn to the point where it costs too much to run.”

So now, with the numerous changes, additions, tweaks and developments introduced each year, what are fabricators looking at when it comes to the latest in these machinery lines?

Cutting Edge
According to Jeff Giles, North American sales manager with Benteler in Fort Wayne, Ind., pencil edge grinding equipment has gained a lot of traction over the past few years due in part to the solar market. He says this style is preferred for these applications because it is stronger than a straight edge with chamfer.

“The downside, though, is tooling life. A producer of pencil edge glass for the solar markets, depending on the output, could change grinding wheels every day or at least every other day,” says Giles. “This is also a very wet process and the maintenance required … adds to downtime as well.”

When it comes to the evolution of flat-edge grinding and polishing, Giles says many of these developments have likely been driven by the customer’s business model rather than actual equipment changes.

“Yes, there have been advancements in equipment, but it seems that more and more companies are going to double-edgers for flat edging and polishing versus the typical low-cost investment of a vertical edger,” he says. “A vertical edger requires an operator to flip the glass four times to edge and polish a lite of glass. One can imagine the cycle times are slower than with a double-edger; also the glass on a vertical edger is only as square or parallel as it was delivered to the line.” Giles says while good techs can take care of this with [techniques such as] shimming, it’s still one more variable to control.

“A horizontal double-edger can outperform a vertical machine five times over without even discussing the quality, stability factors, such as the glass being parallel and square, and no operator intervention unless loading and unloading the line manually,” says Giles, who also points to one disadvantage. “It’s also two-three times the price of vertical edging equipment. My advice, if you don't have the demand to utilize a double-edger than go with a vertical edger,” he says, adding that the majority of the U.S. market uses vertical edging equipment.

However, Giles says the market for double-edgers is increasing.

“We have experienced the largest interest for double-edging equipment versus vertical equipment for flat-edge grinding and polishing over the last year than ever before,” he says, noting that this could be due to companies reducing head counts or the numerous mergers and acquisitions that have happened over the last five years.

“In Europe it is much more common to find horizontal edging equipment. I would say it’s almost the reverse of what we have in the U.S. as a vertical to horizontal ratio,” says Giles.

Bob Spears, director of machinery sales with Salem Distributing in Winston Salem, N.C., which represents a number of Italian machinery companies, such as Bovone and Zafferani, says some of the newest developments they’ve seen have been in beveling and vertical drilling. For example, they recently introduced a beveler that has four individual felt polishing motors that can help provide increased production speeds. He says this new model was designed for use with heavy glass, which was previously edged, and now beveled, thus removing the front arris seam.

“The new Bovone Mini Maxi bevelers have changed their felt polish spindles, which enhances the polish and the production speeds,” says Spears. “They also have changed the coolant supply system for easy maintenance, and have repositioned the motor layout now offering greater space between the grinding section and the felt polish section. This diminishes the crossover of coolant to cerium and cerium to coolant.”

Other new lines, he points out, including flat edgers and mitering machines, are featuring two polishing wheels and do not require wet cerium oxide for polish.

“This avoids the high cost of cerium oxide, and the two polish wheels offer the same high quality finish,” says Spears. “Likewise, vertical drills, such as the ones from Zafferani, require [minimal] floor space. Also, when drilling in the same vertical plane as the edger or beveler, this vertical alignment means far less repositioning of the glass and lessens the likelihood of breakage.”

Another recent development is the Edge to Shape (ETS) system from Neptun, which allows CNC like accuracy on a straight line edger. Neptun is represented by Matodi USA.

“The operator interface is very user friendly,” says Lloyd. “The ETS system allows the glass fabricator to use his CNC machine for other projects.”

The company also developed the Rock series of edgers, which utilize developments in track design, while retaining a heavy duty frame and design.

Efficient Solutions
With glass fabricators today searching for ways to operate more efficiently, equipment suppliers say machinery selection can play a big part. Lloyd says there are three main considerations that factor into how efficient any edger on the market will be.

Wheel and consumable cost. “Many fabricators overlook this simple fact: how much does it cost to run an inch (foot, meter) of glass through their machine? There are several different solutions available, some dramatically more expensive than others,” says Lloyd. “A savvy fabrication shop owner or manager will research this before purchasing a new piece of equipment.”

Maintenance costs and the availability of spare machine parts and technical assistance. “All glass machines are not alike. There are some big differences in design, and each machine on the market today has its pros and cons,” says Lloyd. “It pays to gather information and compare design and operational differences between the different machines [being] considered.” He also says to consider whether the manual is well written, and to get a copy of it before buying the equipment. When it comes to spare parts, Lloyd advises to take into consideration whether the supplier has the spare parts in stock. “Open the manual, pick out a couple of parts, and call the supplier to see if they have the parts in stock,” he says. Technical service is also important. Questions to consider include: Does the supplier have inside technical assistance? Does the supplier have a “wheel expert” to help provide the best performance out of their machine? Does the supplier have factory-trained technicians? “The bottom line here is the machine with the better design, availability of spare parts and technical service equals minimal downtime, and time is money,” says Lloyd.

Ease of operation. How easy is the machine to run? Do you need specialized personnel, or can the new machine be run with minimal training?

“These three factors--among others--can help glass fabricators determine how profitable their investment will be, and how long it will take to get a return on that investment,” says Lloyd.

Follow Up and Support
For glass fabricators pondering their next machinery addition, the many possibilities, options and considerations may seem a bit overwhelming—especially for those new to this. Fortunately, suppliers can offer assistance. Giles, for one, says they help customers ensure successful operations with multiple trip visits, taking customers to see the line in other glass companies, offering processing support, research and development and more.

“We have many layers of after sales support, follow up calls from the sales associate, the service and installation manager, as well as the spare parts coordinator,” says Giles. “We understand that each department is equally responsible in giving the correct support to the customer--pre and post-sale.”

“Our philosophy is simple,” says Lloyd. “The glass fabricator tells us what it needs to process, and we advise which machine(s) would be the best solution for those needs. It’s a matter of educating the customer on how to solve their production needs.” He explains that once a machine is selected and agreed on, his company takes the next step in preparing the customer for delivery. “Once the machine is delivered and installed, we follow up to make sure the machine is running to the customer’s satisfaction.”

Spears says at his company they try to remain flexible with the terms of sale to fit various situations and needs.

“We have worked successfully with local banks, with large corporate banks, and even with several leasing companies,” he says. As to follow up after a sale, his company provides home office support personnel as well as a sales support team.

“We have trained traveling technicians; we also have regional area sales managers positioned throughout the United States, Canada, and even in the islands,” says Spears.


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