Volume 49, Issue 6 - June 2014


Washer Performance: Only As Good As Its Maintenance

In the glass industry, there’s a machine for practically everything—edging, cutting, pressing, bending, grinding, sealing, and more.

Michael Schmidt deals with them all. And while he knows as well as anyone that each has its respective place, Schmidt can’t help but play favorites. To him, one is simply more important than the others.

“I believe the washer is the most critical piece of equipment in a glass factory,” says Schmidt, managing director of Forel North America. “You can’t do anything with glass that isn’t clean.”

“It’s very important,” adds Brian Walker, general manager of Louisville Plate Glass (LPG), regarding the washer’s role in the fabrication process. “The most important thing is to have clean glass.”

"I believe the washer is the most critical piece of equipment in a glass factory. You can’t do anything with glass that isn’t clean." —Michael Schmidt, Forel North America

Schmidt, Walker and other industry professionals caution, however, that just simply running a glass washer isn’t enough. Without proper maintenance, a fabricator’s time, effort and money can be compromised.

“Typically, systematic defects in washing go back to a lack of basic maintenance,” says Schmidt.

When a machine is functioning correctly from a mechanical standpoint, users may be inclined to neglect the details. For glass washers, the details are of utmost importance. Actual damage of glass as a result of washer use is rare, but cosmetic issues can be easily had if proper maintenance, particularly regarding cleanliness, isn’t a priority.

For example, poor water quality can result in spots on the glass; a dirty tank can’t produce a clean product; worn brushes may leave certain sections of the glass untouched; and, a shoddy filter in the blow-drying section of the washer exposes the clean glass to all sorts of contaminates.

“Primarily, what you’re going to be fighting is the output of the quality of glass itself—stains, streaks,” says Billco Manufacturing Inc. service manager Jason Oldenski. “… A lot of these washer machines utilize conveyer rolls, so you can in essence be creating a printing press once you introduce contaminates to a machine.”

He continues, “… Once the glass becomes dirty, those contaminants could be left behind on the surface. If bad enough, they can become visible, or could affect downstream processing such as laminating or silkscreen applications.”

For Oldenski, the “live” element glass washers present can’t be overlooked.

“Generally speaking, it’s important to have an understanding and appreciation for the fact that although you have a machine, there is an organic element to the machine that’s always there, always working to be your enemy,” he says. “And that comes in form of algae and organic growth. Using water, heated water, recirculated water in many cases, you’re battling natural forces that are going on. Bacteria and organisms are living and breathing, and we’ve created a beautiful environment for them to grow.”

Machinery manufacturers stress the importance of regularly flushing and replenishing the water in the tank, as the majority of systems are set up to reuse water for a period of time rather than constantly drain.

“Most machines nowadays have some sort of recycle capability,” says Oldenski. “Because the cost of water—while it may not seem big to the average person—is critical to a manufacturer that could be using hundreds of thousands of gallons on a daily or weekly basis.”

Walker says LPG’s main washer runs 10 hours a day and may run anywhere from 600 to 800 lites of glass through it in that span. With that kind of usage, maintenance is crucial. Walker says he’ll run bleach through the washer every couple weeks to clean out any mildew buildup, in addition to a daily—at minimum—regimen of spraying and cleaning out the tanks.

“You’re using the washer to remove the contaminants. In doing so, you’re taking those contaminants off the glass,” says Schmidt. “And they have to go somewhere. Therefore, the system has to be cleaned.”

Schmidt highlighted some other factors that play a role in proper maintenance.

“There should be an inspecting process at least once a month to see whether you have excess wear on a brush,” says Schmidt. “The wear depends on how aggressive you are on the brushes and depends on the type of glass. For example, a low-E brush is much less aggressive, so there’s much more possibility of wear on that type of brush.

“Motors, pumps for recirculating water are the other key replacement items, along with bearings, due to corrosion.”

Beyond just the quality of the glass, longevity of a washer is also a simple but crucial factor in controlling cost.

Schmidt says that with proper maintenance, “a good quality washer that is used day in, day out should last 10 years minimum,” and he’s seen “a lot of 15- to 20-year-old rebuilds” that are highly effective.

Oldenski adds that his company provides customers with a list of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual maintenance needs to promote longevity.

“I am a huge proponent of preventative maintenance instead of emergency or reactionary maintenance,” he says. “… Being on top of a machine from a maintenance standpoint can certainly bring cost down. Good owners of the equipment certainly appreciate that.”

Adds Walker, “The cost of maintaining the machine is much cheaper than the alternative.”

—Nick St. Denis

Clean Scene Want clean glass? Following these tips will help.
• Spray and clean out the tanks daily;
• Monitor the filter on the drying system;
• Maintain brush bristles;
• Wash the glass within two hours of cutting;
• Reduce water consumption through a re-circulating system.

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