Far from a modern invention, experimentation with toughened glass actually began close to a century ago. But whereas rudimentary celluloid polymers showed little potential for bringing real improvements to the safety of glass, today’s products are in a league of their own when it comes to durability, reliability and safety. As such, industry leaders are manufacturing, supplying and installing safety glass for use in more commercial, industrial and domestic applications than ever before.
Multiple Products, One Purpose
The two most commonly manufactured and fitted types of safety glass today are tempered glass and laminated glass.
The first of the two – also referred to as toughened glass – is manufactured by way of a heat-treating process, which results in a final glass product of both superior strength and safer properties when shattered. The glass is first heated close to its melting point before then being cooled quickly using cold air. As the glass cools, its properties are altered and the result is significantly stronger glass, which is also less hazardous when broken.
Generally speaking, toughened glass is approximately 400% stronger than standard glass, in terms of its ability to withstand impact without breaking. Should toughened glass fail, the whole sheet immediately breaks into smaller, more rounded pieces that aren’t nearly as dangerous as standard shards of broken glass. The difficulty in manufacturing tempered glass is that it cannot be shaped or altered once it has been heat treated – the process must be carried out first.
As for laminated glass, this alternative form of safety glass improves the safety and reliability of standard glass by adding a sealed, laminated covering to each surface of the glass. What separates laminated glass from standard toughened glass is that way in which when broken, the shards of a laminated glass pane remain suspended in place by an interlayer – usually made of polyvinyl butyral (PVB). The glass itself may or may not be manufactured as strongly as toughened glass – a factor determined by the manufacturer producing the glass and the requirements of the customer.
Laminated glass is used in instances where falling glass fragments could pose a danger to those in the vicinity. Vehicle windscreens are almost always made of laminated glass, as are the glass panels in skylights and most larger store windows.