Fabricators require specific solutions in machinery and equipment
Glass rolls down a coater at Viracon's Owatonna, Minn., facility. Viracon officials say the specific needs of the company and its customers play a big part in choosing what machinery and equipment to buy.
The latest and greatest machinery, and the newest innovations in equipment, don’t always mean the best solutions for glass fabricators. Rather, fabricators look for specific qualities for each type of equipment that best serves their company’s production requirements.
"We redesign the equipment specifically for our needs," says Larry Kunkle senior vice president of operations for Viracon of Owatonna, Minn. "Several things may be changed all to allow better quality, to provide better optics with little distortion, or for ease of handling glass."
Last year the company replaced three tempering ovens in its Owatonna facility and added a line to its Statesboro location. However, the most exciting machine installation last year for the company was the custom insulating glass line at the Owatonna plant, Kunkel says.
“We had manufactured the largest IG line,” he says. “It can handle glass up to 96 inches by 165 inches.” While traditional IG lines handle units up to 500 pounds, the new line can handle units up to 2,000 pounds, he says.
The line’s larger capacity allows Viracon to more easily meet demand for larger lite sizes. “We see the size of glass increasing, and we have to be prepared to handle the larger sizes,” Kunkel says.
Colonial Glass Solutions in Brooklyn, N.Y., has different requirements for its fabricating equipment, says John Rotchford, operations manager.
“We have a huge space constraint,” Rotchford says. “So, we’re looking for very compact and flexible equipment—something that allows multiple operations in a small footprint.”
Companies need to also consider their specific market when buying machines, Rotchford says. For example, Colonial will not look for a large-capacity IG line when it buys one this year, he says, because the managers are not looking to make the company a huge IG supplier, he says.
“You need to find the pros you want and the cons you don’t care about [for each machine type],” Rochford says. “We want to be able to expand our market horizontally, but expand it modestly, so we don’t need a huge capacity line.”