The future of glass is hitech

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A future that is bright and clear

The history of glass and glass production may date back to Mesopotamian times – but today’s advances in technology means we could be entering what can be coined the new ‘glass age’.

While development of modest glass technology appears to have had its birth around 3000 B.C, glassmaking as we know it can only lay claim as ‘late bloomers’ when compared to ceramics and metal products.

Be it humble advances through to important strides, such as the adding of lead oxide to molten glass by George Ravenscroft in 1674 (the first person to produce clear lead crystal glassware on an industrial scale) – it was less than 200 years ago that scientists began to realise the significance of the amorphous solid.

From the automation of manufacturing in 1848, to the mass production of glass bottles in 1888, technology and demand have worked hand in hand.

In fact, it wasn’t until the early part of the 20th century that development and manufacture began to increase rapidly.

With the promise of a new-age of industrialism, machinery was conceived for precise, continuous manufacture of a host of products from the first sheet glass drawing device which made possible mass production of window glass to a world- first patented automatic bottle blowing machine in 1904.

In the late 1950s, revolutionary float glass production was introduced by Sir Alastair Pilkington - which 90 per cent of flat glass is still manufactured today.

From bulb-shaped glass for Edison’s incandescent lamp to display glass for TV’s, optic fibres for communications and glass packaging for use in the pharmaceutical industry, things have come a long way.

Glass has become a ubiquitous part of life that is becoming increasingly entwined in our homes, our working lives and industry. Virtually unlimited in resource material, its application is restricted only by the imagination.

Whether it’s windows that can be programmed to let in exactly the amount of light you require, through to structural reinforcement, interior design, automotive and transport needs, medical technology or solar energy development, glass is sustainable, environmentally responsible and natural.

Anti-reflective coatings, photosensitive insulation even bendable glass are just some of the applications already available as industry and commercial interests meet with the demand of consumers.

Glass may have had ancient origins – but its future is hi-tech.

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