Ideas keep glass ahead of curve
Glasshape has grown from a grassroots company 32 years ago producing small pieces of decorative glass petals for lampshades, to now being one of the global glass market’s top players, with the unique capability of producing curved, toughened, laminated, and printed glass.
It has been a collective of ideas from Glasshape ’s three directors, Mark Forrest and his two sons Andrew and Rick, as well as the company’s fervent adoption of new technology which have really seen Glasshape ’s direction and capabilities develop.
Glasshape strategic business development and design manager Andrew Bissett says the company’s first innovation came as the answer to the challenge of efficiency.
Glasshape had realised a significant opportunity lay in larger format applications such as windscreens for ambulances, buses, and the marine sector, as well as food bends for the catering industry, but capital investment and production times escalated costs.
Glasshape engineers invented their own furnaces with quicker production times at a fraction of the cost of the furnaces available internationally at the time.
“This provided Glasshape with a very competitive edge over New Zealand’s other glass benders,” he says.
By 1995, Glasshape had mastered the art of bonding two panels of curved glass with resin, certified to the required safety standard for the use of laminated glass in buildings.
This major development delivered a future with huge potential, at a time when the use of curved glass as an architectural product was new to the building industry.
In 2000 Glasshape developed processes to bend complex curves in three dimensions, enabling the manufacture of superior windscreens for the marine industry, and leading on to the automotive market with certification to American Land Transport Standard ANSI Z 26-1 making it possible to supply automotive screens internationally.
Glasshape ’s 3D capabilities were further developed in 2007, with the purchase of specialist CNC equipment to bend and toughen glass in an automated process. In 2012, AS/NZS ISO 9001 was achieved.
In 2016 came the culmination of a three-year, substantial investment programme which has again significantly expanded the capabilities and capacity of Glasshape to better serve its rapidly growing international market.
A CNC cutting machine brought the cutting of glass in-house, increased the quality of product, and reduced production time frames.
“For us, time frames are an element of being competitive in an international market,” Andrew says.
Glasshape also introduced new printing technology at this point, allowing photo-quality images to be embedded in glass.
For use in residential and commercial settings, as well as superyachts, printed glass can turn balustrades, partitions, and facades into works of art.
Andrew says Glasshape ’s skilled and knowledgeable staff understand how far they can take these raw materials and how the combination of all the company’s different technology can create a finished product.
“We are dealing with a product with which we rely upon gravity to a certain degree to form that glass,” he says.
“That’s where the knowledge of the people who developed the tooling is inherent in reducing the failure rate. Our highly skilled and dedicated glass professionals will shape the future of Glasshape.”