Glass toughening at abc Glass Processing

How We Process Your Glass

A simple sheet of glass holds so many possibilities. For our glass processing experts, glass offers the opportunity to utilise both modern and traditional methods to create stunning glass solutions for homes and commercial spaces.

But have you ever wondered what happens to glass, step-by-step, as it’s processed? In this article, we’ll take you on a quick journey through our factory and manufacturing processes to show how the magic happens. From advanced cutting and shaping methods to stylistic touches such as sandblasting and back-painting, our factory does it all.

Stock

Automated glass storage at abc Glass Processing in Portsmouth

At abc Glass, we specialise in glass processing – which is different from creating glass from scratch. (If you want to learn how the latter is done, read our guide to how glass is made.) As such, all our products start life as a large, untoughened sheet of glass called “float glass”. Each sheet is 4m square in size, ranging from 4mm to 19mm in thickness. We also stock ultra-clear glass, coloured glass, mirrored glass, and fire glass for more specialist projects.

This video shows how float glass is stocked using an automated system in our Portsmouth factory. When a project starts, we utilise a state-of -the-art robotic machine to pick each sheet and carry it to the production line.

Cutting

Computer controlled automated glass cutting at abc Glass Processing Portsmouth

Our technicians enjoy cutting intricate glass shapes by hand, the “traditional” way. However, for the vast majority of our customer orders, we instead use a state-of-the-art glass cutting system. This behind-the-scenes factory video shows how it’s done.

The automation process follows several steps. First, a program calculates the most efficient layout for cutting individual glass orders from one sheet of float glass. Next, the system selects the correct sheet of float glass before loading it into the cutting table. A machine then cuts each piece of glass to perfect precision, keeping waste to a minimum. Finally, an automated cutting head scores the glass.

Our technicians are still required to split each batch by hand. They also double-check every piece of glass to ensure the specifications are 100% accurate, as even the slightest error can prove costly.

Machining and shaping

CNC glass cutting machin in action at abc Glass in Portsmouth

Depending on the product, glass may need to be further shaped or drilled. Glass partitions and glass shower screens, for example, require holes for components such as handles and hinges to be fitted during installation.

For this specialist job, we use a mix of computerised numerical cutting (CNC) and waterjet technology. Our technicians can shape, drill, and add detailed cut-outs to a piece of glass to suit any application. Both our flat-bed and vertical CNC machines make this process a piece of cake.

Polishing, bevelling and sandblasting

Bevelled glass mirrors in production

Edge polishing is often the final stage in the initial glass processing. We take care to eliminate any sharp or exposed glass edges, especially in our frameless shower enclosures, tabletops, and wetroom screens. To achieve this, our experts use a machine to polish the edges of the glass, leaving a neat and safe finish. We also offer a bevelled edge service for mirrors.

As for glass sandblasting, we are adept at applying simple techniques that result in the utmost privacy. Shower screens, balustrades, and interior partitions are just some of the products we produce that lend themselves to an obscured or frosted finish. To create the effect, our technicians can either by sandblast or acid-etch the glass. We then apply a coat of ClearShield to protect from grease and dirt.

Toughening and laminating

glass sheet being put through a toughening machine

Once all processing steps are finished, the final stage is to toughen or laminate the glass. For toughening, we heat each glass product to over 600°C in our Glaston toughening plant. This ensures that all toughened glass from our production line meets the British standard EN12150.

For lamination, our advanced Pujol laminating plant produces laminated glass in thicknesses ranging from 4mm to 19mm. This type of glass is ideal for safety-first applications such as balustrades, balconies, glass floors, and staircases.

Painting

Spary painting glass splashbacks

For a dash of style, back-painted glass can’t be beat. This step comes only after the glass has been toughened. The customer chooses their preferred RAL colour, which we spray onto the glass before baking it and applying a protective aluminium coat.

Delivery

abc Glass Processing delivery vehicle

The final step is, of course, transporting the glass from the factory to our customers. We offer a free delivery service in the south of England – check out the map to see if you’re in our area. Customers can also collect their processed glass from our Portsmouth HQ.

 

Waste cullet glass ready for collection and recycling at abc Glass Processing

How We’ve Reduced Glass Waste by Investing in Technology

At abc Glass’s Portsmouth HQ, we process thousands of square metres of float glass every year. But like any manufacturer operating on this scale, we’ve had to solve some practical and environmental challenges along the way.

Waste cullet glass ready for collection and recycling at abc Glass Processing

The first challenge relates to our manufacturing methods: How can we use the most efficient technology and processes to reduce consumption and waste? The second challenge is simpler: What to do with the waste glass?

In this article, we’ll show how abc Glass has invested in better glass processing tech to boost efficiency and reduce waste. We’ll also explore how several of our partner companies are leading the charge in glass recycling schemes to help reduce the glass industry’s carbon footprint.

More efficiency = less waste

Most of our glass processing relies on sophisticated glass-cutting machines. Over the last 20 years, we have invested heavily in cutting-edge digital machinery to reduce waste, increase accuracy, and perfect the quality and tolerance of our glass products.

Computerised automated glass cutting line at abc Glass Processing

One such machine is our computer-controlled and -automated glass cutting lines (seen here in this factory tour video). This extraordinary kit calculates the most efficient use of glass by digitally laying out separate glass orders across a single 4-metre sheet of float glass. The aim is to minimise waste by intelligently maximising the amount of glass used on every sheet. We simply couldn’t achieve this level of waste-reduction without help from automation.

One of our cnc machines processing glass at abc in Portsmouth

Several other computer-controlled machines help to reduce our glass waste. These include three high-tech CNC (Computerised Numerical Cutting) machines, which we rely on daily to create extremely complex and accurate glass shapes. CNC machines can be programmed by our technicians. Such easy-to-use technology drives accuracy and reduces waste as we process glass for customers.

How is our waste glass recycled?

In a perfect world, improved efficiencies in the manufacturing process would result in no glass waste at all. However, despite all our progress, abc Glass still ends up with a small amount of waste each day. Rather than consign this glass to landfill, we have launched several partnerships with outside companies who specialise in recycling glass waste.

One of these companies, Saint-Gobain, recycles around 55,000 tonnes of glass waste each year. A small fraction of this glass consists of waste from the abc Glass factory – we collect the off-cuts (or “cullets”) from our glass processing machines and store them in large bags for collection. Once delivered to recycling plants, the cullets are sorted using smart digital machines before being processed into brand-new float glass.

Last year we recycled over 300 tonnes of waste glass through various Cullet Return Schemes. This works out to 25 tonnes a month – a figure we are proud of. The vast majority of this glass waste comes from off-cuts of float, coated, and mirror glass sheets used to process our wide range of glass products.

If you have any questions about glass recycling, or want to know more about how we’re improving our carbon footprint through efficient processes, please get in touch. Our glass processing experts will also be happy to lend advice on your next project and explain how our range of services could help.