Specialty glass is required in many different industries. According to a recent report by Market Watch, the specialty glass market stood at US$ 2848.1 million in 2022, with projection that it will reach US$ 3535.7 million by 2029. But what is special glass and where is it needed?
Below, we introduce you to the world of specialty glass and its products. This will give you an idea of how the different types of special glass materials are being used today.
What is Specialty Glass?
Specialty glass, as its name implies, is a type of glass that has been manufactured to meet specific usage needs. In other words, it means glass whose properties are different from that of ordinary glass — advanced and highly customized. Depending on the application, specialty glass may offer these properties.
- Enhanced hardness or strength
- Excellent optical characteristics
- Exceptional heat resistance
- Ability to stand up to damage by chemicals
- Better sound and thermal insulation than ordinary glass
- Improved aesthetics in the form of shapes and colors
Specialty glass manufacturers employ various methods to introduce the mentioned characteristics; the use of additives or special material compositions, chemical modifications such as ion exchange, and controlled heating and cooling processes. These methods produce various types of the glass.
Types of Special Glass
As explained earlier, a specialty glass company may use various methods to customize glass materials for special applications, from thermal to chemical processes. This gives rise to the different types of special glass we see today. The most common of these glasses are explained below.
This is float glass that has been passed through a controlled heating and cooling process to make it harder than regular glass. Tempered glass not only possesses extreme hardness, but it also breaks safely into small, rounded pieces that are less likely to cause injury. Additionally, it offers excellent light control properties that make it useful in the optics industry.
Tinted glass is made by using specified additives to make it colored and less transparent. Specialty glass fabricators may also make it using special type of coatings or films. With the reduced transparency, tinted glass offers the advantage of privacy when used in vehicles and buildings. More importantly, you can use it to reduce the transmission of heat and UV light.
This type of special glass typically comprises two or more pieces of glass held together by an interlayer of resin or plastic such as PVB (Polyvinyl Butyral). In addition to being strong, laminated glass is meant to offer safety by preventing dangerous breaking. Laminated glass also provides sound insulation, qualities that make it fit automotive and security applications.
Optical glass is a special type of glass that’s engineered to offer enhanced optical properties: light refraction, light transmittance, light filtration, and so on. This type of specialty glass is also engineered for uniformity in its structure, which is necessary when it comes to optics, and used in the manufacture of optical products across different industries.
The types of special glass include glass ceramics. These are glass materials made by incorporating crystals in a glass matrix, using a controlled glass crystallization process. Glass ceramics offer good mechanical, physical, and thermal characteristics that make useful in a number of products such as cooktops and other kitchen products.
Heat Strengthened Glass
Heat strengthened glass is glass that’s been made tough by heating and cooling it in controlled conditions. Note that this glass is not as hard as tempered glass, despite the two types of special glass using an almost similar manufacturing method. That’s because its production involves a slower cooling process. So it’s mostly used in less demanding applications.
Chemically Strengthened Glass
Chemically strengthened glass has its properties changed through a chemical process. A good example of this type of specialty glass is gorilla glass. Manufactured using molten potassium salt, heat, and in a process called ion exchange, this glass has a surface that is extremely hard and resistant to scratches and other forms of damage.
Specialty Glass Products
Specialty glass is used to manufacture many different products, where it offers various benefits such as improved safety, insulation, enhanced visual appeal, and durability. Here’s a list of some of the most common specialty glass products.
Automotive: in the automotive industry, specialty glass is used to make several parts, from specialty glass windows that reduce glare and help keep the inside cool to chemically strengthened gorilla glass windshields that are safer and more durable.
Architecture: in the architectural world, specialty glass products include tempered glass doors and windows. Specialty glass is also used in buildings as interior design products where it provides both aesthetics and durability or even walls in the form of optical bricks.
Optics: from the lenses of microscopes and cameras to the viewing windows of telescopes and scientific instruments, specialty glass products abound in the world of optics. These products also include light and filters.
Electronics: specialty glass products in the electronics industry include the screens of modern electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets, or the displays of television sets and laptops. In these applications, the glass may be chemical or heat-strengthened to offer break and scratch resistance.
Household: in homes, the different types of special glass can be seen in the heat resistant glass ceramics of cook tops, the tempered glass tops of coffee tables, and even as the break resistant glasses of windows and doors or shower enclosures.
Specialty glass, with its unique qualities, is a versatile material that you can use in many different projects. It has the ability to meet application specifics, from enhancing the safety of vehicle windshields to pushing the boundaries of science when use for lenses and light filtration devices. In essence, specialty glass provides many benefits that range from safety and aesthetics to durability.