Scratching the Surface
Scratch Removal Systems Are Saving Glass
by Katie Hodge
The Four Seasons Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wy., had a problem. The windows,
which presented a beautiful view of the Teton Mountains, were being ruined
by scratches that occurred during the construction process. A few decades
ago, finding a scratch on a lite of glass was a huge problem. With recent
technology and new equipment, however, glazing contractors—as well as
manufacturers and fabricators—no longer find that scratches spell disaster.
Several companies are providing equipment that can fix a scratch to distortion-free
criteria and that’s just what happened in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming.
Shiloh Spoo, vice president of Bend, Ore.-based GlasWeld, said that the
need was certainly there for the development of their scratch removal
system, Gforce. Glass companies such as Guardian Glass and Cardinal Corp.
were in need of a solution this to take care of scratches during the glass
“They started recommending us to their window manufacturer customers,”
says Spoo. “We came to realize how much of a need there was for not just
a piece of equipment, but a solution [to damaged glass].”
Kerry Wanstrath, president of Glass Technology located in Durango, Colo.,
recalls the difference new technology has made.
“In 2000, we developed different technology than previously used for decades.
We developed this system that used a series of discs that have a level
of aggression that is very carefully controlled.”
Companies such as GlasWeld and Glass Technology among others often offer
training so that fabricators can learn how to make the most of the equipment
needed to clean up glass that suffers an accidental scratch during the
Wanstrath says, “You have to be consistent with how you do the process.
The methodology or process has to be done a certain way. If you don’t
do it you don’t get the same results. We found that just giving them the
tools and sending them on their merry way was not very successful. We
almost insist that someone receive training.”
That training can be provided in a number of ways for the convenience
of the manufacturer.
“We have DVDs that are fairly detailed now,” Wanstrath says. “We also
have in-house training, for those willing to send someone to us for a
couple of days, on how to use the equipment.”
For training on using this scratch technology, some new computer technology
has proved helpful.
“We also have, which has been very well received in the last two years,
training via live Skype,” adds Wanstrath. “We have a very good system
using a laptop and a high-quality digital camera that we can broadcast
through skype. It’s live so the trainer can say, ‘no you’re not doing
it right.’ It really saves our customers thousands of dollars in travel
expenses and time.”
Spoo adds, “We work with them [manufacturers] to develop a plan to integrate
our system into their production line.”
Making the process run more smoothly is a must.
“We look at the plant scheme [of a manufacturer] and help them figure
out how to reduce waste, etc.,” says Spoo. “When we go in and do hands-on
training, we look at their manufacturing and look at the best place to
set up the Gforce. We’re not stopping the whole production flow to move
a piece of glass.”
By equipping manufacturers and fabricators with scratch removal technology,
scratch removal companies are able to help their customers the exact moment
that they need assistance.
“An approach that some more advanced manufacturers take is, ‘Let’s equip
them with this equipment. That way if they are on the job they can solve
the problem immediately while saving valuable time and expense,’” says
Cardinal is one of the manufacturers that has benefited from taking scratch
removal into its own hands.
“Cardinal really saw the benefit of the product,” Spoo says. “They recommend
it to their customers and work with them on creating a solution. If they
can encourage their [window] manufacturers to handle some of the scratch
issues there is a benefit to them of doing that.”
Greg Novak, quality assurance manager at Cardinal Corporation’s laminating
plant in Wisconsin agrees with Spoo.
“We don’t want to be late,” he says. “More important to us than saving
money is saving time in getting our product to the customer. We
believe that this is a tool that helps us in meeting our ultimate goal—providing
the best possible service and quality to our customers.”
“The advantage [to customers using scratch removal] is that we don’t have
to run the glass down the line again, and then put it on a truck the next
day,” he says.
“We may have a laminated lite that costs several thousand dollars and
you really want to avoid having to throw it away because of a simple surface
scratch,” says Novak. “There is no distortion. It works very well and
we have seen no detrimental effects.”
Economic benefits aside, the outcome of scratch removal on glass is positive.
The greatest benefit of all is repairing glass to a distortion-free level.
Those windows at the Four Seasons Hotel in Wyoming now have a beautiful
view of the Teton Mountains and they have scratch removal to thank for
Scratched Beyond Repair?
There are times when a scratch can be challenging, even for top-of-the-line
scratch removal systems.
“As a scratch gets deeper and more severe it becomes more challenging to
remove the scratch to a distortion-free level. That has more to do with
the experience of the technician than the method or tools. The technician
has to learn to make sure that he is holding the machine flat, that’s he’s
feathering it out. The deeper the scratch requires that you do a larger
area to dissipate the scratch and feather the scratch into a bigger area
of the glass,” says Kerry Wanstrath, president of Glass Technology in Durango,
In terms of the product, Wanstrath says scratch removal systems have come
a long way since their inception. “There are limitations to every product,
but over the years we have improved the depth of scratches that can be removed
successfully. We’ve done that to a large degree distortion-free.”
Katie Hodge is an assistant editor for USGlass.
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