Shop Talk
by Doug Hauck
technical service engineer
Quanex Building Products
May 18th, 2021

Focusing on the Right Parts of Glass Quality

A high-quality insulating glass (IG) unit is the result of many small processes that have been performed correctly by an appropriately trained and knowledgeable team.

But considering today’s labor market, pulling this off has become a major challenge for some door and window makers. Ongoing difficulties with hiring and high turnover rates mean that today’s average shop floor operator may not immediately be armed with the skills or knowledge required for high quality fabrication.

Given that line operators are the first line of defense against bad IG units, managers and supervisors must do whatever is in their power to equip their teams with such skills—something that is perhaps easier said than done. The solution lies in today’s tip:

Focus on the fundamentals.

As mentioned, there are lots of things that can lead to a lower-quality IG unit. For example, a fingerprint or scratch on the interior of a pane will lead to a long-lasting aesthetic blemish, but that fingerprint may not necessarily lead to outright unit failure in the field.

To those ends, when staff is stretched thin or you’re working to get new workers up to speed quickly, there are a few fundamental parts of IG manufacturing to focus on. These things can immediately threaten a unit’s ability to deliver long-lasting and reliable performance. They fall into the following categories:

Protecting Your Desiccant

Responsible for preventing moisture accumulation within the interior of your unit, desiccant plays one of the most important roles in preventing failure throughout a unit’s life. For these reasons, it’s important to properly store and protect your desiccant when not in production (including spacer systems that include an integrated desiccant). Stored improperly, the desiccant can lose as much as 80% of its desiccating capacity before it even makes it into a finished unit.

To prevent this from happening, store your desiccant or integrated spacers in airtight containers when not in use, and always make sure to test it before production starts.

Sealing Your Units

An insulating glass unit’s perimeter seal performs a few vital functions essential to long-term performance. The seal stops argon and other gases from leaking out of the unit and stops moisture from intruding, all while holding the unit together and protecting its structural integrity throughout its life.

While no seal is 100% perfect, it’s important to get as close as possible to lessen the potential for unit failure. Minimize gaps or skips in the sealant application, fill to the proper depth, and make sure the perimeter seal is completed at the final corner.

Everything Else

While proper desiccant storage and sealant application are the most important parts of IG production, there are many other considerations that should be made. For example, clean glass is highly important for robust seal adhesion and for aesthetic reasons. Edge deletion—removing the low-E coating from the edges of your glass panes where the edge seal will be applied—is also important to make the strongest IG unit possible. And beyond these items, there are dozens of other small processes that contribute to quality manufacturing.

Of course, this short blog post is no substitute for proper operator training, which may be available from some of your trusted suppliers. But hopefully these serve as reminder of where you should be focusing when it comes to quality control, especially during a period of high demand and an uncertain labor situation.

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