Demand by car designers for larger and more multi-purpose glass areas is putting pressure on the development and prototyping capability of suppliers.
Automakers also want glass that can handle greater structural stress, such as opening backlights where the glass itself is hinged, says Chris Hanley, product manager for shaping technology at Pilkingtons global automotive marketing group.
Pilkington is a global leader in automotive glass with 21 percent of the market and 26 percent with Japanese partner NSG included.
Many features that we see on concept cars will go into production, Hanley said.
Glass and the sense of space and access that it creates can add a quality feel to a vehicle, he said. Designers want more glass and panoramic windshields.
This can cause problems with the aesthetics of light distortion and it demands a comprehensive visualization of the way light will pass through the glass to anticipate problems, said Hanley.
He cited the Citroen C3 as an example.
We got to the level where the optical requirements were right on the limit of the legal requirements, said Hanley. We actually had to change the interlay [between the two layers of the laminated glass].
Roofs are undergoing rapid design evolution, with a dramatic change in the range and size of openings.
Growth areas for glassmakers are in roofs and more laminated side glass to improve vehicle security and temperature control.
Pilkington is working closely with carmakers to minimize the cost and maximize the effectiveness by sponsoring design competitions and tying into new product development as early as possible. Better modeling of the furnace process for shaping glass is reducing the number of prototypes it must build.
Economic factors for the glass market have not changed much in recent years, says Peter Watters, head of product development at Pilkingtons European technical center in Lathom, England. The market is driven by legislation, shaping needs of the different apertures, solar-control needs and security issues, he said.
Pilkington reported automotive sales rose 1 percent to £1.28 billion (E1.82 billion) in its fiscal year ending March 31. The divisions operating profit gained 57 percent to £74 million.