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Those of you who have been following my articles over the years know that every now and then I like to cover glass from a different perspective than what you maybe accustomed to. I can’t ignore some things I saw at the GlassTec show in Düsseldorf, Germany. At the time of writing this article, I had just returned from the show, which took place at the end of October 2018.

GlassTec is the largest glass show in the world and happens every two years, alternating with the NGA show in the U.S. At GlassTec, attendees found nine halls full of glass-related products and machinery; each hall is equivalent to a common convention center we are familiar with in the U.S. There were 1,235 exhibitors present, and the show was attended by 43,000 visitors from 121 countries. The awards and recognition industry did not have a large presence there, even though I found a few examples. Amongst all the industrial representation, there was also a large exhibit of glass art, created by students of the technical schools for the glass industry. It was exhilarating and exhausting to see the displays. Let me show you what most impressed me.

Awards, art, and functionality

The awards products that I was able to take pictures of were mostly custom-made from thick low-iron glass that was cut and shaped by hand. Individual pieces of glass were laminated to create the awards, and sometimes colored glass was added. The pieces are self-explanatory as are the more usual examples of etching on glassware. The pieces with text were created with photoresist, while the more artistic pieces were either engraved or used a combination of engraving and abrasive blasting.

In the case of the wall piece with text (“The Dignity of Man is Untouchable” by F. Frisch), the text was blasted, and on one set was color-filled with black, while the other set was gold-leafed. The glass is attached to the wall with stand-offs.

The more interesting pieces were of sculptural nature and created by artists. Several of these pieces employed the lamination of glass pieces with UV glue. A couple of the objects were actually combinations of sculptures and furniture, like the Big Ben on. The lower part is a display cabinet, while the upper tower part includes clock movements on all four sides, therefore being functional. This piece was made by Anna Wolff.

Then there was the display cabinet that featured LED lighting in the vertical columns (which were filled with crushed glass frit), and the wooden tabletop with a foosball game on top of it, both made from laminated low-iron glass. Again, UV glue was used to construct the piece. The dimensions of the table were 120 cm by 80 cm by 134 cm; it was created by Gunnar Salchert. Later, in another section of the show, I saw another foosball table, this time free-standing. This one was created by the company Intermac and was full size.

A few more common pieces were the blasted panels on display showing off contemporary patterns, even though there is a big trend employing large-format printing directly on glass. There were several companies showing off that technology.

Another newer way of incorporating technology is the use of sensors and touch pads that can change the glass from clear one minute to an opaque or patterned glass the next. An interesting display was the shower enclosure created by Derix Glass. The shower stall had a floor and back walls consisting of slate that had been gilded with 24-carat gold and then it was laminated to clear glass. There are touch panels inside the shower that create various images in the dark triangle shape and also turn the water on and off.

Jaw-dropping displays

There were the display pieces that attracted every single attendee at the show at some point in time — there were three pieces that simply made everyone’s jaw drop. If you are a glass enthusiast, you can’t help but get excited when viewing such constructions.

The most impressive of all the installations was a see-saw created completely from low-iron glass. The see-saw measured about 30 feet in length and was laminated from 11 layers of glass, pivoting on a glass rod. The weight of the whole construction was listed as 1.3 tons. The see-saw was fully functional and not many could resist the urge to hop on it and set it into motion. It was constructed by Sentry Glass from Kuraray under instruction from Sedak International and Eckersley O’Callaghan.

Most of us think that glass is a fragile material rather than being something that can carry a lot of weight. To show that glass is quite capable of supporting a lot of weight, Define Engineers bonded two glass panels, each just 2 mm thickness, to each other with DOW bonding technology. They created two panels like that and with a framework of metal bars and cables, suspended a car weighing 1.5 tons from it. The car is not touching the ground!

Last, but not least, to also show that glass is quite strong, there was a huge swing on display. The structure consisted of hollow glass rods made from Schott glass, of which five rods made up a strut. Each strut was connected with steel nodes that were 3-D printed. A grown man was using the swing to demonstrate that the material supported his weight and also the motion of the swing. The object was a project of BK Bouwkundet U Delft.

As usual, after having gone through the show, my head was spinning with all the new information and application techniques I had seen. I could not wait to get back to my studio, hoping to be able to make use of the new wave of enthusiasm for upcoming projects.

Ruth Jan 2018

Ruth Dobbins

With over 40 years in the glass business, Ruth Dobbins offers experience in all glass-etching techniques as well as in fused and cast glass. Ruth holds a master’s degree in art and has been a partner in an art glass wholesale supply and studio company in Europe, which also placed great emphasis on a training program, before joining forces with her late husband Norm. You can reach Ruth by email at ruth@etchmaster.com or by phone at 505-473-9203.

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