The windshield and windows in your car are not made from regular “plate” glass. The plate glass is brittle and if damaged, breaks into sharp pieces. Automobiles have two kinds of glass. First, the windshield is laminated glass, which stays in one piece if broken. The rest of the windows are tempered glass, which breaks into little pieces if damaged. We will delve into the story behind this automotive glass in this article.
In the Early 1900s
The first cars had windshields and side windows made of plate glass. This is your standard kind of glass, such as what you see in house windows. Plate glass has been made for a long time and it is inexpensive. The problem is that when it breaks, it breaks into large, knife-like shards which are quite dangerous.
When you are driving, you don’t want a windshield to shatter into little pieces every time a rock or something else bounces off of it. What you need is glass that doesn’t break very easily. This problem was solved by Édouard Bénédictus in the late 1920s. He was the first to reliably construct what is called laminated glass. Laminated glass is a sandwich with a layer of vinyl laminate sealed between two layers of plate glass. By the late 1920s, laminated glass was being adopted by most of the domestic automobile manufacturers.
Glass producers have known for a long time when glass is heated up and then rapidly cooled, it becomes tempered. Tempered glass is many times harder that regular glass and when it breaks, it collapses into a pile of little pieces. The problem back in the early days was that it was hard to make so it was never really used for commercial purposes. When the automobile manufacturers came looking for a safer alternative to plate glass, the glass industry went to work. The first to come up with a technique was an engineer who worked at French glassmaker Saint-Gobain in the late 1920s. He perfected the tempered glass manufacturing technique. The automotive industry started buying the new tempered glass as soon as it was available.
In 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed. The NHTSA was formed to test automobiles and establishing safety standards. Despite the adoption of tempered and laminated glass years before, the NHTSA conducted crash investigations to review how it responds when broken. In the event that defects or sub-par performance was found, the administration directs the manufacturers to correct the issues.
According to Urse Honda of Bridgeport, WV, a full-service Honda dealer, A new product that is starting to appear is smart glass. Smart glass has the ability to heat itself, tint itself and reduce glare. Smart Glass is expected to be the future of automobile glass with a multi-billion dollar effect on the domestic car industry.
The Product Continues to Evolve
Innovation will occur in the glass industry because new features are the lifeblood of the car industry. We can expect laminated and tempered glass to remain the two primary types of vehicle safety glass but improvements are likely to occur driven by marketing demand.