When builders need strong glass windows, doors, walls, and skylights, they commonly turn to laminated glass.
It adds protection from breakage and injury, provides enhanced security against intruders, holds up against natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes, is energy-efficient, and is customizable.
With its wide range of advantages over traditional window glazing, custom laminated glass has become an increasingly popular choice among architects and property owners alike.
What is Laminated Glass?
Laminated glass (LG) is something of a misnomer since “laminated” implies the glass has a layer of laminate on its surface. That’s “glass lamination.”
A more fitting term is “laminate glass.” Similar to laminate flooring, laminated glass is made up of layers – two or more panes of glass with a clear (typically vinyl) interlayer holding them together.
Because it’s bonded to an interlayer, LG holds together strongly against impacts, much more so than regular single-pane glass. When it breaks, it forms a spider web pattern out from the point of impact. The shards tend to remain bonded to the interlayer, posing less risk of injury.
In addition to its safety benefits, LG provides:
- Enhanced security against break-ins
- Protection from UV rays
- Reduced heat transfer
- Energy efficiency
- Sound dampening
How is Laminated Glass Made?
Laminated glass was accidentally discovered in 1903 by the French chemist Édouard Bénédictus when he dropped a glass flask coated on the inside with dried plastic. The flask shattered, but the glass was held together by the plastic coating.
Today, LG is made by bonding glass sheets to clear interlayers.
In most cases, the middle layer is polyvinyl butyral (PVB) resin, but sometimes it’s ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) depending on the glass’s specified end-use.
EVA film is preferred for exterior applications since it is hydrophobic and resists water damage. It lasts longer than PVB and does not delaminate.
For acoustic laminated glass, a special PVB layer is infused. However, because sound dampening is inherent to the final product, EVA and TPU are also acceptable binding layers.
During manufacturing, glass panes are first cleaned to remove any dirt/debris and then layered like a glass sandwich:
- The first pane of glass is placed on rollers.
- Resin is applied.
- The second glass pane is layered on top.
- The piece is sent through an infrared oven to soften the resin; and then
- Roller-squeezed to push out air bubbles and form better adhesion between the panes. In this stage, the resin is visible between the glass panes.
- Then the laminated panels are put in an autoclave oven and baked at a low temperature with high pressure – removing moisture and finalizing the bond between the glass panes and resin.
- Laminated glass panels are removed from the autoclave and technicians scrape off any excess resin squeezed out from between the panes.
- The laminated glass panels are now clear and placed on a conveyor line for inspection.
In an alternate method used by custom laminated glass manufacturers who need their pieces to be exactly the same (in stair railings, for instance), a vacuum oven is preferred over an autoclave.
The glass and resin “sandwich” is placed horizontally in a special vacuum oven. Inside, a bag seals around the glass pieces and creates a vacuum.
Between the heat of the oven and the vacuum, the interlayer is heated and air bubbles are pressure-squeezed out.
This method is preferred by manufacturers who need to fabricate the glass and temper it before laminating it.
Fabricators cut custom laminated glass panels to size and polish their edges based on customer specifications. Since most vendors keep LG in stock, it’s a quick answer for projects needing safety glass.
To create finished pieces that fit your vision and your project space, laminated glass can be fabricated with:
- Edgework – Removing sharp sides, while improving and accenting a piece’s appearance. Edgework can also meet safety, performance, and cleanliness needs and aids in chip prevention.
- Cutouts – Adding speak holes or pass-throughs, in partitions, for instance, to allow as little interference as possible while conducting business.
- Shaping – Using CNC machines, water jets, and drill presses, glass is cut to traditional geometric shapes as well as arches, gables, and decorative shapes.
- V-grooving – Similar to chiseling, intricate designs are cut into the glass surface to add interest and increase reflectivity.
Where You’ll See Custom Laminated Glass
You’re likely to see laminated safety glass anywhere there’s a need for increased security, energy efficiency, and soundproofing.
Custom laminated glass uses include:
- Automotive glass
- Sliding doors
- Glass railings
- Display cases
- Shower enclosures
- Soundproof booths
- Bulletproof glass
Is laminated glass safety glass?
The key advantage of LG over other glass types is its impact resistance. Laminated security glass windows and doors withstand break-in attempts longer than regular glass. Laminated glass storefronts and skylights withstand impacts from hail and tree branches, and LG walls, partitions, and stair railings stand up to the everyday wear and tear of public use while beautifying spaces.
LG is a great choice for storefronts, too, combining safety and security with soundproofing to block noises from busy streets, and UV resistance to keep merchandise in better condition, eliminating sun-bleaching.
Additionally, custom laminated glass pieces may be designed for aesthetics by incorporating a variety of tints or opaque materials such as plastic film between the glass layers – including logos, gradients, photos, and art.
Depending on your geographic location, it may be required to have laminated glass per safety codes. (For example, anything close to the coast must be either tempered-laminated or hurricane resistant laminated glass.)
Custom Laminated Glass Costs
On average, custom laminated glass costs two to four times more than regular glass, depending on the size, type, and thickness of the laminate.
The laminated interlayer can add up to 5% to the cost of the window, while thicker laminates such as triple glazing can cost even more. In addition to the cost of the laminate itself, installation also typically adds additional expense since it requires special equipment and expert technicians.
In comparison to other security glasses, like:
- Polycarbonates & acrylics
- Insulated glass units
- Tempered glass
Custom laminated safety glass may be more expensive.
Despite its higher cost compared to other types of windows, laminated glass provides exceptional safety benefits that are worth the extra cost. It’s an investment with a high rate of return. Consider it as insurance – it may never be used, but when it’s needed it goes a long way to prevent damage or theft.
Providing Form & Function
From commercial applications to residential projects, laminated glass provides
- Sun protection
Used for both form and function, it’s the preferred choice for architects and homeowners alike.
A durable and dependable commercial glass, LG provides performance benefits and peace of mind.
What’s Your Next Laminated Glass Project?
We’re ready to help you bring your next glass project to life, and we can tell you whether laminated glass fits your needs. Contact us today to find out more: