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The World of Glass Annual Report

Enlarge Font  Decrease Font Released Date2019-02-21   From   View Time2309
Le Cristallin office building 
Located in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, the 117,300-square-foot offers occupants a comfortable working environment with abundant natural light, made possible by the building’s glass grid façade paneling. Architect Atelier Zündel Cristea specified SunGuard High Durable Silver 70 coated solar control glass from Guardian Glass for the building’s double skin façade. T/E/S/S,, served as the engineering consultant for the project. Tvitec fabricated the glass panels, and Groupe Goyer installed the façade system. Photo © Sergio Grazia.

In today’s float glass market, emerging markets dominate growth opportunities, while new players become global leaders. Demands for higher-performance products for better buildings push manufacturers to innovate and develop more advanced glass products. And in North America, specifically, manufacturers eye expansion, breathing new life into the market with investments in new coaters and plants. 

Global float glass map
Above: Percentage of global float glass production in 2016, by region, according to The FreedoniaGroup, 2018 Global Flat Glass Market. Click image above for larger view. Visit World of Glass to view the interactive map. Below right: Number of float lines by producer.

01—­The Global Market
25 Years of Change
Number of float linesThe global glass industry has witnessed tremendous shifts in the last 25 years, with more changes on the horizon, according to Bernard Savaëte, a global flat glass industry expert and founder of BJS.Différences. 

The global market has ballooned, with the total number of lines increasing from about 150 in 1992 to more than 500 today. Geographically, production has expanded dramatically in newer markets—mainly China—while mature markets have stagnated. “Twenty-five years ago, 60 percent of float glass production came from the [European Union], the United States and Japan. Today, less than 20 percent of production comes from those places,” says Savaëte. 

New players have also emerged. In 1992, the global industry featured four dominant companies: Asahi Glass Co.; Pilkington; PPG; and Saint-Gobain. Two of those companies no longer exist in the glass business in the form they once did—Pilkington was acquired by Nippon Sheet Glass, and PPG sold its glass business to Vitro Architectural Glass. And the list of dominant global players has grown to include Guardian Glass; Fuyao; Kibing Group; Şişecam; Xinyi Glass Holdings Ltd.; and others.

Looking ahead, Savaëte says he expects to see more consolidation and restructuring with new companies becoming bigger players in the flat glass industry. He also anticipates that China will reduce its number of lines due to its overbuilt float capacity, and that more Chinese float producers will develop their businesses outside of China. Additionally, India, Southeast Asia and Africa will continue to become key development markets for the industry.

Worldwide Glass Production
Asia continues to dominate the global glass market. The region accounted for more than 66 percent of float glass production in 2016, according to The Freedonia Group’s 2018 Global Flat Glass Market study. China alone produced more than 53 percent of float glass in 2016. 

Mature markets in Europe lagged, with Western Europe accounting for about 9 percent of production and Eastern Europe 5.4 percent. (Read more from the Freedonia Group report in the Market Intel article on pages 29-30.) 

Independent Producers Lead Production 
About 500 float glass lines are in operation today, with independent, local manufacturers accounting for about 60 percent of production. The leading global companies—both new and old—account for the remaining 40 percent of production, with their reach extending across five continents. AGC Glass leads the pack with 37 lines in 15 countries. Saint-Gobain is next with 35 lines across 17 countries, and NSG Goup with 31 lines in 14 countries.

New float lines in Europe and Asia
Locations of new float lines in Asia and Europe. See details of corresponding numbers below.

New Floats in Asia
A majority of the notable and reported plant openings and expansions this year were in Asia. 

1-  BGF Glass Co. opened a plant in Bangkok, Thailand.

2- Turkmen Glass Products launched production at a new float facility in Turkmenistan, which will be the largest plant in Central Asia, according to the company.

3- In India, Şişecam Group acquired a majority share of its affiliate, HNG Float Glass, and Ahmet Kirman, CEO of the group, says India is “one of the world’s most promising markets in terms of growth potential.” Saint-Gobain leadership also declared a commitment to this market, opening a third float line at its Chennai location earlier this year. With three locations in the country, Pierre-Andre De Chalendar, chairman of the Saint-Gobain Group, told the Economic Times earlier this year that “India is the number one country for us—even more than China.” 

 4- The growth trend in Asia looks to continue. NSG Group announced a revitalization of a float glass facility located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and Nasir Float Glass Industries Ltd. and Azerfloat announced plans for plants in Bangladesh and Azerbaijan, respectively. In addition, a plant from Orda Glass in Kazakhstan is nearing completion. 

5- In addition, China Glass is reported to have created an investment fund for Eurasian glass factories, while Deli China and JW SEZ Group formed a joint venture for a planned factory in Pakistan. 

Poland Marks Bright Spot for European Investment 
6- The mature European market has been, and will continue to be, fairly stagnant in terms of float production, according to The Freedonia Group. However, Poland continues to be a target of investment. In 2018, Guardian Glass broke ground for its new plant in Częstochowa, Poland. The plant will be located next to the company’s existing facility and produce float and coated glass. “We are excited about the growth we’ve seen in Poland—and confident that the Częstochowa location is well positioned to meet our customers’ needs,” says Kevin Baird, Guardian Glass president and CEO. 

Emerging Global Players Cross Continents
Among the emerging global players, Turkey’s Şişecam Group, and China-based Fuyao Glass and Xinyi Glass, have made notable moves to expand globally in recent years.  

7- In Europe and Asia, Şişecam has been making waves with notable expansions. In 2018, the company bought a majority stake in its India-based affiliate, HNG Float Glass. Additionally, group member Trakya Cam Sanayii A.Ş. acquired the Sangalli Vetro Manfredonia facility in Italy, its second Italian acquisition after last year’s purchase of the Sangalli Vetro facility in Porto Nogaro. "Adding this facility to our assets, Şişecam Group gained an annual production capacity of 220,000 tons of flat glass and 5 million square meters of laminated glass, and became the largest flat glass producer in Europe in terms of production capacity," says Ahmet Kirman, Şişecam Group vice chairman and CEO. "We have added Italy to our international flat glass production network, which previously included Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia, India and Egypt. The annual flat glass capacity of our group, including Turkey, has exceeded 2.5 million tons."

North American float line locations
Click image for larger view. Visit World of Glass to view the interactive map.

02­—­The North American Market
Market witnesses restoration of down float lines, key coater investments and long-awaited expansion announcements

North American float line data
North American float lines in operation 2005-2019.

Announced Expansions
North America’s float capacity has begun to rebound after declining from 44 operating lines in 2005 to a low of 34 lines in 2015. At the start of 2019, 38 lines are in operation, with manufacturers announcing expansions. 

NSG Group plans to invest $350 million in the solar market in the next few years, an expansion that will include a new float plant in Troy Township, Ohio. Expected to be operational in 2020, the 500,000-square-foot facility will be located near a facility of NSG’s partner, First Solar.

Saint-Gobain’s new float production line in Saltillo, Mexico, is scheduled to be operational in 2020, according to company officials. The new plant will supply Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, the United States and Canada, producing glass for both the automotive and construction markets.

In November 2017, Xinyi Glass announced plans to build a $450 million float plant facility in Guelph/Eramosa, Ontario, Canada. The venture would represent the return of float glass manufacturing to Canada, which hasn’t had an operating float line since 2008. The company’s initial bid ultimately ended with the Guelph/Eramosa Council rejecting Xinyi’s application, citing the planned facility’s inability to meet dry-use standards. However, according to a Jan. 7 report from the Windsor Star, Xinyi Glass Canada is now looking at several alternative Ontario locations for the new plant, including Stratford, London, Welland and Amherstburg.

Rebounding Capacity
In 2017, the United States float industry unexpectedly lost three lines, squeezing capacity. Guardian Glass’ DeWitt, Iowa, and Vitro’s Carlisle, Pennsylvania, locations both experienced unexpected closures after fires, and NSG/Pilkington’s Ottawa, Illinois, plant was down following a tornado. “That’s 8.5 percent of [domestic] capacity,” says Stephen Weidner, vice president of NSG Group. “Mother Nature, acts of God, these unplanned events affect capacity and supply.” 

Making matters worse, the unexpected outages were on top of already-scheduled repairs of several lines. “[2017] was very difficult for the industry,” Weidner says, adding that strong demand in North America globally squeezed capacity even further. Difficulties continued into 2018. “This year, inventory hasn’t really recovered. Spring construction begins, and it drives down inventories,” he says. 

Despite the capacity challenges of the past two years, supply has begun to stabilize, says Weidner. The damaged lines restarted production, and several lines that were under planned repair also came back online, including at Guardian’s Geneva, New York, plant and AGC Glass’ Church Hill, Tennessee, facility. “The needle is going in the right direction,” Weidner says. 

The Thompson Hotel
The Thompson Hotel is a new, curved skyscraper located in Nashville, Tennessee, featuring 60,000 square feet of high-performing solar control low-emissivity glass from AGC Glass North America. The hotel utilizes AGC’s Energy Select 28 in a clear anodized curtain wall inside the hotel. On the ground level, the adjoined Marsh House restaurant is lined with Energy Select 40 in a bronze framing. The project team included the architect, Hastings Architecture Associates LLC; the glass fabricator, Insulite Glass; and the glazing contractor, Pitman Glass. Photos courtesy of AGC Glass North America.

Coating Investments
Several manufacturers made major investments in North American coaters. Two of these coaters will serve the in-demand jumbo glass market. Guardian Glass launched its first North American jumbo coater this fall at its Carleton, Michigan, facility. The new coater can process standard sizes of 130-inch by 204-inch sizes, as well as larger special orders. 

Vitro also launched a new jumbo coater, operating out of the company’s Wichita Falls, Texas, manufacturing plant. The new addition allows the facility to produce energy-efficient glass in sizes 112.5 percent larger than standard size lites, says the company.

“One of the general trends in [the] marketplace has been bigger glass sizes,” says Chris Dolan, director, commercial segment, North America, for Guardian Glass. “Architects are interested in specifying and designing buildings with more glass to increase views. This is something attractive to occupants and owners.”

In addition to the jumbo coaters, AGC Glass also broke ground on its new MSVD coater in early 2018 at the company’s Church Hill, Tennessee, facility, which has two float lines. “AGC is currently in the process of commissioning the coater to produce its complete range of products. It will have full production capabilities at the beginning of 2019,” company officials said in a statement. 

03—Trends & Forecasts
University of Kansas Medical Center Health Education Building
Solarban 70XL solar control, low-emissivity glass and Solarban 72 on Starphire low-iron glass by Vitro Architectural Glass are key components in the University of Kansas Medical Center Health Education Building, an interdisciplinary, multipurpose academic facility. Designed through a partnership between Helix Architecture + Design, and CO Architects, the five-story, 171,000-square-foot facility balances the use of glass, metal and brick to create an iconic presence on campus. The building features a four-story glass “lantern” box design glazed with high-performance Solarban 70XL glass and fabricated by Insulite Glass. Flexible learning studios and state-of-the-art clinical skills labs “float” within the box to show off the core of the building’s curriculum to the public. Photo by Tom Kessler. 

Trends to Watch
Manufacturers point to a number of key market trends, including a push for further product and whole-façade performance improvements, and advancements in new technologies. “I’m curious to see what’s next in the industry. We’re all looking for the next game changer,” says Gabor Andrasi, director of demand creation, Europe, Guardian Glass. 

“We’re seeing a continual improvement of glass,” adds Chris Dolan, director, commercial segment, North America, Guardian Glass. “It’s such a beautiful material. The possibilities seem limitless.”  

Sustainable and energy-efficient products
The industry demands “glass with green attributes. Glass for solar, BIPV; solar-control products, dynamic glazing,” says Stephen Weidner, vice president, NSG Group.

Dynamic glass—and dynamic façades—are a key trend to watch, say manufacturers. “We’re moving from static façades to dynamic, smart, functional façades,” says Weidner. 

“Customers want to have dynamic shading to reduce glare,” adds Eric Wroldsen, director of marketing, Americas, Guardian Glass.

Vacuum insulating glass is also gaining traction. VIG could offer major performance improvements, says Greg Kemenah, director of Guardian VIG. “Guardian introduced VIG to the market in North America about 18 months ago with a focus on the commercial market. We’re replacing monolithic glass with VIG glass and moving from an R1 window to an R12 or R14 window.” 

Complex façades
Architects continue to push the envelope of building façade design. “More and more, we’re looking at building with curved façades, 3D curtain walls instead of flat,” says Glenn Davis, international director, Vitro Architectural Glass. “We’re seeing landscaping in the façade—a 40-story building with integrated trees. Cities like Dubai are an architect's playground. … The complexity is pushing limits of what fabricators can do.”

Jumbo sizes
Jumbo sizes, which have been standard in Europe, are coming to the North American market, say manufacturers. The larger glass sizes require larger fabrication capabilities. 

“Larger glass is going to be heavier. The setup has to have the right cranes, the right handling equipment. Look at the safety requirements, the ceiling height, the storage. These are all important considerations,” says Guardian’s Dolan. “There are also technical considerations of heat treating the glass. … On the design side, fabricators should consider the deflection of the glass with the larger insulating units.” 

Technology in glass 
Guardian’s Wroldsen also points to the increased technical capabilities of glass, such as glass displays and touch screens. “We’re seeing the interactive technical future of the industry. So much is possible. Glass touch screens, the ability to control spaces with glass,” he says.

More efficient manufacturing technologies
In addition to producing high-performing products, manufacturers are also pushing for more environmentally friendly and sustainable manufacturing processes. “We are improving how we manufacture glass,” says Weidner. “We are instituting the latest pollution control to address [the need] to cut emissions.”

Market Headwinds
Potential economic slowdown
The global glass industry has been in a period of sustained growth. “We are in our 10th year of growth,” says Guardian Glass' Dolan. 

Several manufacturers say the market continues to be strong, but it’s showing signs of a slowdown. “All segments are showing tempered growth,” says Vitro Architectural Glass' Davis.  

“How long does the strong economy last? Architects say they have [a] lot of building into next year, and we will ride the wave. But we’re planning for when that wave is going to break,” says NSG Group's Weidner.   

Continued labor shortage
Manufacturers say the labor shortage at all levels of the construction and manufacturing industries continues to negatively affect the industry. 

“There’s a lack of labor to dig holes, a lack of labor to erect steel, a lack of labor to run new equipment,” says Weidner. “There are more job openings than there are people looking for jobs.” 
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