Ceramic Industry

SPECIAL REPORT/GLASS: Advanced Flat Glass Outlook

March 1, 2011
The U.S. demand for advanced flat glass products is projected to reach $7 billion by 2014.

U.S. demand for advanced flat glass products is projected to increase 9.1% annually from a weak 2009 base to 745 million square feet by 2014 (valued at $7 billion). This growth represents a significant improvement over the 2004-2009 period, when advanced flat glass consumption suffered from the combination of a weak economy, crises in financial markets, the bursting of the housing bubble, and a sharp downturn in motor vehicle production. As a result, demand for advanced flat glass in 2009 was at its lowest level in more than a decade.

Going forward, a rebound in residential construction and motor vehicle production from low 2009 levels will spark strong growth in the demand for advanced flat glass products. Consumption will also benefit from increasing market penetration for a number of advanced flat glass products, including low-emissivity (low-e) glass, heads-up display and other advanced windshields, electrochromic mirrors, and smart glass products.

Safety and security glass accounted for nearly three-fifths of demand in value terms in 2009, reflecting the widespread use of these products in motor vehicles (laminated windshields and tempered window glass) and in nonresidential construction (laminated security glass and tempered fire-rated glass). Demand for safety and security glass is projected to increase 11.9% annually to $4.2 billion in 2014. Growth in demand will be paced by safety glass used in vehicular markets and laminated hurricane glass, although the latter will remain a regional product.

Consumption of solar control products is forecast to increase more than 12% annually from a weak 2009 base to $2.1 billion in 2014. Low-e glass has emerged as the most widely used product in manufactured window units, particularly in the double-pane units that now dominate residential window applications. The recovery in new residential construction through 2014 will boost demand for low-e windows, coupled with continued market penetration at the expense of plain annealed glass.

Electrochromic mirrors comprise the largest smart glass product category and will post outsized growth due to a strong recovery in vehicle production and growing market penetration. Other smart glass products, such as electrochromic windows, suspended particle device windows and liquid crystal display windows, will make some market inroads, although demand will remain relatively small through 2014.

Demand for other advanced flat glass products is projected to increase 7.7% annually to $745 million in 2014. The largest single product, heads-up display glass, will post strong growth as advanced display systems become more widely used in vehicular markets. Self-cleaning glass will also record very strong gains through 2014, albeit from a relatively small 2009 base. Other products, including ultraclear and colorless glass, anti-reflective glass, leaded glass, and electronic glass, will post below-average gains.

While hundreds of companies compete in the U.S. advanced flat glass industry, a relatively small number supplied the majority of demand in 2009. The top five companies accounted for nearly 60% of total 2009 sales.

This article is based on information from Advanced Flat Glass (published December 2010, $4800) from The Freedonia Group, Inc. For additional information, visit www.freedoniagroup.com.