The Next Phase of Glass Sustainability
Glass machinery and plant manufacturers join in a VDMA initiative to promote sustainability.
Sustainability—the balancing and integrating of economic, ecological and social objectives—is a term that has traditionally rarely been used in conjunction with one of the most energy-intensive sectors in the world: the glass machinery industry. For decades, however, German glass machinery and plant manufacturers have been developing new technologies to ensure that material is produced and processed in an eco-friendly, resource-saving and economical manner.
Since 1930, the average energy consumption for the production of a ton of glass (including further processing) has dropped by 75%. Very good results are now also being achieved in reducing flue gases, and new furnace techniques and filter units have reduced environmental pollution to a minimum.
With the creation of its Blue Competence label, the German Engineering Federation (Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbau, or VDMA) has made it possible for its member companies in the Glass Technology Forum (Forum Glastechnik) to publically underline the sustainability of their products, production processes, logistics—in short, their entire operations—with the specific aim of helping customers with purchasing decisions. The federation explicitly highlights that this is not a product designation label.
As Timo Feuerbach, who is in charge of the glass machinery and equipment sector at the VDMA, explains, Blue Competence is primarily a label to aid communication. It aims to pool together the interests, know-how and strengths of German machinery manufacturers and thereby contribute to developing pioneering technology and market leadership worldwide. The label, he says, defines criteria that every company joining the initiative must meet.
“Glass machinery technology under the Blue Competence banner stands for stable and energy-efficient production processes and highest quality end products,” explains Feuerbach. “This benefits glass manufacturers, end consumers and ultimately society as a whole.”
Glass: A Sustainable Material
Glass is increasingly proving its sustainability in times of scarce resources and growing environmental burdens. People come into contact with glass on such a daily basis that its outstanding properties go almost unnoticed, whether it is as high-quality packaging materials, heat- or sound-insulating glass, special glass in medical technology, or for touch displays on smartphones.
Glass also has a nearly unbeatable degree of recyclability and a great potential in the field of renewable energies. Without high-tech glass, photovoltaics and solar thermal applications would be inconceivable. Machinery and plant construction provide the basis for all this.
Presence at glasstec
For the first time under the Blue Competence banner, glass machinery manufacturers will be presenting their sustainable solutions for the future at glasstec, a glass trade fair that will be held in Düsseldorf October 23-26. Manufacturers plan to address the topic of greater efficiency in glass melt processes. This can be achieved through batch pre-warming and optimized melt processes, flexible melt aggregates, or fully electric melting units.
In the field of hollow glass, the new technology of hot laser cutting leads to improved edge quality while saving energy and reducing wastewater and grinding sludge. Manufacturers in this field will present innovative technology to produce new, multifunctional glass or extremely flexible and robust thin glass.
In quality control, scanning systems that also closely scrutinize laminated sheet and insulating glass for optical defects even during continuous operation can increase quality and reduce the number of rejects. Other displays at the event will include efficient cleaning and water treatment systems, and high-performance cutting and handling systems for flat and solar glass that come equipped with energy-saving drive solutions. With new recycling techniques, it will even be possible to recycle solar modules in the future.
In order to create a platform for the label and thereby help to publicize it—not only among potential customers, but also in the political sphere, on the capital and labor markets, in the media and among the public at large—the VDMA has created a new website, www.bluecompetence.net. The site explains the goals of the glass machinery and equipment sector, and concrete solutions for almost all sectors of mechanical engineering are demonstrated.
The site showcases new resources and energy-saving techniques. Aspects like lifecycle costs and environmental protection play an important role. In addition, the German glass machinery industry is given the opportunity to present itself as a sector focused on sustainability. Companies bearing this label can showcase the sustainable techniques they have developed. The website also provides valuable information to members of the initiative.
For additional information, visit www.vdma.org.