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This year has been another difficult one for German glass machinery and plant manufacturers. However, speaking at the glasstec/solarpeq press conference in Düsseldorf, Germany, Bernd-Holger Zippe, Ph.D., chairman of the VDMA Forum Glass Technology, said, “…things are going better for us than expected at the beginning of the year–we seem to have successfully managed the turnaround after the crisis.”
Orders Back in the Black
Foreign Markets Fuel Upswing
German manufacturers generate about two-thirds of their turnover abroad, which is fueling the slight upswing. After foreign orders plunged by up to 70% in 2009, they are now back on a promising track. From January to July 2010, they were up by 57% against the same period last year. Domestic orders are lagging behind and are still lower than in 2009.
Europe Remains Principal Export Market
The sector registers particularly high demand from the near and Middle East,
“We are trying to avoid cut-throat price competition by scoring on quality and service. These are our strengths,” said Zippe. However, the principal sales markets for the high-tech sector will also continue to be focused in
Optimism for 2011
Competition Factor Energy Efficiency
Zippe stressed that machinery and plant construction were the “driving force” for energy efficiency in the manufacturing industry and in energy conversion. Glass serves a double function here. On the one hand, German glass machinery builders and their innovations ensure that energy-efficient quality products can be manufactured, such as glass for photovoltaic applications, multi-functional façade glass that generates power while protecting against solar radiation, or vacuum insulation glass that insulates just as well as an outside wall despite its light weight and thin structure.
On the other hand, German glass machinery builders also provide the manufacturing industry with energy-efficient manufacturing technology. Over the past 80 years, average energy consumption for producing one ton of glass has been cut by 75%, from about 6000 kWh to approximately 1500. This, Zippe said, has been enabled by new technologies and optimized processes, optimum material and raw material use, system control, and engineering. Zippe says that there is still some energy-saving potential, but that this is markedly higher in the solar glass sector than in conventional glass applications. A promising way of reducing energy input is the improved use of waste heat from melting units to prepare the raw material for making glass. Innovations in this area promise to generate energy savings of as much as 10-17% and will be slow to come to market.
In view of the ambitious climate protection targets set by policy makers, the energy efficiency theme opens up excellent growth perspectives for glass machinery exporters. “Our competence makes for a pivotal USP in competition,” Zippe said, going on to say that energy efficiency was a triple-win business at the end of the day: giving machinery builders a competitive edge, customers lower energy costs and society a massive reduction in CO2 emissions.
Plenty of Potential in the Solar Glass Industry
A current mega-trend in the German glass machinery industry is the connection of glass and solar systems. Many synergies exist in terms of production, quality, cost savings and logistics. Over the past few years, this has opened up a promising market for companies in the dynamic growth area of the solar systems industry. There are now even specialized solar glass production lines because the demand for solar glass has soared. These lines are characterized, in particular, by the downstream processing step and a host of improvements of the semi-finished product vs. standard glass. PV module and collector producers now have at their disposal low-iron, highly light-admitting glass within specifications and at affordable prices.
“There is plenty of optimization and development potential in cooperation with the solar systems industry,” Zippe said.
A mega-trend for classic glass machinery construction originates from the container glass industry and is “consumer-driven.” This trend is toward the production of lighter yet robust glass bottles.
For additional details, visit www.vdma.com.