In this series, we’re looking at the many routes glass can take once it leaves the float factory. Last time, we looked at the automotive glass market, and before that we looked at how glass was created from piles of sand. This time, we’re looking at one of the largest uses for glass: building products.

Glass has a multitude of applications and uses in building, and as such can go in many directions when it leaves the float factory en-route to becoming finished architectureal glass.After leaving the factory, glass usually takes one of three routes: Semi-finished processing, wholesale, or insulated glass manufacturer.

Semi-Finished Processing

Semi-finished processing is when the glass is installed into a near usable product. While not completely assembled, semi-finished is similar to an Ikea package where all the parts are there and are ready to be put together by the end user.

One great example of a semi-finished glass product is a shower enclosure. The enclosure is installed around the glass, with holes drilled and mounts set. The pieces are packaged together and shipped out together, but require assembly at the end-user’s location.

After a piece of semi-finished product is created, it can be sent to a wholesaler or to frame makers. Both of these businesses prepare the product for life in a house, hotel, or anywhere else the semi-finished product will reside.

A large percentage of semi-finished products begin their life in countries outside the U.S., and are then shipped here for assembly and installation.

Insulated Glazing Unit Manufacturers

In some cases, float glass goes to an insulated glazing unit manufacturer (to learn more about this process, we have a great post detailing it over here.)At the insulated glazing manufacturer (IGU), raw glass is constructed into multiple panes of thick glass in order to reduce things like noise, UV rays coming through the glass, and improve air conditioner efficiency.

From there, glass units are either sent to frame makers and then to installers, or directly to installers if the frames are made in-house at the IGU manufacturer. Finally, the installers are responsible for the very last step of sending the finished product off for consumption by the end customer.

Wholesalers

Glass may simply go directly to a wholesaler after it leaves the float line. These wholesalers are responsible for matching supply with demand, and vetting both their customers and the factories for viability, safety, and good business practices.

A wholesaler has many routes to sell their glass. It can be send to an IGU manufacturer, to a frame maker, or to a glazier or installer. On top of the construction options open to wholesalers, some specialize in furniture markets where their glass is repurposed by craftsman and sold to furniture retailers.

What’s Next?

From a skyscraper to a rocking chair with a decorative glass inlay, float glass can take many routes to find the end consumer. Follow us as we continue to explore the multiple markets for float glass. Next time, we’ll be looking at the solar glass market.

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