Decorative glass is a versatile product that has been used for centuries to meet a variety of design and structural needs. As style and design trends evolve over time, decorative glass technology has responded and improved to develop innovative products that will meet the changing needs of architects and designers. These improvements in glass technology have allowed decorative glass to stay relevant, and continue to be a key building material used in modern architecture and design.
One such advancement in glass technology is the introduction of Electrophoretic Ink, or E Ink. Developed by it’s namesake company, E Ink, this product is a component of a film used in Electronic Paper Displays (EPDs). For use in EPDs, E Ink film is laminated between glass and has a unique, bistable display, meaning that the image on the screen remains visible even when electricity is no longer being applied to the film. This significantly reduces the energy consumption of an E Ink display, and is a main reason why EPDs have an extended battery life when compared to a traditional LCD display, which refreshes the screen content 30 times per second.
Another component that makes an EPD unique when compared to a traditional LCD screen is the reflective display. An LCD screen has an internal light source which projects the light toward your eyes from behind the screen. The EPD’s reflective display mimics traditional ink and paper, as it is lit by the ambient light available in the environment. Compared to the LCD screen, the reflective display uses less power and also causes less eye fatigue for users when reading for long periods of time. Although E Ink is most commonly used in eReader devices, due to it’s versatility, low voltage, and bistable display, this product is gaining popularity and is now being used in various decorative glass applications including signage and promotional displays.
Another advancement in decorative glass technology is the introduction of a switchable film that allows a glass lite to go from opaque privacy, to non-privacy glass at the flick of a switch. Often referred to as Smart glass, or Switchable glass, the film is laminated between two glass lites and attached to a power source. When an electric current is applied to the film, the LCD particles react, causing the crystals within the film to align and the glass to appear in it’s non-privacy state. In it’s “off” state, with no electricity applied, the crystals will revert back to their original position in the film, offering enhanced privacy as the view through the glass is obstructed. In recent years, several technological improvements have made switchable glass more accessible to architects and designers. This includes a new generation of film that requires less electricity to activate the LCDs and improves the overall clarity of the glass in it’s non-privacy state. A key industry where demand for switchable glass has increased significantly is in the healthcare sector. This is not only because of the product’s sleek aesthetic and ability to provide instant privacy, but also because it maintains the easy-to-clean, durability of glass.
Using ceramic frit as a decorative glass component is hardly a new technique or technology, but in recent years a new way to apply ceramic frit to the surface of glass has emerged, with the introduction of Digital Ceramic Printing. Digital ceramic printing is a technology that applies ceramic ink directly onto the surface of glass, similar to the way that an inkjet printer prints onto paper. This solution is ideal for creating multi-colour, or full photographic images on glass. An example of a stunning project using this technology, is the Winnipeg Women’s Hospital in Manitoba. This building is LEED Silver certified and aims to combine natural earthy elements into the structure, including a fresh air circulation system, and a solarium with a living green wall. Goldray Glass created the exterior glass for this project, using a combination of vision and spandrel glass panels to form a mural of a forest. Creating this complicated facade took planning and precision during production. In order to correctly divide the larger image into a series of panels, each panel was numbered and designated a specific elevation, with a very particular pattern to be applied. By numbering the panels carefully, it ensured each panel was printed correctly and could be easily placed together during the installation process. The completed facade portrays a seamless vision and works to support the overall natural and green theme of the building.
Cathie Saroka is president of Goldray Glass, a manufacturer of decorative architectural glass based in Calgary, Alberta. Goldray produces innovative glass products for architectural and artistic installations.
Photo: Winnipeg Women’s Hospital in Manitoba