All You Need To Know About Automotive Glass

By: Mark S. Walker


When we speak about automobiles, we mostly cover how fast a vehicle is, its mileage and safety equipment. While the three points may be what makes a vehicle top-of-the-line or merely average, delving a bit deeper will reveal the various components that make up the whole. Automotive glass, for instance, isn't just any ordinary glass. The windshield of a car together with its rear window and side windows are made of different types of glass designed to protect its occupants.

The glass used in houses and offices is usually made of standard glass. Exceptions include sliding glass doors and glass banisters. Such glass breaks off into large shards when shattered. Conversely, automotive glass doesn't actually break, it shatters but in a web-like pattern or into tiny pieces, small enough to prevent injury. This ensures that occupants aren't injured if the windows break in the event of an accident.

Automotive glass makers use two types of glass for vehicles, laminated and tempered glass. The former is mainly used for the windshield while the latter is fitted onto the wide and rear windows. Both are very strong and can resist high pressure.

How laminated glass is made

Laminated glass isn't made of just a single panel; it consists of two panes of glass that have a layer of polyvinyl butyral or PVB in between. The PVB is sandwiched between the two panes and all three components are fused together under high temperatures to form a panel of sturdiness. It is the PVB that allows the glass to absorb force without shattering into pieces. Moreover, it also reflects away a large amount of UV light.

Functions of laminated glass

Aside from protecting a car's occupants from flying glass, laminated panels have other functions. They support the roof of a car during a rollover which prevents it from crashing down and injuring or killing occupants. Secondly, they help deflect air bags during deployment so that the bags do not hit the driver and passenger straight in the face. Note that air bags deploy at very high speeds and if they were to hit a person without being deflected, they would cause injury.

How tempered glass is made

Tempered glass is stressed to the extent that its strength increases. The finished glass then becomes up to 10 times stronger than it originally was. Unlike laminated glass which breaks in a web-like manner, tempered glass can actually break. However, since it has been stressed, it shatters into tiny pieces rather than large shards. This decreases the chance of occupants suffering cuts and more serious injuries.

Functions of tempered glass

Tempered glass prevents a car's side and rear windows from breaking when the door is closed and when the vehicle rides over a pothole. It also helps the windshield hold the roof so that it doesn't crash down due to its heavy weight.

One may wonder why laminated glass isn't installed in all the windows of a vehicle. After all, it can't break and appears to be a lot safer. However, in times of accidents or other events when the doors can't open and occupants need to get out in a hurry, the breakable side windows can literally save a life. Therefore, if all the windows of a car were to be fitted with laminated glass, there would be no point of egress. Think of tempered glass as giving access to an emergency exit.

The future of automotive glass will change as engineers find ways to create stronger glass. Till then, laminated and tempered glass will ensure that injury during accidents is minimized and the overall safety of a vehicle is heightened.

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