The manufacture of glass began around 1500 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The first natural glass was opsidanos. The first glassmakers gave shape and form in soft glass winding it around a core of sand or clay, then cooling the glass and removing the core material.
In the next millennium, the glass was spread widely. The glassmakers learned to add different ingredients to the glass to improve strength, to produce a transparent glass to produce glass in a special color. It was mainly used by royal families or for religious ceremonies.
Around 300 BC some Syrian glassmakers invented the tube of blown glass in countless shapes and thicknesses. The Romans revolutionized the glass industry in the first century AD by using different construction techniques. Among them were blowing glass in free form, blowing glass into a mold and pressing glass into a mold. Also began to manufacture mirrors.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, much of its incredible glass-making art were lost. In Western Europe, the glass was again a product exclusively for the rich. The flat glass was used to produce glass windows in medieval churches. Around 650 AD Syrian glassmakers developed a revolutionary manufacturing method of glass production – curved glass, which was used in windows until the late 19th century.
The Venetians began to develop their own glass techniques in the late 13th century. They perfected a technique for flat glass. All the glass companies were transferred to the island of Murano. The Venetian techniques spread throughout Europe. Very soon the French glassmakers improved the Italian techniques. Meanwhile, the glass-making was perfected in Germany, North Bohemia and England, where George Ravenscroft invented the lead-glass in 1870′s. Around the same time began for the first time the production of glass in France.
With the establishment of the British Society of Glass in 1773, England became the center of the world. Fearing competition for domestic glass companies, England prohibited glass manufacturing in America. With the American Revolution, however,there was an influx of European experience in manufacturing glass. The first American innovation in glass industry was a glass press which was enshrined as a patent in 1825. The Industrial Revolution brought a number of innovations, starting with the development of air press machine in England in 1859. In 1871 the William Pilkington invented a machine that automated the production of glass. This technique was improved by J.H.Lubber to America in 1903.
Between the 1920 and 1930 the technique of “pulling” – flat glass with the best quality until then – began to dominate the glass production so the price drop across the glass industry.
By 1929, 70% of the production of flat glass in America was using into car industry. The bulk of this production was “safety glass”. Glass production was changed forever when Alastair Pilkington developed the modern technique of float glass in the decade of 1950. Today 90% of world-class glass is still produced using this technique.
In the 1960′s, companies increased their production volume, while reduced the price of flat glass. Up to1975, float glass plants amounted to 97%. With the global energy crisis in early 1970′s, demand for flat glass fell and the whole industry suffered. The situation worsened when the Ford Motor Company began producing float glass needed in its own factories, which had as a result significantly reduced sales in the automotive industry.
The glass manufacturers began to introduce new reflective coatings of high and medium yield in the visible light transmission, solar radiation and shading coefficiency. Also, new sheets of glass were manufactured that made buckling of flat glass easier for applications such as aerodynamic designing of cars. In addition, safety glasses were lighter and thinner to prevent distortion. Some European manufacturers have combined different thicknesses of glass to filter different frequencies of noise, while others have adopted the laminated glass to reduce noise.
Another major area of interest to industry in the next decade will be the electrochromic and photochromic technology – allow in glass to perceive changes in light and adjust accordingly. Today 28% of all flat glass used in automotive industry. An example is the evolution of “regulated” mirrors in cars react to changes in light, reducing light reflections during night driving.
As the glass industry expands, the volume of production exceeds global demand by around 1% annually. Europe along with the rest of America will have sufficient production volume to meet their own needs. On the other hand, profit margins in China have already become extinct since the price is almost equal to the cost of production.
The people of the area of glass manufacturing and processing have a unique business, with a long tradition of providing products to customers, which they themselves find attractive both in form and in operational terms. Besides, how many modern industries have a history of 3500 years? To continue the tradition of continuous product improvement, it is necessary to remember that they are the customers themselves who drive the industry. They need to know the needs and expectations of customers around the world, and to satisfy their needs with innovations in their products. If they do, then it is sure to have continued success as an industry.