Understanding and meeting customer needs in the automotive glass industry

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In his position as Chair of the SAE International Glazing Materials Standards Committee, Daryl Trate is well placed to comment on the global automotive industry’s latest glazing requirements and expectations. Mr. Trate has specialised in auto glazing for almost three decades.  

Global sales of passenger cars were forecast to reach 77 million vehicles in 2019, down from a peak of 79 million in 2017. Together with China, the USA is up there as one of the largest automotive markets worldwide, both in terms of production and sales. Industry statistics confirm that almost 12 million light trucks and some 5.3 million passenger cars were sold to US customers in 2018. Approximately 2.78 million cars were produced in the USA in the same year

Despite the COVID19 pandemic, this increase is still being felt in the market. According to the Globe and Mail, “car sales have generally started to rebound in both Canada and the United States. 14 per cent of survey respondents were planning to buy a car as a direct result of the pandemic, citing increased flexibility and control over cleanliness as reasons.”

Car-process Glass industry Synergx

 

Previously known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, SAE International is a globally active, USA-based professional association and standards developing organization for engineering professionals in various industries. Its main emphasis is placed on global transport industries such as automotive, aerospace and commercial vehicles.

SAE’s Glazing Materials Standards Committee reports to the Vehicle Systems Group of the Motor Vehicle Council. The committee is responsible for developing and maintaining SAE standards, recommended practices and information reports related to safety glazing materials and their use in ground vehicle applications in the global market that establish performance criteria of safety glazing material constructions

Automotive glass trends

According to Mr. Trate, the key priorities for leading auto manufacturers in the early 2020s are required to deliver a combination of integration, execution and flexibility, together with reliability, quality and efficiency.

“In particular, the biggest industry shifts involve electrification, autonomy and the trend towards shared vehicle use.  This will drive an increased duty cycle of glass” he explains. “Overall, there is a growing need for increased glass functionality.”

During the past five years, the needs of auto producers have evolved significantly in terms of delivering increased throughput and capacity while reducing manufacturing variability. These requirements are expected to continue in the future, together with a requirement for increased validation support.

Glass inspection focus

Mr Trate confirms that the SAE Glazing Committee has recommended that optical inspection of windshields and backlights be carried out at installation angle.  This validation is important to ensure no blemishes are present to drivers.  This evaluation can then be correlated to a standard angle measurements for on-going inspection.

Also, some optical characteristics, such as draw lines, require both visual and objective inspection requirements to be sure to establish acceptable limits.

Furthermore, there are a number of other important requirements to consider. When inspecting a windshield that has a camera and/or HUD area, for example, the dimensional and optical requirement will need to be much higher.   Increased manufacturing variation can be observed from different glass forming processes.  This is a result from the use of multiple bending irons that are all very similar, but slightly different.   These subtle differences lead to variation in the optical performance of the glazing.  According to Mr. Trate, the industry is managing this variation now, but the increase in high functionality glazing implementation will require tighter bending control.   Additionally, lighter weight glazing (asymmetrical and ultra thin thickness windshields) present challenges of their own, where handling, annealing, forming and optics require better control and reliable inspection.

Glass supplier expectations

Mr Trate confirms that the automotive industry is pushing for glass suppliers that are adopting global quality control methodologies. Their approach to process control and their ability to deliver highly repeatable products sit at the top of the list of supplier capabilities.  In these systems, the quality of the glass produced is measured against internal standards, where it is validated at the start of the program and is then subjected to ongoing QC routines to assure continued compliance.

Traditionally, cleanliness and optical issues represent the main and repetitive quality issues identified on the glass delivered. When a problem is identified, the glass may be subjected to visual inspection/sorting at the vehicle assembly plant or it could be returned to the supplier.   Adoption of advanced inspection equipment can help alleviate or reduce these type of quality issues.  In addition, this type of equipment provides traceable data to help resolve quality spills.  This is a great help to the automotive industry in preventing problems in the future.

In the short-term, Mr Trate would like to see the industry adopt improved in-plant handling methods to further reduce the number of defects in glass. “Introduction of the latest improvements in manufacturing technology, cameras, HUD etc… means that validation is tougher” he warns. Mr Trate anticipates a further increase in customer expectations for glazing in the future.

Better-expectation

Inspection expertise

It is widely acknowledged that improved correlation, validation and control can result if auto manufacturers and glass suppliers use the same inspection equipment. Optical glass inspection technology specialist, SYNERGX Technologies works closely with leading automotive glass manufacturers and their customers throughout the world to deliver innovative, real-time solutions.

Mr. Trate recognises the value of the company’s technology, while also appreciating its openness and ongoing commitment to push the limits of inspection.

 

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