Drivers have been looking through laminated windshields for decades now, but today there may be something new to see. Manufacturers of some passenger vehicles have begun installing a new generation of laminated and treated automotive glass designed to quiet cab interiors, deter vehicle break-ins, enhance safety, keep out the sun and the cold, add new design elements and even repel the rain, and truck makers are seriously considering doing the same.
PPG Industries (www.ppgglass.com), for example, recently announced that the 2004 Dodge Durango would feature side windows (sidelights) made of “Safe and Sound” automotive glass as standard equipment to help reduce cabin noise and protect against vehicle break-ins. According to Ed Littell, director of emerging technologies for PPG, the laminated glass reduces cabin noise by up to six decibels and provides about 20 times the smash-resistance of single-ply tempered glass. Those quieter cabs make it easier to use voice-activated navigation systems, cellphones and other devices, something any trucker could appreciate.
“We also provide a rain-repellent glass called ‘Aquapel’ to Lexus for use as part of a visibility package for the Lexus RX 330,” notes Littell. “The Aquapel glass treatment works by forming a chemical bond with the glass that causes it to bead and shed water easily, making it easier to clear ice, snow, dirt and bugs from the glass. It is also designed to reduce glare in rainy conditions, especially at night.
“From a design standpoint, glass in colors other than green is new to the automotive market as well,” he adds. “The Chrysler 2004 PT Dream Cruiser Series 3, for instance, features aquamarine-colored ‘Solextra’ glass in the driver and passenger windows and a darker blue glass in the rear and rear side windows for privacy.”
While tempered glass is still widely used for sidelights and rear windows throughout the automotive and trucking industries, insiders see a clear future for high-tech laminates and specially treated glass. “The trucking industry is absolutely looking at laminates for side and rear windows,” notes an OEM engineer working on new product development and advanced technologies. “We are very interested in it for several reasons, including security, UV protection, improved thermal efficiency for the cab, enhanced crash protection and possible noise reduction. There have been obstacles to address, however, such as higher cost and the fact that some laminates can be thicker than tempered glass, which means they will not fit into existing window lifts.”
“There is a lot of interest now in laminated glass for door, rear and peeper windows in commercial truck applications,” observes Ron Harner, director of product development for Guardian Automotive Products (www.guardian.com), a major supplier of glass to the trucking industry. “We have already produced some laminated parts for testing by some of the heavy-duty truck makers, and currently supply laminated glass for sidelights on passenger vehicles, such as the new Buick Rainier.”
According to Harner, the automotive and trucking industries in the U.S. may incorporate even more glazing innovations in the future, from infrared reflecting glass (already popular in Europe to enhance cab comfort), to windows with integrated rain or fog sensors that will automatically turn on wipers or defrosters.
“Old-fashioned” glass has clearly become a new technology to watch. It will be exciting to see through what comes next.