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Clear benefits.

Glass coating is a particularly necessary process in the region.

'Double silver' coatings mitigate against 53% of the heat that would typically come through uncoated glass by blocking the infrared spectrum. Tinted glass, or tinted coatings, can prevent even more heat transmission by blocking the shortwave radiation of heat, together with visible light.

However, as the value of building projects in the region continues to increase, the monumental demand for glass, expected to rise 20% from 2012 to 2013, is placing an enormous strain on existing supply avenues.

"We have not done enough in terms of down-streaming these kind of industries," said UAE Minister of Economy HE Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori.


In particular, stocks of tinted and exotic glass in Europe and the US, two traditional suppliers, can be limited and order sizes restricted. This is because the main markets for European and American suppliers lack the environmental restraints of this region. A new coating line at the Emirates Glass facility in Dubai, inaugurated in March by the Minister of Economy, provides a flexible local option. Capable of loading fully-sized 6m x 3m glass sheet, up to a thickness of 90mm, the 20 chambers of the new line can layer a combination of different coatings up to 200 microns thick.

Khalid Bin Kalban, MD & CEO of Dubai Investments, said: "The new coating line will enable the company to capitalise more effectively on the burgeoning demand for energy-efficient architectural glass." The new line escalates yearly production at Emirates Glass to 3.5 million square metres.

Speaking on the sidelines of the official inauguration of the facility about the flexibility of the system, technical senior manager at Emirates Glass, Stephen Lipscombe, said: "We will do the full range. We are not restricted to anything. It depends on what the architect and the client is looking for."

A key advantage of the Emirates Glass line that has been afforded by recent technological developments is the possible incorporation of an extensive range of colours into the coating itself, unshackling projects from the whim of tinted-glass supply.

This is especially relevant in Dubai where, as Lipscombe commented, "everything is a different colour - green, gold, blue or even pink." An obvious benefit of colour coating is that the supply of clear glass in the UAE and the wider region is also cheap and comparatively abundant.

At the time of its inauguration, the new line was already in the process of coating locally-produced clear float glass from Emirates Float in Abu Dhabi for Saudi Arabia's ITCC or 'Smart City' development in Riyadh. "It is more environment-friendly, it is more cost-effective to do it like this, and we can offer a very competitive rate for projects on this glass. We are very proud of it," Lipscombe said.

Another feature of the new coatings line is that it can apply post-temperable coating. This is a sacrificial layer of additional protective coating intended to burn off during the tempering process, leaving the desired coating behind.

Glass must be cut before it is tempered. In the absence of post-temperable coating, the coating must be applied after the glass is cut to size and tempered. This means coating a higher number of variably-sized pieces of cut glass, which increases the complexity and cost of the coating process.

The new Emirates Glass line is designed specifically to be able to apply post-temperable coatings to 6m x 3m glass sheet. "The bigger the sheet, the better the optimisation, and the more flexible it is for the architect and their design," said Lipscombe.

This flexibility also means that such coating lines can also readily address a wider market.

Speaking after the official inauguration ceremony, the Minister of Economy highlighted Emirates Glass as a good example of a sustainable industry with global potential; one of the 40 companies under the Dubai Investments umbrella, it exports products to more than 28 countries.

"This factory produces and exports all the way to South America, the Far East, to many other countries," said the minister. "These are the types of industries that we would like to focus on, industries that do not limit themselves to the UAE or the region, but beyond that."

Al Mansoori placed his comments in the context of expectations that the UAE's manufacturing industry will increase its contribution to the nation's GDP from 14% to 25% in the next 15 years.

Glass LLC, the parent company of Emirates Glass, is an example of a company that has seen marked success, with sales of $108m during 2011, projecting $167.4m in 2012 and $270m in 2013-2014.

In a statement, Niju Vijayan, deputy director at Frost & Sullivan South Asia and Middle East, said, "This move to increase the focus on industrial activity is also aligned with other countries in the GCC that have decided to expand their horizon beyond oil- and gas-based industries. Moreover, alignment with the overarching objective of providing gainful employment to the local population is also a positive outcome of the creation of new industries," said Vijayan.

Dubai Investments has invested $405m in four glass factories, and has plans to invest a further $216m in 2013-2014, including an upgrade of the existing Emirates Float Glass factory in Abu Dhabi. Khalid Bin Kalban said: "Our broadened portfolio of clientele over the last couple of years has necessitated intensive investment in the glass industry."

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Publication:Construction Week
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Mar 29, 2012
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