On July 2009 Kolbe and Kolbe Window Manufactory invited our office to Wisconsin. They were not only so kind as to take us to their factory, but also schedule a number of interesting events for our brief visit. Among these were: a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin, a visit to Aldo Leopold Foundation Headquarters (the first LEED-platinum certified building) and the Cardinal floating glass factory.
These pictures of the glass factory capture some moments along its assembly line: A mound of sand and cullets waiting to be fed to the furnace, its transformation to molding glass and its division into panels to name a few.
This assembly line has been running continuously for 12 years and for its optimized performance this continuity has not been broken. All the glass produced in this factory has been cut from a single stretched sheet of glass. One of the processes that particularly called my attention along this trajectory was the moment in which the glass is cut. The mechanisms of this machinery respond to the seemingly simple necessity of cutting straight edge panels from a moving ribbon.
After being transformed into molding glass, a long tongue of glass stretches out from the furnace. This hot taffy-like material is carried on a conveyor by rubber wheels. As this continuity is to be maintained, to achieve a right angle panel the blade is set at a particular angle to accommodate the speed at which the glass travels. In other words, to achieve a rectangular panel the blade cuts the moving glass at a diagonal.
Interesting facts from our guide: Glass is never in a true solid state. The inert medium in which the glass is suspended is liquid nitrogen. As mentioned before, the furnace has not been shut down in 12 years making its maintenance cumbersome as the molding glass is frozen in order to repair the damaged sections.