Glass fabrication techniques include cutting, grinding, laminating, and drilling. Glass fabrication also requires polishing, bending, finishing and edging in many cases. Precision and quality are of the utmost importance when performing glass fabrication processes, so Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines are often used.
CNC machines used in glass fabrication processes rely on computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) programs to machine pieces to exact specifications. CNC machines eliminate the need for many different types of specialty equipment by performing a variety of different tasks.
It is possible to use a CNC machine to drill holes, cut straight edges, and refine surfaces and grooves as needed for a particular design. To accomplish this assortment of tasks, the CNC machines used in glass fabrication contain a number of specialized tools such as diamond points, diamond abrasive tooling, and carbide wheels.
Glass Fabrication Applications
Glass fabrication can be used in many applications, but the most common are polished mirrors and lenses. Lenses may be used in the manufacture of eye glasses, telescopes, and prisms, all of which may be negatively affected by the slightest imprecision. Mirrors may be used in the manufacture of high-definition televisions, video projectors, and solar panels in addition to the common uses of mirrors in vehicle manufacture and as a home accessory. Glass fabrication can also be used to make wafers for use in LEDS, optical sensors, and power semi-conductors.
Glass Fabrication Materials
The types of materials that are most commonly used in glass fabrication applications include fused silica and borosilicate. Fused silica is made by melting very pure silica sand. The purity of fused silica makes it ideal for use in highly precise optic applications such as lab equipment and lenses for the ultraviolet spectrum. Fused silica also has a very high melting point, which makes it perfect for use in semiconductor production.
Borosilicate consists of sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate, quartz, and boron. This combination of materials creates a glass that is very heat and chemical resistant. This is useful in the manufacture of home use products such as cookware, microwave plates, oven doors, and coffee pots. The high heat and chemical resistance is also useful in laboratory glassware, lighting, and solar thermal heating. The alkali-free form of borosilicate is used for thin film transistor liquid crystal displays. These are used to create the flat glass panel displays for tablets, televisions, and cell phones.