Continuously being innovative and breaking new ground is an integral part of the corporate philosophy at Starglas. Hence you would be hard pressed to find a form of glass processing that this company, based in Bünde, Germany, has not mastered. As a result of this expertise, around 90 percent of the products they create are completely unique.
“If something needs to be special and really unique, then people come to us. If they want ‘cheap and cheerful’, there are other companies for that,” says Michael Klausing, Founder and Managing Director of glass specialists, Starglas, getting straight to the point. The company is characterised by various USPs and as a result, around 90 percent of the products that leave Starglas are completely unique. “Of course, if desired, we also deliver standard products. In particular, because some customers simply want everything delivered from a single source, or because they place great value on the ‘Made in Germany’ aspect.” One of Starglas’ specialities is laser subsurface engraving, which is why this expert glass company is in great demand in the advertising industry.However, the technology is also used when a mirror needs to be decoated at the back leaving it clear, for example because a television is going to be mounted behind it.
“We also occasionally provide kitchen suppliers with special solutions. For example, a kitchen manufacturer wanted one of its suppliers to supply painted glass, behind which they could place gesture control sensors for an “Alexa” system. And to control the system, there needs to be small, transparent areas in the paint. So, we then took on the task of decoating the glass by laser,” explains Mr Klausing.
For Starglas, digital printing is also an important aspect for customised products. In this field, the glass specialist collaborates with Japanese company, Mimaki. The special feature of the Mimaki UJF-3042Mkll, the UV-ink based printer that they use, is that it can even print on solid glass up to 150 mm thick.
For laminated glass products, Starglas prints the chosen graphic in high resolution on a transparent, pre-heated film using the Mimaki CJV150-75 print & cut machine. The advantage of this is that the solvent ink sinks into the film, creating a smooth surface regardless of whether something has been printed on it in a particular area or not. Next, the film is laminated onto the glass, which can then be easily processed into laminated glass.
Starglas is certainly the partner to choose, especially when it comes to very complex projects. A good example of this is a product that was created for Hülsta, a big German furniture manufacturer. “For this project, we were approached by a designer who wanted to apply an optically and haptically complex graphic onto 10 mm glass,” explains Michael Klausing. “It involved a plank structure that was deep blasted on the front. This made the glass feel like grained wood. In addition, the texture was to be further emphasised by digital printing, which was applied on the back.” Since Starglas does not etch the material itself, it was purchased from an Italian supplier, who applied 1.3-mm deep etchings. “We got Bohle to make us some special cutting wheels for our CNC cutting and we use these to pre-cut the coating layer. With the appropriate cutting parameters, we processed the glass again through the pre-scored coating. It is really advanced technology,” Mr Klausing points out. “And we still deliver the product in small batches to Hülsta now.”
To make sure it is always at the forefront of technology, Starglas - in which, besides Michael Klausing, glass specialists TGK, based in Schloss, also hold shares - is continuously investing. The company recently purchased a 5-axis water jet cutter, giving it a unique selling point in the glass industry. So now the company is able to cut almost any shape from glass. They can cut both external and internal contours with this machine. In addition, water jet cutting allows for extremely small radii. Another unique selling point is that Starglas can blast glass plates of 2.5 x 5 m. Thanks to these capabilities, custom table tops also feature among the company’s successful products. Furthermore, demand is increasing for printed kitchen splashbacks and illuminated glass.
“We use low-iron glass, which does not have a green tint like float glass does,” explains Michael Klausing. “When I shine light in from the side, one light beam or another passes straight through the glass and comes out on the other side. In this respect, it is also important to remember that the classic beam angle of LED is 120 degrees. Through the physical effect of total reflection, the light is refracted across the entire pane of glass from one side to the other and transported onwards. Wherever the glass has a scratch, a bubble, subsurface engraving, sandblasting, digital printing or other feature, the light is reflected and a pictorial representation, grid or colour gradient can be created or the glass can be illuminated homogeneously. Homogeneously illuminated glass is the highest in demand.”
Of course, like many businesses, Starglas has also been affected economically by the coronavirus pandemic. Sales through a variety of the company’s traditional channels have fallen sharply. However, the glass door business within the construction market has increased disproportionately, so there is good reason for Starglas to be optimistic that it will get through the crisis successfully.
The company is future-oriented in other respects too, currently working on becoming even more environmentally friendly. Five years ago, for example, they purchased a wood-powered heating system. This year, they added a chip-making system. “Our heating is now CO2-neutral,” says Michael Klausing. “In addition, we produce our electricity ourselves in an environmentally friendly mix.”
Starglas also demonstrates social responsibility in other areas: of the company's 31 employees, eight have a disability. “It is a case of recognising that there are activities in which the so-called weaknesses of these employees can become real strengths,” emphasises Michael Klausing. “And we want to constantly promote those strengths and consistently use them for the success of the entire team.”
Article originally published by möbelfertigung.