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Inside the Pilkington testing facility at our R&D Centre in Lathom

23 Nov 2018
At Pilkington we don’t just meet industry standards, we exceed them. That’s our mantra for producing market-leading glass that performs to the highest specifications in every situation that our customers demand.
Inside the Pilkington testing facility at our R&D Centre in Lathom

We want our customers to feel confident that Pilkington products are Best in Glass, so we go above and beyond when it comes to testing and rigour. That means investing in our people, our processes, our scientific testing methods – and crucially in our technology.

NSG Group, the parent company of Pilkington, has R&D facilities around the world including in Germany, the US, Japan and the UK. Among these state-of-the art facilities is the European Technical Centre in Lathom, Lancashire, which sits at the heart of our testing and rigour processes and our mission to deliver glass that customers can truly trust.

What we do at Lathom

The European Technical Centre in Lathom, Lancashire is a major centre of activity for Pilkington Architectural Glass R&D Function, as well as Automotive R&D.

R&D at Lathom covers a wide range of activities, from developing new functional glass and glazing systems, to photovoltaic glass substrates to testing our fire range of glass. The Lathom centre itself has delivered product innovations such as Pilkington Activ™ self-cleaning glass and, more recently, energy-efficient coated glass such as Pilkington K Glass™ S.

From a testing and rigour perspective, an enormous variety of tests are carried out at Lathom to ensure Pilkington glass can stand up to the most extreme conditions, from pendulum impact tests to fire-resistance and UV testing. 

Below we look in more detail at a selection of the testing and rigour processes used at Lathom, and why they are so vital to achieving the highest possible product quality for Pilkington.

Pendulum impact test

Our pendulum impact test at Lathom goes above and beyond industry standards to test our glass across different impact scenarios. This includes dropping a 50kg impactor, comprising two pneumatic tyres, from three different heights. The lowest height is the equivalent of an adult pushing hard against the glass or a child running into it, while the highest height is one of the key tests used for critical glass applications. 

 
The test also measures the mode of breakage – such as whether a break results in large fragments with sharp edges, or whether cracks appear but the fragments hold together, or whether the glass disintegrates into small particles that are relatively harmless. 

The height and breakage tests feed into an equation that reveals the level of impact at which there is no break or a safe break for a particular piece of glass.


Fire-resistance test

Fire-resistance testing at our Lathom facility recreates the conditions that determine how glass reacts in the event of fire. This includes replicating the product’s intended end-use by building windows and doors into an appropriate supporting construction before mounting the structure to the front of a furnace. 

The temperature within the furnace is controlled according to an internationally-accepted time and temperature regime, and testing is continued for the required duration (e.g. 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes) or until the specimen fails and it is no longer safe to continue. Failures are measured according to integrity, insulation and load-bearing capacity. 

This approach to fire-resistance testing at our Lathom facility helps to ensure that Pilkington products are as safe and resilient as possible. 


UV testing

UV testing at our Lathom testing centre simulates the effects of solar exposure. Samples are exposed to lamps for 2,000 hours at 45°C, and the time can be extended until requested or until the failure of the samples. 

The pass requirements can be related to the change of specific solar optical properties, cosmetic changes (delamination, bubbles, etc.) or both. 

This level of rigour in our testing at the Lathom helps us to be Best in Glass when it comes to product innovation – such as with our Pilkington Suncool™ range, our highest performing solar control and combined low-emissivity glass products.

Wind load test

At the Lathom facility we have equipment dedicated to performing wind load testing on Pilkington Planar™ - a structural glazing system that provides a flush glass surface by utilising stainless steel fittings housed in countersunk holes.

This market-leading equipment includes four different testing frames where applied pressure can range from 3000 Pa (for the biggest frame size) up to 5000 Pa (for the smallest one).  

The test is operated by the application of a series of positive and negative test pressures. The resistance to wind load can include a deflection test and a repeated pressure test. 

Our wind load testing regime is further evidence that at Lathom, we go above and beyond to ensure Pilkington products deliver the best possible results for our customers.

Temperature and humidity chambers

Pilkington uses a number of temperature and humidity chambers at its Lathom testing centre to ensure its glass can stand up to both extreme heat and cold.

Its Thermotron cabinets, for example, can tests temperatures ranging from -70 to 150°C and humidity up to 95% RH. Meanwhile, the centre’s ACS cabinet can again test a huge range of temperature and humidity conditions with a particular focus on testing automotive windshields.

These state-of-the-art resources enable us to test our products for all conditions and every situation, ensuring that the end result for our customers is undoubtedly the Best in Glass.