Bringing the right skills and experience to our testing and rigour processes

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Bringing the right skills and experience to our testing and rigour processes.

01 Nov 2018

Pilkington Planar™ is the perfect example of how our testing and rigour processes create state-of-the art glass systems. Pilkington Planar™  is a structural glazing system that provides a flush glass surface by utilising stainless steel fittings housed in countersunk holes.

Through our market-leading approach to testing we can use the Pilkington Planar™ system to create soaring facades, roofs, canopies or even clad an entire building – secure in the knowledge that the system will perform in the most demanding applications.

Here Mike Davidson, Technical Manager for Pilkington Planar™, explains how Pilkington creates the right mix of skills and experience within the business to develop a testing regime that goes above and beyond the rest of the market.

Q.What does your day-to-day role at Pilkington involve?
I have two key lines of responsibility - looking after R+D for Pilkington Planar and working with the Design Engineering team on commercial projects. Day to day it means I look after the technical side of the Pilkington Planar™ product group, including new product development, product testing, ensuring that our products comply with the relevant standards, obtaining and maintaining any required certification, & dealing with installation issues on site.  It can vary a lot and there isn’t a typical client. Most recently I have been involved with the independent testing & certification of the Pilkington Planar™ product to ensure that it meets the standard required by our customer. 

Q.How does Pilkington test the Pilkington Planar™ systems – and why is this approach to testing so effective?

We work extremely hard to ensure that our products are fit for purpose. The testing process is extremely rigorous and looks at each stage of the R+D process. We start with initial concepts via design software, then work with small and then larger models & ultimately test full size panels.

We’ll test bespoke panels for stress and deflection at our testing facility at Latham and only when we are satisfied that the panels behave as we would expect, we employ the services of an independent testing laboratory such as Wintech in Shropshire for further full-size testing.

Q.What is unique about the engineering methods that Pilkington uses to test its products?

We take it for granted sometimes but the testing we do is unique to Pilkington Planar™ in its breadth and scope. We have a suite of 4 bespoke testing rigs which can test a range of panels. 

We go beyond regulatory testing to put products through a much more rigorous set of tests, often taking panels to failure or the capacity of the rig. A standard industry test (BS EN 1279-2) will conduct 11 weeks of testing on a double-glazed unit.  Pilkington Architectural undertake this test but also go further & conduct an additional set of testing, the Pilkington Long Life Test.

We test our units for 30 weeks in 100 per cent humidity whilst cycling the temperature and expose them to 2,000 hours of UV exposure.  It is a very tough test to pass but it gives us the confidence to supply a 12-year design and manufacture warranty with the Pilkington Planar™ system.

Q.How do you work with other departments within Pilkington to ensure products meet the right testing standards for the market and for customers?

We have a wealth of knowledge and experience within our company that we can utilize when developing new products. For example, we recently developed coated laminated Pilkington Planar™, where a solar control coating is in direct contact with the interlayer.  This gives a degree of solar control without using double glazing and was a product that the NSG Pilkington group was already investigating.  We were able to work together and release the Pilkington Planar™ version within a shortened period, as much of the testing was already at an advanced stage.

Q.Are there any recent innovations that have changed the way you approach testing and rigour?

Pilkington have always undertaken a rigorous approach to testing prior to releasing new products to the market. We are currently in the final stages of testing a new Pilkington Planar™ fitting which is soon to be released.  

The testing of this fitting has taken years from concept through to completion, including using a hydraulic rig to determine the dead load capacity of the fitting, months of durability testing, internal wind load capacity testing in our testing facility, full scale testing at an independent testing laboratory along with all the production related testing required to ensure that it is a product that can be manufactured to the high standards, which we as a business pride ourselves on. 

Q.How does Pilkington approach recruitment and training to ensure it has the best, most skilled engineers working on testing and rigour?

It’s incredibly difficult because we are looking for a mixture of skills.  We generally look for qualified Mechanical or Structural Engineers that we can work with. We tend to recruit students or graduates who we can then train within the business to understand the use of glass as a structural element in the design of buildings.

Q.How do you work with customers to ensure Pilkington products meet their needs, particularly when it comes to rigour?

Pilkington Architectural view our customers more as partners & work very close with them on a day to day basis.  Our Engineering team will be involved in projects from an early stage and will work with our customers through to the completed installation. We also have more formal communications in the form of workshops and monthly visits by our sales team.

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