In the Know

Understanding the Variety in Decorative Glass: A Conversation with Kris Iverson

When it comes to decorative glass, Moon Shadow Glass marketing and creative director Kris Iverson wants architects to think of the possibilities. Decorative glass is more than just acid etching and screenprinting, there are countless processes and design options to choose from in today’s market. Iverson says there has been growth in demand for decorative glass because more architects are realizing the variety of options.

“It’s not the same old couple of grooves or solid etch; there are things you can do to create full, lifelike imagery on the glass,” he says.

Decorative glass can be used on the exterior and interior of a building, as well as in other outdoor spaces such as parking garages and transportation shelters where there is high pedestrian traffic.

Decoration Collaboration

When architects specify decorative glass, Iverson says they often aren’t aware of the different processes that exist. He explains that there are many different styles of decorative glass available, from standard etching to full-color prints and more.

“There are so many different things out there and I think architects usually get fixed on one or two styles and that’s where their mindset always goes,” he says.

Iverson says that fabricators ask architects how they want the final result to appear so they can suggest the best ways to achieve that result. He recommends that architects bring the fabricator in early in the process so the fabricator can help set up the specs for the bid, alleviating confusion.

“Bringing us in early in the process also gives them a chance to [figure out] the best and most cost effective way to produce the desired piece they are looking for,” he adds. “It allows them to bounce ideas off the owners of their projects, too, before too many things get set in stone.”

Another thing that Iverson believes architects should be aware of when it comes to decorative glass is that there can be size limitations. While there are large printers out there, not all fabricators have the ability to print large, 12- by 14-feet glass lites. Architects should keep that in mind when choosing a fabricator.

“There are printers out there who can do this stuff but most people don’t have them,” he says. “Architects also need to understand the sheer magnitude of how they’re going to mount the glass to what-ever substrate or wall. That’s a big thing we run into.”

Style Change Up

There are several ways to create images and designs using glass. One such method is digital printing onto the interlayer. This process uses a high-resolution ink-jet printer with special inks to print the image onto an interlayer which is then laminated between two lites of glass.

Another decorative glass method is direct-to-glass printing, which uses ceramic frit ink. Ceramic frit is ground glass or glaze that is baked right into the glass, so it’s resilient, according to Iverson. However, Iverson says the color palate of frit isn’t as expansive as other inks.

“The nice thing about [both methods] is that we can do everything from fully transparent all the way up to fully opaque and then we can laminate it,” he says, noting that the transparency does depend on the inherent transparency of the glass or interlayer.

Printing on the interlayer is better for exterior applications, according to Iverson, who says that this method has better UV protection since there is ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) on both sides, helping to protect the image against UV rays. He explains that EVA deflects 99.9% of UV rays.

When it comes to size, direct-to-glass printing may have the advantage. The size of the interlayer rolls limits the size of an image that can be produced. With direct-to-glass printing, it’s the printer’s size capability that is the limiting factor.

Iverson points out that laminated glass doesn’t have to involve just conventional materials such as PVB or ionoplast. He says it can also be created with a multitude of materials such as paper, wood, organics, fabrics, metals, paints, film and even other types of glass.

“Pretty much almost anything you can think of could be laminated between glass,” he says. The material between the glass could then be used next to the glass panel, making it look like one large piece, according to Iverson.

Screenprinting is another decorative glass method. It can use ceramic ink with a large screen that contains the pattern. This method works well when a repeating pattern is needed; however a screen needs to be made for each pattern.

Iverson says glass etching is a popular form of decorative glass as well. Etched glass is the result of a series or small cuts made to the glass, by acidic, caustic or abrasive substances. The cuts normally appear white against the glass. This process can form patterns or images. Etched glass is made by sandblasting, acid etching, using glass etching cream or even mold etching. In this process, a mold is made with the design or image created in relief and molten glass is poured into the mold and left to cool.

For etched only glass, Iverson says it’s import-ant for architects to remember that when water hits the etching it goes clear and is not as noticeable. He says there’s no way to prevent that. However, when the glass has dried it returns to its original etched look.

Other Considerations

When working on a project that will include decorative glass on the exterior of a building, Iverson recommends that architects specify that the glass will be used outside, especially if using direct-to-print glass because the colors could fade.

“You really need to have UV protective products for exterior projects versus interior projects. If there’s not going to be any kind of direct sunlight, then it’s not as much of an issue on the interior,” says Iverson, who adds that even LED lights don’t impact the colors and prints. If an application is inside and needs to be cleaned then architects will need to apply a protective coating for cleanability.

Iverson thinks that architects should consider including decorative glass in some of their projects if they aren’t already doing so.

“Decorative glass is beauty enhancement. It makes things look more finished and polished, that’s one thing that’s nice about glass,” he says.

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