Glazing is playing a significant role with its capacity to increase the level of equipment in vehicles, in addition to its primary functions of improving comfort and safety. Automotive Industries discussed the latest trends with Davide Dardanello, marketing director of Saint-Gobain Sekurit International.
Automotive Industries (AI): In 40 years, the glazing area per vehicle has doubled. What are the new trends in automotive glazing?
Dardanello: More and more – and especially on concept cars – there are vehicles where the windshields wrap around the A-pillar; offering the driver a panoramic view in addition to a very exciting car design. At the same time the windshield is continued up the roof area, providing new emotions like well-being, openness, freedom and general atmosphere which is very well appreciated by the passengers. These new features combining a panoramic view and openness of the car to the outside are currently being investigated very intensively, and since both will massively change the design of the complete vehicle body, the development of such cars require high technical skills and large scale time for implementation. Indeed, this evolution is only limited by the design of the car body.
AI: Passengers are expecting comfort, safety and creativity in design. How do you ensure that your solutions provide optimal vision and better comfort?
Dardanello: In addition to the glazed surface, evolutionary shapes are today more complex while integrating a combination of several functions – for example anti-heat, heating and hydrophobic coatings. Most of these added value functions are today compatible with the new glazing shapes and consequently should follow the freedom of creation of the designers. The automotive design as well as the aerodynamic properties owe a lot to these new innovations. We are projecting that the next decade will accelerate the process of function integration answering to user expectations towards more comfort and security inside vehicles.
AI: In the area of safety and security what are your efforts to reduce the risk of ejection and the possibility of theft?
Dardanello: Most carmakers have already adopted laminated glazing in their general strategy as a key factor enabling the enhancement of safety and security, and also to improve the acoustic comfort inside the car and reduce UV radiations in a significant manner. A few years ago this type of equipment was only available on luxury car segments while today laminated glass appears in the medium range such as Citroen C4 and Volvo S40.
AI: What are the challenges in meeting the OEM’s creativity in new car design?
Dardanello: Thanks to many successful references in the frame of car developments, Saint-Gobain Sekurit is recognized as the technology leader in automotive glass. That makes us work harder to create the most technologically advanced products possible, combining new styles, new forms, and new functions. Saint-Gobain Sekurit commits considerable resources to its five research centers in France, Germany and Spain. If the priority is the car exterior, the sophisticated new shapes of our automotive glass contribute to car designs that are answering to the creativity of designers. In some cases very complex forms meet the physical limits of the glass, especially when the requested curvatures cause optical distortions. In this case, plastic glazing offers good solutions.
AI: One of the most promising materials in automotive design is plastic glazing. How does it compare in terms of thermal and visual comfort?
Dardanello: For many years, the automotive industry has analyzed the potential for polycarbonate as an alternative solution to traditional glass. Compared to the shape limitations of glass, polycarbonate glazing is lighter, impact resistant and versatile. An additional feature complies with OEM’s specifications, mainly in high product purity in transparent color shades.
In terms of styling and design, today’s advantages of plastic glazing are: shape complexity, assembly complexity and functional integration, customization with color and tints, safety and security, anti-scratch as well as UV resistance. In terms of weight saving, the benefits include: lightweight door designs, removable windows, lower centre of gravity, environment, energy economy and recycling. The challenge for the future is to incorporate the additional functionalities that are today available on glass into the plastic area.
AI: Rapidly increasing communication tools have resulted in more and more antennas in modern vehicles. Can you tell us about your integrated antenna systems?
Dardanello: Saint-Gobain Sekurit offers different SGS TENNAFIT® solutions.
o Printed antenna conductors: antenna conductors can be printed onto a glass pane in the same way as heating grids. The heating grid can even be used for the reception of FM radio and TV signals. Other communication services (such as AM radio, alarm and keyless entry) use separately printed networks. Antenna wire printing is used mainly on tempered or laminated backlights and sidelights.
o Wires in laminated glass: very fine wires are embedded in the interlayer of a glass laminate to serve as antennas.
o Coating in laminated glass: metallic coating used for heat reflection or heating can also be designed to serve as an antenna.
The advantages of glass antennas:
o Very well integrated in the vehicle and become almost unnoticeable
o Car’s design is clean without protruding rod antennas
o High reception quality is achieved
o Wide bands of frequencies are allowed
o Rod antenna vibrations and whistling noises are eliminated
o Improved aerodynamics
o Antenna breakage or theft are suppressed
o Does not increase the weight of the car
AI: How close do you work with carmakers in creating modular solutions?
Dardanello: To fulfill OEMs time and assembly constraints we deliver our products in just-in-time mode. This is achieved through what we call “service centers” – close to OEM plants our “Service Centers” deliver glazing ready to mount in line border.
The modular approach plays an important role in the automotive industry. In the modular product range we can distinguish between two axes: first, the modular products aiming to offer to OEMs direct benefits in terms of design (integrated antennas), style (extrusion) and easy integration. The second range of modular products is pre-assembly. Pre-assembly is another service offered by Saint-Gobain Sekurit for incorporating components and functions on a glass pane. A high diversity of components can be pre-assembled on glass either manually or via automated equipment, for example a rearview mirror base or a rain sensor.
Modular glazing is a complete glazing system supplied to the car manufacturers. These systems or modules are almost “ready-to-mount” and require only a few operations before being assembled into the car body. Using modules requires less space in the carmaker’s factories and helps improve their productivity by reducing the glazing assembly time and labor costs.