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A Look at Options for Decorating Flat Glass

(May 2007) posted on Tue May 15, 2007

This article examines the flat-glass manufacturing process and explores several decorating methods that you can use to crack into this large market.

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By Wim Zoomer

Sandblasting means spraying sand or other abrasive media at high speed against the surface of the glass. This technique provides the glass surface with a rough appearance, although the surface will remain translucent. This surface finish is usually coarser than what can be obtained by acid etching. Areas that must remain transparent are masked off before sandblasting. Screen printing is an ideal technique for applying the mask image. The depth and the degree of translucency of the sandblasted finish depend on the type and size of abrasive media used and the force at which it is applied. Sandblasted glass is used for several applications, including doors, shower screens, furniture, and interior screens.

Glass enamels

Glass enamels are substances used to tint or decorate glass surfaces. Other names for enamels include ceramic paint, ceramic paste, and glass paint. Glass enamels play a pivotal role in the decoration of glass panels for architectural work, such as façades and spandrels, as well as furniture, automotive applications, appliance components, and objects created by visual artists. All applications require different kinds of decorative glass enamels. These enamels are available in a wide variety of colors and with a range of different functional characteristics. There are several ways to apply these glass enamels. We'll examine some of the techniques in a moment.

The application method ultimately determines the deposit thickness of the enamel on the surface of the glass. Enamels for architectural and automotive glass, for example, are formulated to adhere to the glass substrate after application. The enamels are then dried to evaporate the solvent and are finally tempered at nearly 1300°F. Enamel's vitreous content is substantial, allowing the enamel and the glass substrate to fuse together at this temperature. Enamels commonly consist of zinc-borosilicate glass frit to adjust the melting point, a ceramic stain that lends color to the glass enamel, and glass fluxes to assist in fusing the color to the glass substrate surface during firing.

Decoration techniques

There are several ways to apply a full-surface enamel coat or an image onto a glass surface. Some of the most common approaches include spray coating, curtain coating, roller coating, inkjet printing, laser printing, and screen printing.


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