We drive cars at incredible speeds on the highway. We tend not to think about it, but flying down a road at 60 miles per hour or faster comes with incredible risk. If you were to hit something at that speed, it would be bad, to say the least. On top of that, you’re staring through a giant window made of glass. It’s a miracle that anyone ever survives driving!
Well, it might not be so miraculous after all. Countless hours of brilliant engineering have gone into every facet of automotive design. Most of the elements in your car are designed to protect you, and that includes the giant sheet of glass in front of your face. Windshields are manufactured to be safe. When you know how windshield glass is made, you can see why that can be said.
Before getting into the specifics of windshields, let’s develop an understanding of how glass is made. Windshields are made up of the same core materials as other glass. When all is said and done, around 60% of the material of a windshield is identical to standard glass.
For this part of the process, silica (silicon dioxide) is mixed with sand. To be more specific, the quartz that naturally exists in sand is what the manufacturers are after. When the mixture is heated enough (to around 2,000°C), you get glass. Making raw glass is the first step to creating a windshield. The processes that follow are what turn the glass into something special that can be safe on the road.
Upgrades for Windshields
Special treatments make the glass much stronger. They can also prevent the windshield from shattering into sharp pieces.
Tempering is a technique that strengthens glass significantly. Tempered glass tends to break into very small beads that are not sharp. Because of this, windshields have been tempered as a standard practice for almost a century. It’s a common way to make them considerably safer, and it’s why windshields are hard to break. If you’ve ever seen someone deliberately try to smash a windshield, you probably saw them struggle.
Tempering is achieved by heating the glass to a very high temperature and then quickly cooling it. When done properly, this process causes the material to rapidly expand and contract, which can cause it to compress. The compressed glass gains dramatic increases in tensile and impact strength.
Tempering has been around for a long time, but roughly 50 years ago, lamination replaced it as the standard way to enhance windshield glass. You’ll understand why in a moment.
To laminate glass, two sheets of glass are bonded to a resin layer in the middle. The bonded materials are subjected to high heat and pressure, which causes a compression process similar to what you get with tempering. The result is a multilayer glass made of very strong materials.
The resin adds an important benefit to the final product. If the glass does break, the broken bits stick to the resin. If you have ever seen a modern windshield shatter, you probably saw how it remained mostly stuck together. No matter how many cracks web through the large sheets of glass, the entire thing tends to stay attached like a single unit. Laminated glass isn’t likely to break into sharp pieces, and those pieces rarely separate from each other. This makes the windshield substantially safer, and because lamination still compresses the glass, the product is incredibly tough and durable. You can see why this is the standard process for enhancing windshield glass.
Prepping the Windshield for Assembly
Once you have tempered or laminated glass, it needs to be cut into the shape of your windshield. Diamond tools are used to cut glass sheets according to the specifications of the vehicle.
After the glass has been cut, it’s ready for assembly. During assembly, sensors and other features are added to the glass. It is also fitted into a frame that is used to attach it to the vehicle. The framed windshield is ready for installation. Once installed, it’s ready to hit the road.
That’s the process. You have a better idea of how windshields are made, and you have an understanding of why they are so strong and safe. Even in the worst accidents, windshield glass is not usually the cause of serious injuries. With its toughness and flexibility, it can absorb a lot of force, making it yet another layer of safety in your vehicle.
Despite all that, windshields are not completely impervious to harm. They can be chipped, cracked, and otherwise damaged. Once that happens, they lose integrity and become more likely to sustain additional chips and cracks. If you need a windshield replacement or repair, you can get help from Advanced Auto Glass. Contact us online or call us at 817-595-3200, and we’ll take a look at your windshield. We’ll give you the best options so you can have a strong, safe windshield that is ready for any road trips you have in store. Call us today.