By Olivia Cahoon
Part 2 of 2
Digitally printed glass facades grant buildings a customized appearance that’s fully functional for windows and walls. Digital ceramic printers are suitable for a variety of industries including appliances, architectural, artwork, automotive, and marine.
Decades of Glass
With 20 employees, Viracon, Inc. was established in 1970 by founder James L. Martineau. The company started in a 45,000 square foot glass fabrication plant and offered insulating and laminated glass services.
In 1986, it constructed a 48,000 square foot coatings facility, allowing Viracon to enter the high-performance glass coating market.
Today, Viracon has 2,500 employees and several facilities located in GA, MN, UT, and Brazil. The company manufactures and distributes architectural glass products for customers in North America as well as internationally.
Services include insulating, laminated insulating, double laminated insulating, ripple insulating, and monolithic glass products. “It also provides high-performance glass products including tempered, silk screened, digital printing, and high-performance coatings,” says Brian Distel, design and print specialist, Viracon.
The company offers budget and return on investment calculating, design assistance, job site inspections, product performance information, project coordination, quoting, specification writing and review, and technical assistance services. Industries from airports and transportation to architects and education include some its clients. Viracon has completed projects on 100,000 buildings with 500,000,000 square feet of glazing.
In 2012, Viracon announced DigitalDistinctions—a digital printing solution that enables building designers to insert artistic expressions into a glass façade. DigitalDistinctions combines ceramic ink durability with digital printing into one solution for all glass printing applications. It offers multi-color images, custom designs, multi-color patterns, graduating patterns, and sepia images.
DigitalDistinctions also includes dual image printing and simulated etch ink. Other designs include brick, stone, and wood grain. The images can cover 100 percent of the central glass surface.
In 2013, Viracon entered the ceramic digital printing business. The company offers BIG Glass in multiple configurations with a selection of components and enhancements. Glass sizes are available up to 120 square feet, 120 inches for the base, and 204 inches for height. For BIG Glass applications, oversized units may be larger, heavier, and thicker than standard units—requiring extra care during shipping, storing, and installation. Viracon’s BIG Glass offering meets all ASTM standards.
The company uses the NEraD glass printer from Dip-Tech, a Ferro Company with up to 12 ink channels for production flexibility. The NEraD devices handle sizes up to 236×130 inches with a minimum glass size of 15.7 inches. Its applications include single color dots and lines, multi-color patterns, and photorealistic images.
Viracon also uses the Dip-Tech ARi devices with a maximum print size of 165×96 inches. The ARi devices handle glass as thick as 19 millimeters and feature automated ink recirculation in the printhead for smooth ink conditions.
Alongside its printers, Viracon also uses Dip-Tech’s Digital Ceramic Inks, which are metal free and fully recyclable. Distel says the company chose these inks for vibrancy and durability. Dip-Tech Digital Ceramic Inks also add functionality like light diffusion, solar control, and transmission to glass.
According to Distel, one of the benefits of printing ceramic ink directly to glass is that the ink becomes a part of the glass after firing—increasing its durability. A second benefit is that UV light does not fade ceramic ink. He adds, “without the use of hazardous metals like cadmium, some requested colors may be difficult to match.”
The company also offers coatings for glass including low-emissivity coatings. Low-emissivity coatings feature low heat transfer properties and higher light transmission. Coatings can be applied to clear or tinted glass substrates. “Viracon’s coatings can also be applied post printing—allowing the coating to be applied behind the digital print,” offers Distel.
“Printing digitally is replacing silk screen and offering architects more creative possibilities,” he believes.
Viracon has completed a variety of printed glass projects including a glass façade for the Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans, LA. The company used insulating laminated DigitalDistinctions and a protective glazing decorative for the glass. The glass was printed using Dip-Tech digital ceramic in-glass technology. For the glass project, Viracon collaborated with Rozas Ward Architects.
Glass for All
Digital glass printing is used in interior and exterior applications with a variety of effects and color combinations. With digital ceramic inks, glass can be laminated, bent, and double glazed in addition to providing solar control and light diffusion. The digital glass printing process transforms any building or window.
Nov2017, Industrial Print Magazine