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What Exactly is Safety Glass?

Updated: Apr 5

Glass is famous for breaking. Think of the comedy trope of a person running through a pane of glass being carried in front of them, a person being flung through a window, a label stating "in case of emergency, break glass." But there are some situations in which you need what is known as safety glass. What exactly is that?

Safety glass comes in two primary varieties: tempered and laminated. Both of these accomplish similar things, but do them very differently.

Tempered glass is glass that has been heated, almost to the point of melting, then cooled quickly. This creates a surface tension that makes the glass far more durable. It is less likely to break than standard annealed glass. And when it does break, it breaks into tiny, gravel-sized pieces, rather than the large shards of annealed. For an example of this, think of the side and back windows of a car.

Laminated glass is two panes of glass, sandwiched around a thin, clear polymer coating. The two layers make this glass sturdier than standard annealed. When this glass breaks, the polymer prevents it from falling apart, instead leading the glass to crack in a spiderweb pattern, spreading out from the impact. For an example of this, think of the front windshield of a car.

It is possible to make tempered laminated glass, but that is only necessary in rare cases, when the utmost safety is required. For standard uses, one or the other will be more than sufficient.

Come back over the next couple days when I will go more in depth on the benefits of tempered and laminated glass.


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