Engineering with Glass?

Lund University offers new ways of thinking about glass.

Glass is generally treated by engineers as, well, glass. It offers protection from wind, insects, rain, heat, and cold, but many engineers don’t consider its mechanical properties when designing new products. From the point of view of strength, it is literally invisible! This is especially true in the heavy machinery industry where machines can weigh 70 tons — and our job is to protect the operator with the care that might be afforded an infant in a car seat. In the event of a roll-over or fall-over, the operator must emerge unscathed.

In the cabin environment most mechanical engineers would laugh at the idea of using glass as a load-bearing element. But they would be terribly wrong, as my team and I recently learned during an informal seminar at Lund University’s Department of Construction Science.

Challenged by Professor Erik Serrano and his colleagues, we convened a meeting to discuss engineering with glass – and we invited our cabin-specialist customers. What we learned was that the civil engineering industry is bravely exploring new applications for glass. Designers and architects are driving the demand for the wider usage of glass as an engineering material.

Our discussion also explored the topic of improving visibility for the operator in the cabin. Of course, there is a list of problems to be solved, but every solution starts somewhere as a spark in a meeting like ours with our clients and the experts from Lund. It was an open discussion where engineers representing a variety of product needs could share their ideas as well as learn about what’s taking place in other parts of their industry.

Thank you, Professor Serrano, Professor Persson, and Dr. Kozlowski, for hosting us in Lund! We look forward to building further on the ideas we discussed.