Cutting Safety Glass to Form
Just about everyone is familiar with safety glass as it is used in car windshields and tall buildings. The reason it is called safety glass is because it will not shatter into pieces, even if the glass breaks. What gives it this useful property also gives it a troublesome flaw, but researchers at Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have found a way around the flaw.
Safety glass is actually made of two pieces of glass with a film in the middle, which adheres to them. If the glass should ever break, the film holds the pieces in place so they cannot hurt anyone. The problem is that shaping the glass is very difficult, unless you are cutting a straight line. In that case you can fracture the glass panes and pull them apart until there is enough of a gap to cut through the film with a knife. What the researchers have done is developed a way to cut curves into safety glass by first vaporizing the film with a laser. This leaves a channel between the glass panes, and by then fracturing them parallel to that curve, you can get an undulating pane of safety glass.
The researchers are now working to optimize and integrate this method into current technology used for producing safety glass. Once this enters the industry, we may start seeing more extravagant uses of safety glass, including curved windows for tall buildings, depending on the architect's tastes.