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How Glass is Made

Float Glass Process

The term "float" glass derives from the production method, introduced in the UK by Sir Alastair Pilkington in 1959, by which process 90% of today's flat glass is manufactured. The raw materials (soda lime glass, silica sand, calcium, oxide, soda and magnesium) are properly weighted and mixed and then introduced into a furnace where they are melted at 1500° C. The molten glass then flows from the glass furnace onto a bath of molten tin in a continuous ribbon.

The glass, which is highly viscous, and the tin, which is very fluid, do not mix so that the contact surface between these two materials is perfectly flat. When leaving the bath of molten tin the glass has cooled down sufficiently to pass to an annealing chamber called a lehr. Here it is cooled under controlled temperatures, until it is essentially at room temperature.

Float Glass Process

Rolled Glass Process

This describes glass made through a rolling process, whereby the semi-molten glass is squeezed between metal rollers to produce a ribbon with pre-defined thicknesses and patterned surfaces. This process is used for patterned figure and cast glass production.

Other Processes

There are some other processes, such as the Pittsburgh process, or the Libbey-Owens process, nowadays rarely used for the production of flat glass.