At this year’s edition of glasstec, members of the VDMA will have the possibility of publicly underlining the sustainability of their products, production processes, logistics, thanks to the creation of the Blue Competence label. The VDMA has also created the website www.bluecompetence.net, where the aims of the sector are explained, demonstrating concrete solutions for almost all sectors of mechanical engineering.
Sustainability – i.e. balancing and integrating economic, ecological and social objectives – is a term which until now had only been used relatively rarely in conjunction with the glass machinery industry – one of the most energy-intensive sectors in the world. And this is despite the fact that German glass machinery and plant manufacturers have for decades been developing ever new technologies to ensure this material is produced and processed in an eco-friendly, resource-saving and also economical manner. Since 1930, for instance, the average energy consumption for the production of a ton of glass including further processing has dropped by 75%. Very good results are now also being achieved in reducing flue gases and new furnace techniques and filter units have reduced environmental pollution to a minimum.
With the creation of its Blue Competence label the German Engineering Federation (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau – VDMA) now also makes it possible for its member firms in the Glass Technology Forum (Forum Glastechnik) to publicly underline the sustainability of their products, production processes, logistics, in short their entire operations, with the specific aim of helping customers with purchasing decisions. Here the federation explicitly highlights that this is not a product designation label. As Timo Feuerbach – in charge of glass machinery and equipment sector at the VDMA – explains, Blue Competence is primarily a label to aid communication. It is aimed at pooling together the interests, know-how and strengths of German machinery manufacturers and thereby contribute to developing pioneering technology and market leadership worldwide. The label, he says, defines criteria that every company joining the initiative must meet. “Glass machinery technology under the Blue Competence banner stands for stable and energy-efficient production processes and highest quality end products. This benefits glass manufacturers, end consumers and ultimately society as a whole,” says Feuerbach.
The material that is glass is also increasingly proving its sustainability in times of scarce resources and growing environmental burdens. People come into contact with glass on such a daily basis that its outstanding properties go almost unnoticed – whether it is as high-quality packaging materials, heat or sound-insulating glass, special glass in medical technology or for touch displays on smartphones. Add to this glass’s almost unbeatable degree of recyclability and its great potential in the field of renewable energies: without high-tech glass photovoltaics or solar thermal applications are inconceivable. Machinery and plant construction provide the basis for all this.
For the first time now under the Blue Competence banner glass machinery manufacturers will be presenting their sustainable solutions for the future at glasstec, the world’s leading glass trade fair held in Düsseldorf from 23 to 26 October 2012. One topic here will be greater efficiency in glass melt processes. This will be achieved, amongst other things, through batch pre-warming and optimized melt processes, flexible melt aggregates or fully electric melting units. In the field of hollow glass the new technology of hot laser cutting leads to improved edge quality while also saving energy and reducing wastewater and grinding sludge. The manufacturers here present innovative production technology to produce new, multifunctional glass or extremely flexible and robust thin glass. In quality control scanning systems that also closely scrutinise laminated sheet and insulating glass for optical defects even during continuous operation increase quality and reduce the number of rejects. Also on show are efficient cleaning and water treatment systems or high-performance cutting and handling systems for flat and solar glass that come equipped with energy-saving drive solutions. Using new recycling techniques it will in future even be possible to recycle solar modules.
To create a platform for the label and thereby help to publicise it – not only amongst potential customers but also in the political sphere, on the capital and labour markets, in the media and thereby amongst the public at large – the VDMA has created the website www.bluecompetence.net. Comprehensible to everyone the aims of the sector are explained here and concrete solutions for almost all sectors of mechanical engineering are demonstrated. Showcased on the site are not just new resources and energy-saving techniques. Aspects like life cycle costs and environmental protection also play an important role. The German glass machinery industry is not only given the opportunity to present itself here as a sector focused on sustainability. Companies bearing this label can showcase the sustainable techniques they have developed. The website also serves members of the initiative as an information tool.