1. Dimensions for a shower are taken at the job site using laser measuring devices and other tools. The information is entered into a program on the iPad.
2. A technician takes information from the measure and enters it into a specialized program. This calculates the size of every piece of glass needed, including the dimensions and location of all notches and holes in each piece. This information is exported to two separate pieces of equipment: the cutting table and water jet.
3. The software optimizes the pieces that need to be cut that day and lays them out on separate sheets for minimum waste.
4. A glass fabricator moves a 3/8” x 130” x 84” sheet of glass from the storage rack to the cutting table.
5. The fabricator places the glass onto the cutting table which has been raised to a vertical position. Retractable metal support posts along the bottom hold the glass in place.
6. He then lowers the table to a horizontal position, and the glass is ready to cut.
7. The sheer weight of the glass—approximately 360 pounds—holds it firmly in place on the table.The glass cutter head is directed by the computer program, scoring the glass where required.
8. The large sheet has been scored, and paperwork identifies the individual shower pieces. The sheet is now ready to be separated. Note the rows of white dots on the table. These allow air to stream upward, lifting the glass slightly so it can easily be moved and turned. If you’ve ever played air hockey, the effect is very similar.
9. Once he has moved the glass into proper position, the fabricator grips it with specialized pliers. He gives the pliers a squeeze and an expert twist of the knob, and the glass breaks cleanly along the score line.
10. The edges of the glass are sharp at this point and must be polished. Every edge of each piece runs through the polisher. During this process, the glass passes over nine separate polishing heads that successively refine and polish the edge.
11. Here is a close up of a polished edge.
12. Next, the water jet will cut any holes and/or notches that will be needed to attach hardware for installation. These must be done prior to tempering, since tempered glass cannot be cut.
13. The fabricator carefully lays a piece of shower glass onto the bed of the water jet. Under the bed there is a large water tank that dissipates the force of the jet.
14. The computer supplies the program to the water jet so the cuts are uniform and exact.
15. The water jet uses water under high pressure—up to 60,000psi—in combination with garnet—an abrasive that looks similar to sand—to make the cuts. For reference, the water pressure in your home is usually not more than 80psi, and a heavy duty pressure washer runs at about 3,000psi. You can see the small but powerful stream here as it easily cuts through 3/8” glass to create a hinge notch in a shower door.
16. Here is the remnant of a completed hinge cut.
17. Now the glass needs to be cleaned. It is sprayed with cleaner and then passes through a specialized two-stage glass washer.
18. The glass has been cleaned and dried and sits in front of the lights, ready for inspection. Next stop: the tempering oven!
19. A tempering oven converts regular glass into tempered safety glass, which is required for all showers. Simply put, the glass undergoes an intense heat treatment followed immediately by rapid, controlled cooling.
20. The settings for the time required in the oven vary depending on glass thickness, air temperature, and humidity.
21. Once the oven comes to temperature, it will be around 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass is placed onto the ceramic rollers and stamped with a small tempering bug (logo) that identifies it as safety glass.
22. The pulley system powers the rollers to carry the glass into the oven and then gently rolls it back and forth for about 5-8 minutes. Once the glass reaches approximately 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, it exits the oven.
23. The red-hot glass leaves the oven and enters the quench—the cooling area—where the tempering occurs.
24. Pressurized air is forced through a series of fins and holes across the top and bottom surface of the glass. This causes the outside surface of the glass to cool much more quickly than the center, which creates the tempered glass.
25. The glass rolls out of the oven cool to the touch, the tempering process complete. The glass is now four times stronger than regular glass, and if it breaks, it will break into very small pieces.
26. A broken glass test is done daily to make sure the glass is being properly tempered. It is properly tempered when it breaks into very small pieces as shown.
27. The Clinton Glass tempering bug (logo) lets customers know the glass is tempered safety glass.
28. Shower glass pieces and mirrors sit in racks awaiting installation.