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This article provides a detailed need to know about Glass Cutting.
You will learn more about topics such as:
What is Glass Cutting?
Glass Cutting tools
Glass Cutting process
Glass Cutting machines
And much more…
Chapter One - What is Glass Cutting?
The term “glass fabrication” encompasses all of the processes used to work or treat raw glass material to turn it into a functional component or product . Examples include cutting, grinding, drilling, polishing, tempering, finishing, and edging.
Glass cutting is a method of weakening the structure of glass along a score line that can be broken by applying controlled force; this separates the glass into two sections along the score line or fissure. Regardless of the application, the cutting of glass is the same, whether done for industrial applications or by do-it-yourselfers. The variations in the process are in regard to the size of the sheet of glass and its thickness.
The essential part of glass cutting is scoring, a line of weakness created in the glass that can be gently manipulated. A properly cut scoring makes it easy to cleanly separate the sections of glass. Once separated, the edges of the glass can be sanded, shaped, and smoothed.
Chapter Two - Glass Cutting Tools
Precision crafted glass cutting tools make it easier to create an accurate score line for a clean cut and consistent break. Though cutting tools are the essential part of producing a score line, the addition of breaking tools simplifies the process greatly.
There is an endless variety of cutting tools, from handheld tools the size of a pencil to electric cutters and band saws. The function of each type is to make the cutting of glass easier and efficient as well as to maintain sanitary conditions.
Glass cutting tools are made in different styles to fit the needs of the application. Each type of tool does the same job but offers a variety of methods for doing the scoring.
Glass Cutting Tools
Handheld Glass Cutter
The handheld glass cutting tool is the most basic. The different styles of handheld tools have an effect on the cutting process but offer comfort to the user; this is an essential factor for professionals who make constant and continuous cuts.
An important consideration when purchasing a handheld cutter is ergonomics. Repetitive actions can tire muscles and decrease productivity. A well designed ergonomic glass cutter can prevent discomfort and increase productivity.
A pencil grip cutter is shaped like a pencil with a straight shaft. It is held like a pencil with the index finger resting on the top of the shaft to apply pressure. Though pencil grip cutters are very simple, certain versions have an oil reservoir. One of the benefits of pencil grip glass cutters is the close contact they provide when scoring the glass surface.
A custom grip glass cutter is a recent development. Its configuration offers improved comfort with a grip filled with oil. They can be adjusted to four different heights; this allows flexibility for the user. An exclusive part of this design is a tap wheel that makes taps during scoring. A custom grip glass cutter does not require as much pressure during the scoring; this lengthens its usefulness.
A Thomas grip glass cutter is smaller than a custom grip glass cutter and has a swivel head that makes it easy to guide. It is a small and convenient handheld cutter for people with smaller hands; it fits in the palm of the hand. A Thomas grip glass cutter is ideal for making detailed and intricate cuts.
Fletcher Glass Cutter
The Fletcher glass cutter is the glass cutter that has been used for many years by do-it-yourselfers and professionals when installing glass or shaping glass pieces. The distinct feature of a Fletcher glass cutter is its thin, slender metal shaft, which is smaller than the pencil design.
The notches at the top of the cutter are used to snap off glass pieces that may not have been removed during cutting. Traditionally, Fletcher glass cutters are dipped in a lubricant prior to making a cut. They are a cheap alternative for glass cutting but wear out quickly.
A pistol grip glass cutter is designed for use by people with poor strength in their wrists and hands. The pressure applied by a pistol grip glass cutter is at a different angle than other cutters. It is pushed and not pulled. When used properly, the cutting wheel cannot be seen during scoring. The only time a pistol grip cutter is pulled is when it is cutting along a straight edge.
A pistol grip cutter has an oil reservoir that should be filled one third of the way with oil. Too much oil causes leaks on the screw cap.
Beetle Bits Cutting System
A beetle bits glass cutting system is used for cutting angles and straight edges easily and efficiently with accurate and precise scoring. The system gets its name from the compass dial that resembles a beetle; this makes it easy to cut from either side of the work surface.
The beetle bit glass cutting system consists of a ruler, cutting bar, swiveling dial, angle adjustments, directional glass stops, straight edge rest, and an oil reservoir. It offers a quick compass guide for cutting a wide variety of shapes, angles, and designs with easy to adjust stops that assist in avoiding slippage. The cutting surface consists of square waffle grids that can be added to increase space for larger pieces.
Vigrue Glass Cutter
The outstanding characteristics of a Vigrue glass cutting tool are its weight and head; its head swivels at 360° and makes it easy to cut curves and long straight lines. The structure of a Vigrue glass cutter is like that of a pencil cutter and has a pencil grip with an oil reservoir. It is capable of cutting thicknesses of 0.3 cm to 1.8 cm or 1/8 inch to 45/64 inch.
At the heart of every glass cutter is a cutting wheel that does consistent, precise, and accurate scoring. The best wheels are made from tungsten carbide or various forms of steel alloys.
Of the available wheels, tungsten carbide wheels are of the highest quality and are the most durable; they are also the most expensive due to their high quality and excellent performance. Tungsten carbide wheels retain their sharp edge far longer than steel alloy wheels.
Glass Cutting Tool Considerations
Tools for glass cutting come in a wide variety of sizes, configurations, and durability. In some cases, a glass cutting system is preferable to using handheld tools since they provide greater control and accuracy. The one drawback to a system is its lack of mobility, which prevents it from being used on job sites and work locations.
There are several factors to consider when making the decision to purchase a glass cutting tool. The most important part of the decision is the type of work to be completed since there are tools for professionals and tools for weekend or DIY jobs.
As with the purchase of any type of tool, the price of a glass cutting tool is directly related to the type of work to be performed and the requirements of the work. Most high quality glass cutting tools cost between $100 and $300 dollars. Those that cost less are designed for hobbyists and are smaller.
The size of the piece of glass dictates the size and necessary quality of the glass cutting tool. Large pieces of glass require a larger work space to perform longer cuts, and they include cutting arms, which reduce the need for shifting the glass to reach a particular area. Having a cutting tool with an arm improves precision and accuracy and makes the process more efficient.
Types of Glass
Included in the evaluation is the type of glass. The majority of glass cutters can be used on any type of glass with certain cutters offering better performance on specific types. Thinner glass, glass under 0.6 cm (15/64 in), does not require much force to score its surface and can be cut with a lighter tool.
The use of more sophisticated tools is required when the glass is thicker, such as 2 cm (25/32 in); these are glasses for plate windows and mirrors. Cutting of thicker glasses does not require detailed cutting or precision and is normally straight line. To meet the demands of thicker glass, a heavier and more durable cutter will be necessary as it allows the user to bear down and apply greater force.
Tool Cutting Range
Glass cutting tool manufacturers supply a wide range of tools to meet any glass cutting need. Thin sheet glass cutters are able to cut glass with a thickness between. 0.2 cm and 0.6 cm (5/64 in and 15/64 in). Medium thickness cutters range between 0.6 cm and 1.2 cm (5/64 in and 15/32 in). Thicker and more robust glass cutters begin at 1.0 cm (25/64 in).
Many glass cutters have cutting heads that can be changed to fit the needs of the application. They allow the user to choose the right wheel to conform with the thickness of the glass. A multi-head tool offers the flexibility of cutting any thickness of glass using the same tool.
Glass cutting oil lubricates the blade of a glass cutter, allowing it to roll freely. Its use protects the blade and makes it useful over a longer period of time. Glass cutting oil is water soluble, non-toxic, easily cleaned up , and is non-corrosive. A wide variety of oils can be used for glass cutting, from mineral oil to diesel oil as well as several commercial varieties.
Glass cutting tools can come with an oil reservoir that applies the oil as the wheel cuts. If the cutter does not have a reservoir, oil can be applied to the cutting line to lubricate the cutter as it scores the piece. An alternative is to dip the cutting wheel in oil prior to performing the cut.
Cutting oil is not a necessity, but it provides a method for protecting the cutting tool and prolonging its life. Professional glass cutters use a variety of techniques for applying cutting oil. They carefully examine their cutting tools to ensure the quality of their work.
A vital consideration when purchasing a glass cutting tool is the number of times the scoring and cutting movements will be repeated. Glass scoring is a precision activity that requires muscle control to damage the glass such that the cut will be accurate and clean. When the process is performed repeatedly, the user can quickly tire and wear out.
The right glass cutting tool with the correct grip, size, and cutting edge makes a great deal of difference in the level of comfort and control a worker will have. Most glass cutters work to develop strength in their wrist and hands to avoid fatigue and muscle damage.
The glass cutting process requires practice scoring and breaking out the cut glass. The objective of glass cutting is to score and breakout a cut piece with accurate cut edges that have a good smooth surface free of nicks, bites, or chips.
A glass cutting tool does not cut glass like a pair of scissors, a saw, or router. The cutting of glass is a force generated cutting process that consists of rolling a cutting wheel across the surface of a sheet of glass. The wheel creates minute fractures of the proper width and dimensions to attain a perfect breakout.
The Glass Cutting Process
As the cutting wheel crosses the glass surface, it fractures the surface of the glass to create a fissure. Even after rolling the wheel over the glass, it may not be possible to see the fissure, which is nearly invisible. It can be seen by looking into the glass and seeing the continuous band of reflected light.
Key factors in the cutting of the fissure are the force and speed at which it is completed. The amount of force is defined as the amount necessary to create the fissure without crushing the glass surface. If the score becomes a white gritty line, the amount of force has been exceeded. Lateral cracks in the glass can lead to a poor break or one that deviates from the score.
The application of force must be uniform throughout the length of the score to create the correct fissure and avoid crushing the glass. Variations in the force lead to different depths in the fissure; this will negatively affect the breakout.
A critical aspect of the glass cutting process is the type of work surface; it has to be carefully selected. In professional cutting, optimum surfaces will have already been prepared and designed for completion of cutting. Ideal cutting surfaces are firm, flat, and free of any type of debris, chips, dirt, or other forms of imperfections. It must be resilient, sturdy, durable, and capable of withstanding the necessary force for cutting.
The application of a cover material on the cutting surface should not be any more than 0.0625 inch or 0.16 cm thick. A thicker surface will interfere with the cutting process. A grid cutting surface, as seen below, is recommended. As the glass is cut, slivers and chips fall into the grid cells.
Prior to cutting, the glass surface must be cleared and cleaned along the line of the cut. As the glass cutting tool is applied, its wheel must be able to roll smoothly, evenly, and freely as it makes direct contact with the glass in order to produce a proper fissure. Any obstacles or fragments in the path of the wheel weaken the fissure.
When glass is shipped, it is usually covered in a powder for protection. This must be removed before beginning the cutting. Cleaning along the line of the cut with any form of cleaner will remove the protective powder.
The fissure should only be scored once. Multiple scorings of the glass can cause the glass to crack and break. It must be remembered that cutting glass is a delicate process that has to be performed with the greatest amount of care.
Cutter Wheel Angle
There is a countless number of cutter wheel angles, which makes it impossible to determine the exact one for a cutting job. The majority of cutters have an angle between 120° and 124°; this is good for glass with thicknesses of 0.063 in to 0.093 in (0.16 cm to 0.236 cm).
Flaking is caused by friction between the cutter and the glass that appear as the glass relaxes after the cutter passes. It is common with any angled cutter but can be avoided by oiling the score line or using a cutter with an oil reservoir. Flaking should be avoided since it affects the characteristics of the fissure and can cause chips during breakout.
Prior to beginning the breakout, it is important to tap below the score line to carry the score completely through the fissure using a round head copper or polyurethane tapper. In some instances, this process will create the breakout if the score is exceptionally clean. Tapping blows should be right below the score line.
The breakout should be started where the score ended. For better control of the breakout, an anvil may be used with cut running pliers. The breakout must be conducted slowly and carefully to avoid excessive bending; this can cause chipping. The most important part of the breakout is maintaining the smallest possible angle regardless of the method used.
Nipping pliers can be used to break out narrow strips along the edge of the sheet. Cut running pliers have jaws specially designed to initiate the breakout at the edge of a sheet. Grozing pliers do nibbling and shaping of corners and edges.
Glass Cutting Edges
Glass cutting uses a variety of edge treatments that affect the functionality of the finished piece. The purpose of edging is to improve safety, add aesthetic appeal, improve functionality, and improve dimensional tolerance as well as prevent chipping and cracking. Some of the types of edges are:
Seamed edges are also known as safety seams or swiped edges. A sanding belt is used to lightly sand off the sharp portions of the edge of the glass to make the finished piece safe for handling. The process does not produce a decorative or finished edge and is used in applications where the edge will not be exposed.
The process of beveling, chamfering, or grinding an edge is to smooth the edge by running it along a belt to eliminate any deformities and chips. The result of the process is a smooth chamfer top and bottom that can be straight or curved. Bevels come at various lengths from 0.5 inch (00.127 cm) up to 1.5 inch (3.8 cm).
A pencil grind edge is slightly rounded to allow for a frosty, satin, or matte glass finish. The term pencil is in reference to the radius of the edge, which is similar to a pencil‘s C shape.
With a flat polish edge, the edges are cut and flat polished to create a sleek appearance and shiny finish. Included in the process is a 45o angle chamfer on the top and bottom as a method for removing sharpness.
The edges described above are a sampling of the types of edges that are available to be applied to a finished cut piece of glass. The diagram below shows a selection of some of the other configurations that can be used.
Chapter Four - Glass Cutting Machines
The components of an industrial glass cutting machine are very similar to those found in tools and practices for hand glass cutting. These include a flat surface and exact positioning of the workpiece. Though automation simplifies glass cutting and speeds it up, the cutting process still deals with a delicate and sensitive material that can crack or fracture at any step of the process.
A recent addition to glass cutting machinery is laser cutting, which is capable of cutting glass as well as etching designs. A laser designed to cut all the way through a piece of glass has to be stronger and more powerful than those used to etch glass.
Glass Cutting Machines
Glass cutting machines have servo motors, drivers, and CNC control systems. They have various forms of cutter wheels designed to perform a wide range of cuts. The use of glass cutting machines offers increased stability, high precision, and multiple cutting tools; this can produce straight, angler, irregular, and circular cuts.
Laser Cutting Machine
Laser cutting machines can be programmed using CNC G codes and are used for cutting flat and curved glass. A major benefit of a laser glass cutting machine is its exceptionally smooth cutting surface. The cutting of glass with a laser is an unusual phenomenon considering that lasers are designed to pass through glass.
Using an ultra-short, pulsed laser in the picosecond or femtosecond range, it is possible to configure a laser capable of cutting through glass. The massive spatial and temporal density of the photons in the pulse modify the absorption rate of the mechanism in regard to transparent matter, a configuration that makes it possible for a laser to cut through glass.
Glass Cutting Table
A glass cutting table is ideal for straight and shape cutting. This type of glass cutting machine has a small footprint but is capable of providing extremely accurate and precise cuts. A glass cutting table can cut thicknesses of 0.3 cm to 1.9 cm (1/8 in to 3/4 in) at a speed of 200 m/min (218 yd/min) with tolerances of ± 0.15 mm.
Water Jet Glass Cutting Machine
Water jet glass cutting is normally used to create decorative designs and artistic works of art. There are limitations to the types of glass that can be cut using the water jet process since it cannot be used on low quality or thin glass but is ideal for thick glass of exceptional quality.
Like all of the other glass cutting processes, water jet glass cutting requires that the piece to be cut be well supported. The piece should be evenly supported and rest on a surface that is soft enough to prevent the water jet from bouncing back. Styrofoam and plywood are two commonly used materials.
The water jet process involves the use of an abrasive material that is suspended in pressurized water. The timing between the water and abrasive material is critical to the success of water jet glass cutting. They must hit the surface of the glass at exactly the same time.
Improper support, temperature fluctuations, and timing of the abrasive material can negatively affect the glass cutting process and cause the glass to crack or break.
Glass saws are an easy and convenient method for cutting fused, heavy textured, or thick glass. The cutting of thick heavy glass by hand is nearly impossible. Ring, band, and wire glass cutting saws do the job efficiently and quickly with precision.
The blades on glass cutting saws have tips made of diamonds or are coated to allow them to make intricate and complicated cuts. Glass cutting saws have recirculating water pumps and target lights to show the path of the cut.
Glass Edging Machine
A glass edging machine is a preparation machine that grinds and chamfers the edge of glass into different shapes such that it can be installed for use as a mirror, window, and other applications. Curves, angles, bevels, and other edge designs are produced using glass edging machines. A sucker plate holds the glass piece in place as it passes through the machine.
Chapter Five - Glass Cutting Lubricants
The use of oil for glass cutting is not a necessity but serves as a method for prolonging the life of the glass cutting tool and enhances the quality of the fissure or score. Oil is needed to lubricate the cutting wheel and keep it turning smoothly, free of chips or pieces that can get lodged between the wheel and shaft.
Aside from its lubricating qualities, glass cutting oil can keep the fissure or score clean and cool as well as prevent glass chips from flying away. A major aspect of glass cutting oil is its performance as a safety precaution.
Glass Cutting Lubricants
In essence, any type of lightweight oil can be used as a glass cutting oil. There are commercial oils available that perform better and are designed specifically for glass cutting applications.
Lightweight Machine Oil
Lightweight machine oil provides the necessary lubrication for glass cutting. The one difficulty with lightweight oil is its tendency to become viscous and inhibit the feel and movement of the cutter. Overly viscous oils are detrimental to glass cutting.
Kerosene has been used for many years as a glass cutting oil due to its availability. It is an excellent glass cutting oil because it lubricates the surface and evaporates, which makes the surface easier to clean. The only difficulty with kerosene is that it is too light and can be displaced.
Vegetable oil has the proper viscosity and temperature to serve as a glass cutting oil. What is important when choosing to use vegetable oil is to select one with the right attributes since not all vegetable oils are the same. The cooling properties of vegetable oil help to protect the blade and cut. Though vegetable oil has potentially beneficial properties as a glass cutting lubricant, most professionals recommend it as a last choice.
Commercially produced glass cutting oil has all of the necessary qualities of a glass cutting lubricant. It is conveniently packaged for easy application and can be used on any type of glass. It provides protection for bits, cutting heads, and cutting wheels and has precise viscosity.
Chapter Six - Types of Glass
Glass is a hard material that can be translucent, transparent, and brittle. There are a wide variety of glass applications from windows, mirrors, and doors to broader architectural, construction, and engineering. In each instance, the glass has to be cut to meet the dimensions and requirements of the conditions and environment.
When planning to use glass as part of a project, there are certain aspects of it that need to be closely examined and considered. These aspects include transparency, strength, workability, transmittance, U value, and potential for being recycled and repurposed.
This is the main reason that glass is planned into a project. It allows for seeing outside and inside.
The strength of glass is measured by its rupture value. Most glass is very brittle but can be strengthened by adding supplemental materials.
This is another one of the reasons glass is popular for use in projects. It can be molded, shaped, configured, and transformed to fit the needs and dimensions of any application.
Transmittance is the amount of light that is permitted to pass through glass.
The U value is heat transference. The higher the U value, the greater the amount of heat the glass allows to pass through. A lower U value means the glass can serve as an insulator and prevents heat from passing through.
This is another positive aspect of glass. Any type of glass can be recycled, repurposed, and used over and over as a raw material.
Types of Glass
Float glass, also known as soda lime glass, is the most common type of glass and is made from sodium and calcium silicate. The clear flat surface of float glass causes glare when the sun shines on it. Float glass comes in thicknesses between 0.2 cm and 2.0 cm 95/64 in and 25/32 in) with a weight of 6 kg/m2 to 36 kg/m2 (13 lb/yd to 79 lb/yd).
The term float glass comes from the process used to manufacture it, which involves floating the glass on a lake of molten tin.
Shatterproof glass has plastic polyvinyl butyral added during the manufacturing process that keeps the glass from forming sharp edges when it is broken. The plastic material is inserted between two sheets of glass that are tightly pressed together. Shatterproof glass increases safety, protects against forced entry, reduces sound, lowers energy cost, and prevents potential damage during violent storms.
Laminated glass is two pieces of glass with an inner layer made from polyvinyl butyral, which prevents it from shattering. It is made by pressing the layers together under heat and pressure to produce a strong chemical bond. Laminated glass is hard to break and offers exceptional security since the bonds between the materials are very difficult to dislodge. If the glass does break, the remaining portions continue to be permanently attached to the inner layer; this prevents them from flying or scattering.
Additional benefits can be added to laminated glass by combining it with other types of glass such as low emissivity and tone glass. The combination creates a seal and insulation. Due to the layers used to make laminated glass, it is thicker and heavier.
Extra Clear Glass
Extra clear glass is a special type of float glass that has a low iron content; this gives its other name of low iron glass. Float glass has a natural green tint; this prevents it from displaying colors properly. Low iron extra clear glass solves the problem since it is colorless and transparent.
The iron content in float glass is between 830 parts per million (ppm) and 850 ppm. Extra clear glass has an iron content that is less than 150 ppm; this allows 90% of visible light through to provide a sharp crystal clear view.
Chromatic glass is manufactured to control daylight and transparency. It comes in three forms: photochromatic, thermochromic, and electrochromatic. The tint of the glass is controlled by the application of voltage with the addition of voltage darkening it and a reversal of voltage lightening it.
Chromatic glass has five layers of coating that include two of a transparent conductor and one each of electrochromic, ion conductor, and a counter electrode.
Tinted glass is made by adding small amounts of metal oxides to float or rolled glass. The added substances color the glass green, blue, bronze, or grey but do not affect the properties of the glass. The color is evenly distributed throughout the structure of the glass.
In some instances, a tinted coating can be added to glass to give it a tint. This particular method is not stable, and the coating can be peeled off.
Rolled glass, also known as sheet glass, is made by pouring molten glass, as it comes from a furnace, into a series of rollers that shape the glass to the desired thickness. The two types of rolled glass are wired and pattern. In the manufacture of pattern glass, the glass material is passed through rollers that imprint a pattern on one or both sides of the glass.
The process of rolling glass is an old method that was an improvement over grinding glass but has been replaced by float glass since it has a more efficient process. The rolled glass process has limitations regarding the thickness of the glass it can produce.
Glass cutting is a method of weakening the structure of glass along a score line that can be broken by applying controlled force; this separates the glass into two sections along the score line or fissure.
The essential part of glass cutting is scoring, a line of weakness created in the glass that can be gently manipulated. A properly cut scoring makes it easy to cleanly separate the sections of glass. Once separated, the edges of the glass can be sanded and smoothed.
Precision crafted glass cutting tools make it easier to create an accurate score line for a clean cut and consistent break.
The cutting of glass is a force generated cutting process that consists of rolling a cutting wheel across the surface of a sheet of glass.
The components of an industrial glass cutting machine are very similar to those found in tools and practices for hand cutting. These include a flat surface and exact positioning of the workpiece.
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