Sneak Peek: DA Glass shows off progress

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP – Much of DA Glass’s machinery is still en route – some, in fact, arrived in New Jersey Monday after being shipped from Europe.

But about 40 visitors got a chance to visit the new facility Monday afternoon and see what will go on at the plant when it launches at the end of the year.

In addition to the shipment that arrived in New Jersey, more equipment is coming from China, Germany and Poland, DA Glass President Steve Williams said.

“We’ll see a steady stream of that rolling in here,” he said.

DA Glass, which treats glass for facilities such as greenhouses and solar panels, is opening a facility at the Houghton County Memorial Airport Industrial park. As a condition of its loan from the state, it will create at least 102 jobs within three years.

The plant will process raw glass, which will be brought in from downstate.

Williams pointed to several deep, narrow rectangular holes in the ground with covers over them. That will be the site of the matte production line, which is used to etch decorative glass found in places such as restaurants and bars.

A demonstration video showed how the line will work. A glass-loader robot picks up the 200-pound piece of glass and starts it through the production process, which is mostly driven by vacuum. Also through vacuum power, the pieces of glasses are brought to an upright position, vacuum-sealed together and transferred along the line via a cartridge.

After being washed to remove any residue, the panes head to a tank for the chemical process. In some cases, there will be as many as 12 tanks in the line.

Some panes may be sent along to further applications, such as anti-reflective treatment.

“This’ll last the same amount of time as the glass does,” Williams said.

Most of the actual handling of glass is now done by robots. The line will be run by six people per shift, Williams said. Many employees will be used in shipping and handling. About four people per table are needed to prepare the glass to go into the tank, while six people are needed to run the process.

One greenhouse they’re preparing to service early next year in Indiana will use 260,000 square meters of glass – 120 truckloads.

Williams said the facility has its own treatment system, which recycles the water. The waste product is a solid, which is commercially desirable on its own, Williams said.

One product Williams plans to manufacture is a new system for street lighting. Unlike current lights, which have overlapping light spots and dark areas, the lights are narrowly tailored to the roadway, creating uniform lighting on the roadway without waste.

“It took 100 years for people to come up with this, and we got lucky, in that we have a very good R&D department and somebody was playing with pieces of glass and came up with this system,” Williams said.

The new system could be built here by the end of 2014, Williams said.

Williams said energy savings could be as much as 72 percent. He made an offer to Houghton and Hancock:

“I’ll give you the lights, if you give me half of your savings for 10 years,” he said.

State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, said not only is the company bringing jobs to the area, it’s also making a necessary product.

“It’s very interesting to see that we have a global company that’s going to be doing business in Houghton County,” he said. “This is huge.”

Airport Manager Dennis Hext said the influx of new technology into the area is exciting.

“I’m glad that it’s here and we’re a part of it,” he said. “I can see many applications to what he’s doing, and I think his lighting system is a game-changer for a lot of places … we’re glad to have him.”