Glass is one of the most used materials in the world. Thanks to its optical, physical and insulating properties, this ceramic material is present at a structural, architectural and aesthetic level in all kinds of projects.
It is commonly used in the manufacture of windows and facades, swing and sliding doors, decorative elements and even robust structures. Glass is a versatile material that at the same time has variations derived from raw glass that are ideal for a large number of applications.
Now, when we talk about variations, we refer to the different types of glass that are available in the market. From traditional raw glass, through the popular and well- known tempered glass and reaching laminated glass or safety glass. All these varieties, although they have very different physical properties, on an aesthetic level they are usually difficult to differentiate.
In this post, we are going to explain the main differences that exist between two of the most used types of glass that exist, tempered and laminated glass. We leave out the comparison with raw glass because although there are visual similarities, in terms of resistance and hardness, the ones that are used the most and can be confused are tempered and laminated glass. To understand the differences between the two, let's first see the main characteristics of each glass separately:
Tempered glass: It is manufactured thanks to a thermal process known as tempering. It works directly with natural glass and consists of heating it and then subjecting it to sudden cooling. This process is carried out in a controlled environment and in a specific time interval. The result is a glass that has the optical characteristics of ordinary glass, but with a four times higher resistance when it receives an impact in some section of its main faces. It is possible to temper crystals in thicknesses ranging from 3.5 mm to 19 mm. An important characteristic of this crystal is that when it breaks, it breaks into small cube-shaped pieces with latent cutting capacity. It is considered a type of safety glass because the size of the pieces before breakage is considerably smaller compared to those generated by raw glass. It is a very good option for use both indoors and outdoors as it provides a considerable safety factor against accidents, impacts and fractures. The main risk with this type of glass is that of breakage due to blows received on its edges and the release of the surface energy accumulated in the tempering during breakage.
Laminated glass: This glass is not obtained through a new thermal or chemical process and is simply an assembled material that could be considered composite. It has the appearance of a sandwich and is made by joining two or more sheets of tempered glass with an interlayer film of polyvinyl butyral (PVB). Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) is a polymer composed of polyvinyl alcohol and butyraldehyde. This film offers a high range of protection against impact and/or penetration with respect to simply tempered glass. In case of breakage, the PVB retains the glass fragments and prevents the broken sections from falling everywhere. It is a glass of excellent optical quality, low emissivity and solar control. Additionally, PVB provides a higher percentage of noise reduction, which greatly favors the acoustic insulation of the areas where laminated glass panels are installed.
The main differences between these two types of glass can be summarized in three:
First of all, we have the impact resistance, which is higher in laminated glass mainly because it is part of an assembly that involves two tempered glasses (or more) and intermediate polymer films. This characteristic gives laminated glass a certain “elasticity” compared to tempered glass since in the event of a strong impact, while the tempered glass explodes, the laminate is held together by the intermediate polymer layer.
Secondly, we have the safety factor of both glasses, where laminated glass takes the lead because it does not allow glass fragments to fly out during breakage. This does not mean that tempered glass is not safe, but it is important to analyze in which space the installation of a panel or glass product is required and the environmental conditions. In areas where the risk of strong impacts or human traffic is normal, tempered glass is an excellent option. In areas where the risk of injury to passers-by is high, there are work areas or exposed structures with a higher probability of impacts, it is important to have a high safety factor to avoid serious accidents and laminated glass is the best option.
Thirdly, we have thermal and acoustic insulation, where laminated glass provides a higher level of insulation due to the intermediate polymer layer, which even provides protection against UV rays. This difference is important in the case of spaces that require a high level of insulation.
Given the differences between both types of glass, the choice of one or the other will largely depend on the level of human traffic, the risk of impacts and the location of the glass to be used. We recommend the following:
Tempered glass is the ideal type of glass for the installation of facades, windows, screens, railings, interior divisions, swing and sliding doors, bathroom doors, furniture and in all those applications where glass performs a standard structural function.
Laminated glass is commonly used in sliding and swing access doors, skylights, balconies, windows, floors, domes, commercial displays and all those applications where the priority is user safety. Likewise, it is widely used in airports, hotels, museums, recording studios, data processing centers, industrial plants and rooms located near train stations.
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