Hammerglass can be the difference between life and death

Published 12/9 at 13:14

The right glass panes in various types of construction machinery can be the difference between life and death. A company that knows this is the Swedish manufacturer of driver safe windows, Hammerglass. PDi's reporter Ann-Louise Larsson visited the company in southern Sweden at the beginning of the summer.

Hammerglass started operations in 2006 and now has three business areas: Automotive, Infrastructure and Property. At the moment, Automotive – i.e. the automotive industry – is the largest business area. The company provides safety solutions for a range of applications where construction machinery is used; everything from demolition to road construction, quarrying and mining, with the company’s ethos being that the machine operator should be able to feel safe and secure in all situations. Hammerglass has invested over €1.26M in developing driver safe windows for construction machinery, with the windows being made of polycarbonate with a special surface treatment that provides a number of advantages.


Low awareness and the importance of safety glasses

Despite the fact that a rock, concrete block or other demolition material can cause a life threatening situation for the machine operator if it falls against the cab, awareness of safety glass for machine cabs is generally low. Whilst a blast rated window offers much protection it can often be broken by a sharp projectile. “Therefore, a good start is to do a risk analysis and see what can happen in the workplace. Based on that, you can then choose the best solution,” says Martin Mellerhav, development manager at Hammerglass. “We don't see why a machine operator should take a greater safety risk during his working day than someone sitting in an office. Today, the products and technology exist to make the machines safer,” says Florian Lauterbach, head of Automotive.


Extremely durable thermoplastic

Hammerglass uses polycarbonate in its panes, an extremely durable thermoplastic which is 300 times stronger than ordinary glass. However, polycarbonate itself is sensitive to both sunlight and chemicals. Therefore, a special type of surface treatment is required so that the material can be used in the tough environments that construction machinery is used in. With a specially developed surface treatment based on nanotechnology, the glass retains its optical clarity, and becomes resistant to scratches and cleaning. The range also includes an infrared variant which provides protection against the sun's strong rays and provides a more pleasant temperature in the cab.

“The latter is a new feature that we can add to the other Hammerglass features and which, among other things, can contribute to lowering fuel consumption by not having to use the AC as hard on hot days,” says Martin Mellerhav. “The infrared windows are not allowed to be used on the front window but can be used for all other windows and sunroof in the cab. Another advantage of Hammerglass is that they do not burn, so in the event of a fire in the engine compartment, the driver has more time to get out of the cab. I would like to see a standard that all rear windows on the machines become Hammerglass in the future.”

Proving the benefits of the protection of the panes, last year two serious accidents occurred in Sweden where rocks fell against excavator cabins. In both cases the machines had Hammerglass, and the drivers escaped unharmed. “We received an email that said, ‘thank you for your glasses, we are so happy that our drivers are alive today’. We have since brought the cab off the machine, which had a 10t stone block over it, and brought it with us to fairs as a clear example,” says Martin Mellerhav.

Since 2010, it has been the law in Sweden that those who work where there is a risk of unexploded explosive charges or where stones may hit the machine, must have sufficient driver protection. The law came about after a couple of serious accidents and Hammerglass has been part of the project group that worked to solve the problem. This is how the Automotive business area, and the so-called RABS framework grew. The latter is a specially developed steel frame that holds the pane in place during the pressure wave of an explosion. That solution has since been tested and developed to be able to replace traditional grating panes, which both limit visibility and do not offer comprehensive protection against smaller stones that can drill through the pane between the ribs of the grating.

“Today, I would say that 25% to 30% of the machines over 30t that work in risky environments in Sweden have Hammerglass. There are significantly more people who would benefit from Hammerglass' advantages, primarily through reduced downtime caused by broken windows, but of course first and foremost for the safety of the driver in the cab,” says Martin Mellerhav. It is estimated that as many as 40% of all machine operators in Europe experience cracked or broken windows on their machine more than five times a year, according to Hammerglass, meaning that any investment in an unbreakable frame pays off quickly.


Product development and manufacturing in southern Sweden

All Hammerglass development and manufacturing takes place in Förslöv in northern Scania, where there is also an Experience Center where visitors can test the products. Hammerglass' largest markets are primarily in Scandinavia, but growth is taking place in Europe, with Hammerglass having offices in Germany and Italy. The company has reported good sales in North America, where the products are sold by Volvo as well as individual customers in Africa and Australia.

All products have undergone the toughest tests available on the market and have all the certificates required for use in various applications. “We have a great and appreciated product for the forest industry, the only thing we lack is a certificate for forest machines where chainsaws are used. Our product would be able to withstand a red hot chain link thrown against the window, but we have not yet focused on passing the test,” explains Florian Lauterbach.

Hammerglass sells its products via a web shop, equipment workshops and machine manufacturers. “We would like to expand our collaborations with the machine manufacturers and partly get in with more people, partly to make them understand the benefits of our products and that they are assembled directly from the factory,” says Florian Lauterbach. “Often when a customer orders their machine with Hammerglass, it comes to the equipment workshop with the original window, which the workshop can remove and replace with Hammerglass. In many cases, the panes break when removed and are discarded before they are even used. Environmentally, it would be a great advantage for everyone if we could get to grips with the unnecessary handling,” adds Martin Mellerhav.

A big job ahead for Hammerglass is to increase the awareness and knowledge to both machine operators and employers in the construction and demolition sector about the importance of the right safety solution. “We take every chance we get to raise the issue, then it is up to the customer to choose a supplier,” says Florian Lauterbach.


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