The History Of Auto Glass


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The history of auto glass is actually a very interesting one. Auto glass protects us against the elements, harmful UV rays, and bugs and rocks or other things on the road from flying in your face. Windshields that offer us so much protection today have come a long way since they first started.

The First Windshields – History

Gas powered automobiles were first introduced in the late 1890s. However, the first automobiles did not have auto glass, especially not a windshield. Therefore, the history of auto glass did not begin until the early 1900s. There was nothing to prevent bugs, rocks or other objects whizzing through the air and right into the driver’s face. Some automobiles and horse drawn buggies featured auto glass for usage on side windows. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 1904 that the car windshield made its grand debut.
In the early 1900s, the earliest windshield models were two horizontal sheets of window-pane glass. The driver could fold down the glass if it became dirty. For the next decade, windshields were an optional feature for a vehicle. Then in 1915, Oldsmobile made vehicle history with the introduction of windshields as standard features.
By the late 1910s, windshields were common but were far from perfect. They offered the most basic of protection, but they often shattered easily. Drivers occasionally died when collisions forced them through their windshields. These early windshields couldn’t withstand harsh impact.
It was around this time when Henry Ford, the creator of Ford Motor Company, began seeking a cheaper and stronger auto glass alternative. Ford would become a big name in the history of auto glass. Henry Ford asked his company’s employees to come up with a new way of manufacturing auto glass. They partnered with engineers to develop a system where machines rolled, ground, and polished molten glass.
Back in 1903, French scientist Eduoardo Benedictus stumbled upon the secret to shatter proof glass when he dropped a flask filled with cellulose nitrate. He found that the glass covered in the dried cellulose nitrate cracked, but still kept its original shape. Benedictus used this to create this shatter-resistant glass. Yet, it wasn’t until the 1920s that it was actually used. Ford then began introducing windshields featuring shatter-proof glass, thanks to Benedictus’ invention.

Auto Glass Improvements

While these shatter-proof windshields offered greater safety, they started to discolor over time. To remedy this, the Ford Motor Company began using laminated glass in its cars in 1927.
Glass improvements continued in the 1930s. Tempered glass was introduced and used in the front windshield. Curved windshields also began to appear. These improved both vehicle strength and aerodynamics. A special urethane started fastening windshields to frames more effectively.
The Lincoln Motor Company began supplying police vehicles with bulletproof glass. Then, in 1934, Chrysler introduced the first vehicle with a curved windshield composed with just one piece of glass.
In 1938, an American inventor named Carleton Ellis made an artificial resin that could block ultraviolet rays and keep the windshield from discoloring. He patented this resin as polyvinyl butyral the same year.
Throughout the 1950s, auto glass became more and more cheaper to produce. The General Motors LeSabre, a show car debuted in 1951, had a panoramic windshield for a clear view of the road. These wrap around windshields were routine by the last 1950s.
In 1959, the Pilkington glass making business introduced the float style of glass-making. In this float style, glass components are melted, mixed and pushed through a narrow opening onto molten tin. The result is cheaper glass that is also high in quality and very clear.
Fixing glass was not as easy as it is now, though. The only repair that could be done to a windshield was purely cosmetic. It included an oil-based fluid poured into the area to fill the damage and hide the break. This was obviously not a permanent repair. More serious cracks or chips meant the whole windshield needed to be replaced.

Auto Glass Regulations

As the 1960s began to roll round, the U.S. federal government began regulating windshield strength. Advances in auto glass were still happening rapidly, but the U.S. began to focus more on the safety of the driver and the vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established in 1970. This led to the implementation of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Standards included regulations on windshield strength, transparency, rigidity, and limits to penetration.
Some of the standards included in the FMVS are:
  • MVSS 205 — This standard involves automotive window transparency and the strength of automotive glass required to keep occupants inside the vehicle during accidents.
  • FMVSS 212 — This windshield mounting standard was established to ensure a certain level of windshield retention strength during accidents.
  • FMVSS 216 — This legislation implemented a standard for roof rigidity in case of a rollover.
  • FMVSS 219 — This standard states that no part of most passenger vehicles can penetrate the windshield more than 6 millimeters (0.24 inches) in a crash.

Modern Windshields

The windshield has come a long way since it was first created. Back in the 1990s, a hybrid film with dye was created to absorb heat and metal to ban sun rays. This has provided a significant reduction in infrared rays and internal heat gain. It makes it so windshields can filter 95-99% of UV rays.
Modern windshields are made from laminated safety glass. They consist of a layer of polyvinyl butyral plastic that is fitted between two sheets of glass. They only continue to grow in complexity and sophistication. Modern windshields are larger, which provides increased visibility for drivers. Chips and cracks are repaired much more easily, without requiring a full replacement. Today’s windshields also provide greater structural support in the event of an accident.
What is in the future for auto glass? It is possible that every piece of auto glass, not just the windshield, will be laminated. This will make car rides significantly quieter. Recycled glass should become more common. Smart windshields, thanks to the production of sensors and other digital technologies, should be in the future. These will be capable of displaying driving directions, notices, and other pieces of information. Some of this technology could even make things like speedometers on cars obsolete.
The history of auto glass is interesting. We look forward to the next iteration of it and being able to provide you with reliable service and knowledge. Contact us today for your auto glass needs, and stay safe out there.