Aluminum Windscreens

Aluminum windscreens. Yes, you read that correctly, ‘But aluminum is a metal, and a windscreen is made of glass?’ I hear you ask.

To help make this information easier to process, aluminum glass is actually, technically, transparent aluminum. A sample of transparent aluminum say, a tube, looks like a tube made of glass but it’s actually aluminum. Well, an asterisked aluminum; this is not elemental aluminum but rather a material made from it as the core ingredient.

Transparent Aluminum tube

Despite clearly not being a metal (and not a glass either; glasses are amorphous solids while ceramics are crystalline) transparent ceramics demonstrate impressive properties. Transparent aluminum is produced by a process called sintering. Powdered ingredients are poured into a mould, compacted under tremendous pressure, and cooked at high temperatures over long periods. The resulting translucent material is then ground and polished to transparency ready for use.

Aluminium Oxynitride ( “ALON” ) is a ceramic composed of aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen. .

Aside from being optically transparent (≥80%) in the near-ultraviolet, visible and midwave-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, ALON is four times harder than fused silica glass; 85% as hard as sapphire, and nearly 15% harder than magnesium aluminate spinel. Since it has a cubic spinel structure, it can be fabricated to produce transparent windows, plates, domes, rods, tubes and other forms using conventional ceramic powder processing techniques. Tests show that a laminated pane of ALON 1.6″ thick can stop a 50 caliber rifle round, something even 3.7″ of traditional “bullet-proof” glass can’t do. ALON also has better optical properties than regular glass in the infrared wavelengths; where most glasses absorb IR, ALON is essentially transparent to it. That makes ALON a great choice for the windows on heat seeking missiles and other IR applications.

ALON also demonstrates superior scratch resistance.


While the technology exists, there is currently no demand for automotive windscreens. Unbreakable and damage-resistant glass is undoubtedly a game-changer which could spell trouble for many AGRR businesses. However, in applications such as mobile phones, the increased demand for such a material will drive costs down, but windscreens might take a while longer.

An ‘aluminum windscreen’ presently could cost in the region of £30,000-40,000, a price tag which even Monty Brewster might balk at.

The Windscreens of Change




Most car owners would begin to feel nervous if the guy about to replace their windscreen set himself up with a couple of sharpened screwdrivers, a rubber mallet; a length of waxed sash chord; some paraffin and an old car tyre.

“When I started in this trade – 32 years ago – you didn’t need much more than this” says Steve Allard, boss of Western Windscreens. He started as a trainee fitter just as the windscreen replacement industry was about to experience one of the biggest changes it has seen to date. And just as the trade was sweeping up the remaining fragments of shattered glass, dusting itself off and licking its lips at the advent of laminated windscreens, the idea of glazing glass directly to the car landed from the future and took everybody by surprise, whether they liked it or not.

Windscreen Removed

Bonded Windscreen Vauxhall Insignia VXR

In an inherently reticent trade, making room for new technology was never going to be easy and would always take time to bed in. But as the cantankerously cautious were closing up their cantilever tool boxes in fear of such changes, the proactive were prudently embracing what is now one of the most important safety features of a motor vehicle: the bonded windscreen. Modern cars now feature larger ‘directly glazed’ panels which form part of a car’s safety features as well as providing better efficiency. To help achieve this, the sandwich construction of glass and Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB) is now thinner than previous examples; some of the metal hardware (to hold condensation, light and rain sensors; active lane assist and road sign recognition cameras, etc) has been substituted for lighter plastic components, and microns have been spared from applying a finer coat of – black, UV inhibiting – ceramic paint to the inside of the glass. As the motor car itself has continued to evolve, chromed embellishers and ‘lockable’ rubber gaskets have been phased out and replaced with clip-mounted mouldings or extruded trims (but now even they are slowly disappearing to give modern day glass a more flush and seamless look on a car). With this has also come the need for a more refreshed mindset for the auto-glazier, and an entirely different set of skills which has transformed the task of fitting glass into something far more technical, yet paradoxically easier.

Today there is a much wider range of specialist tools than what Steve cut his teeth on over 30 years ago. But some innovations (thankfully) didn’t last very long. Like the transformer needed to ‘cook’ a heat sealing ribbon – Solbit – is about as extinct as the cars it was once used on, and such bonding materials no longer need to be stored in refrigerators to keep them at optimum workable temperatures. The first windscreen-specific Polyurethane adhesives (PUR) would need to be heated in order to promote flow and workability but advancement in PUR technology has since waned that wave of temperature-sensitive bonding material.  Gone too are the associated setting times, or Safe Drive Away Times (SDAT) which have gradually diminished from as long as 24-hours to a relatively pit-stop time of 30 minutes (airbag dependent). 

Windscreen Adhesive

Heated Rear Window Vauxhall VXR8

As older cars move into classic and vintage categories, the tools (and techniques) needed to work on them are becoming just as niche. Specific clip-releasing equipment has pushed chrome embellisher insertion tools firmly to the back of the drawer; bashers and dibbers now gather more and more dust as the two-man-teams – the brute force and strength – have almost been out-muscled by mechanically assisted equipment. Piano wire, braided wire and short lengths of beaten copper pipe have become part of a long legacy as a much safer, square-profile wire is the preferred method of cutting through PUR to release bonded glass from the vehicle.  

For every improvement made on fitting glass and windscreens, the trade has also developed better techniques to remove them, and as aware as we have become about ‘structural stiffness’ and as educated as we are of ridding contact surfaces and substrates of contaminants, the industry is still learning.  These developments in skills; those innovations in technology, and this continuous improvement to integrate – and harness – them into a specialist trade has turned the windscreen fitter of yesteryear into the automotive glazing technician of today. This refreshing attitude towards awareness has seen an encouraging interest towards achieving accreditation and certifying competency even though there is still no requirement.

Bonded Windscreen and Glass Roof

Volvo V40 Panoramic Glass Roof

It is estimated that there are approximately 700 windscreen replacement businesses listed as wholesale customers in the UK, from local one-man-bands to corporate powerhouses employing hundreds of staff covering all corners of the United Kingdom. There are thousands of technicians gainfully employed, many of whom are registered with the IMI’s own ATA scheme, as well as the similar work-based NVQ awards. Although neither scheme is compulsory, conscientious technicians are still keen to grow with the industry; they understand there is direction in the practice of maintaining and developing skills and expanding the knowledge required in their chosen field.

In a business fueled by safety which, in itself drives the need for technological advancement,  the desire for slimmer, lighter and above all safely installed glass, means that we, as industry professionals, must stay on top of the latest changes at all times. Our customers deserve better than a badly fitted windscreen, poor execution and even poorer customer service. We must strive to achieve and of course deliver, the best at all times – and reach beyond that.

New Windscreen Technology by SSG


ClimaCoat is a new generation of heatable windscreens from Saint-Gobain Sekurit.

As a world innovation in automotive glazing, it unites two key functions in one windscreen: heating in the winter and protection from the sun in summer. In 2011, the new all-weather windscreen was introduced in the new Volkswagen Passat.

ClimaCoat Windscreen

ClimaCoat Windscreen








A multilayer conductive coating is applied on one of the inner glass surfaces of the laminated windscreen. This is completely invisible so that the view forwards is not impaired in any way.

Watch the video: ClimaCoat Windscreens by Saint-Gobain Sekurit




Windscreen Replacement: An Industry Contributing to its Own Demise


When are we going to realise that the windscreen replacement industry needs to be regulated?

Technician competence and the employment selection process needs to be benchmarked with a minimum qualification entry to stop the widespread of incompetence, ineptitude and ignorance which has never been as evident. We cannot allow, or keep up this ‘anyone will do’ attitude, ‘just as long as the work gets done’. Business, figures, procurement and profit – or even a now innate ‘grab it what you can while you can’ attitude – seem to be the driving forces behind an industry which has long forgotten its prime mover: the consumer.

Properly trained technicians should also be better paid, and the industry needs to start pulling its socks – and trousers – back up. Did I say properly trained? Let’s start by having a proper, innovative research centre as a training provider, and not ‘academies’ which are simply regurgitating dated, and poor techniques as well as bad practices.


This needs to stop.

It’s about time for everyone to start making positive contributions to the industry instead of rinsing it for all it used to be worth.