How Strong is Toughened Glass?

Should glass panels have a future in Labman systems?
Process insightsSustainability focusLabman culture 8 min read

Katie SimpsonPublished 20th Sept 2017

There has been much serious striking of glass and clanging of metal trolleys around Labman’s factory over the past few weeks; the reason: strenuous testing of toughened glass panels to replace perspex panels in all future Labman systems. Cleaner, longer lasting and significantly cheaper; these were just some of the arguments put forward for the switch to glass. But with concerns about the safety of glass in the very unlikely event of a rogue robot, we felt it our duty to prove beyond any doubt that glass panels should have a future in Labman systems.

The switch to glass panels comes hand-in-hand with a wider move to a brand new aesthetic in Labman systems, the details of which will be revealed in full in future posts. These changes, including the use of closed-profile MBS, a tritone anodised colour scheme and toughened glass, will begin to feature on all Labman systems from mid-2017, and aim to hone the design of our systems in line with both modern technologies and style.

Clad in protective gear, we tested all manner of toughened glass from purely toughened panels to laminated pieces. Labman systems often contain extremely powerful robotic arms or axis-based robotic movement, and as such the build quality of the enclosure of the system is as much to keep the user safe as it is to keep it clean for laboratory work. The glass panels must thus be able to withstand the potentially enormous forces exerted by a robotic arm that has lost control, without smashing.

After dropping a set weight on the large glass panels from specified, incremental heights, the speed of which was measured using accelerometers, we increased the weight and attached hinges to the doors on which to mount it. This mounting helps to simulate the exact state of the glass in a Labman system. Even in this mounted, hinged state, and with the increased weight, the glass still held up to everything we could throw at it, or drop on it!

Under the watchful eyes of some of our visiting customers, we attached the glass panels to a standard Labman framework, and ran metal trolleys into the edges of the glass at high speed. Still the glass simply bounced and flexed. Only a very good leathering with a pointed hammer managed finally to smash the glass, however, even when smashed, the laminated panel proved its worth by holding the broken pieces together until it could be removed from the robot.

The technology in these exceptional glass panels has proven its ‘metal’, and future Labman systems will employ toughened, laminated glass panels. We look forward to revealing more of the exciting changes that we have in store in our new systems.