In 1909 Henry Ford offered his Model T with a windshield as an option but this soon became standard equipment and today does more than shield drivers and passengers from wind. According to some of the major glassmakers, tomorrow’s windshields will do more still, writes Matthew Beecham. 

The current trends in the automotive industry include the increasing fitment of larger windshields and stylish bonded wrap-around finishers, all of which contribute to the vehicle’s overall stiffness.  Most windshields have printing inks applied to them.  This can range from simple trademarks to obscuration bands (usually black glass enamel inks), demisting and antennae (usually silver inks) or decorative effects. 

The black obscuration band is printed with a glass enamel to protect the polyurethane glue from deteriorating under ultra-violet light (otherwise the glass would simply fall out of the car after time).  For the most part, environmental factors have played a part on the design and development of obscuration bands, notably triggering automakers’ move to lead-free obscuration bands.  Other drivers have centred on the fabrication process requirements in a bid to increase productivity, particularly the ease of application and performance during the forming process. 

One stop shop
Scientists and engineers at BASF Catalysts LLC (formerly known as Engelhard Corp) have developed a novel system of obscuration enamels and silver inks for vehicle glazing applications.  The company claims its customers can use the same obscuration enamels and silver inks at their plants worldwide thereby helping them to cut procurement costs and increase flexibility.

Robert Prunchak, Technology Manager, Engineered Coatings, BASF, played a leading role in the project.  He told us:  “During the development of that system, we really focused on some of the most stringent global specifications that were published at the time.  Our objective was to develop a black and silver system that could beat those specifications thereby providing our customers the advantage that they can eliminate a large number of formulations and just go to one system that can be used globally.”

Screen ready
BASF points out that traditionally several products have been used to meet different requirements around the world. It claims that its new system, however, can be used globally meeting all key parameters, including busbar hiding, acid resistance, wide firing window and abrasion resistance. Its system is “screen ready [to give that] smooth fired non-stick surface.”