Ballistic glass is used in a wide array of buildings and facilities to provide added protection against ballistic threats. It can be made to particular specifications, both in terms of the shape and size of the system in question and the level of protection required. For that reason, the way that ballistic glass is made can vary widely depending on the manufacturers, specifications, and needs of each specific project.
However, there are a few main materials that manufacturers often use to produce these bulletproof glass systems. Understanding what each one entails during production and fabrication may help you better understand what type of system can provide the most relevant protection to your building or facility. And learning a bit about the processes that are used can help more people understand how these systems are able to offer such high levels of protection.
Before jumping into the processes that manufacturers use for these products, it’s important to note that although “bulletproof glass” is a commonly used term, it’s more accurate to refer to ballistic glass systems as “bullet resistant.” This is because every material, regardless of how many layers are included or how strong the glazing materials are, can eventually break down or spall when struck with enough ballistic force. However, the materials described below can hold up to specific types of ballistic rounds outlined in UL 752 testing standards, which are widely recognized for certifying and ensuring quality in protective systems. Some materials, like acrylic, are designed mainly to provide protection from small caliber rounds, while others like glass-clad polycarbonate can provide protection from larger ballistic rounds. So it’s essential to complete a threat assessment before choosing ballistic glass products to find the solutions that are the best fit for your needs.
With that in mind, here’s a guide to how some of the most popular types of ballistic glass are produced.
Acrylic ballistic glass is aptly named, as it is produced by casting a sheet of acrylic with special modifiers. Since acrylic is relatively flexible and lightweight, it is able to absorb the energy from low level ballistics and avoid spalling when struck with one or more rounds. As such, it’s mainly used as a crime deterrent or in facilities that just want protection from basic handguns.
Acrylic is a thermoplastic, so a plain panel can be cut to size and then fabricated into virtually any shape easily. In order for acrylic to provide ballistic protection, it does need to be fairly thick. So manufacturers or fabrication companies may produce sheets that are about an inch to inch and a half in thickness, depending on the level of protection that is required. The material is very lightweight compared to other protective systems, even when produced at this thickness, so installation is generally pretty seamless.
Polycarbonate is another plastic material, but it tends to be more impact resistant than acrylic. This type of ballistic glazing can be produced by laminating multiple thinner gage sheets from ⅛” to ½” together with inner layers creating a laminated polycarbonate with a total thickness of ¾” to 1 ¼” depending on the level of protection required.
Laminated polycarbonates offer the same levels of protection as acrylic (UL 752 1-3), but due to their increased impact strength most laminated polycarbonate products also meet various forced entry ratings. These products are also lightweight like acrylic but due to the multiple layers and inner layers, do not possess the clarity of acrylic.
Glass-clad polycarbonate is one of the strongest types of bulletproof glass available. It involves fusing multiple layers of glass and polycarbonate together to meet the desired level of ballistic protection. The outermost surface or threat side will always remain glass and the interior surface or safe side will be polycarbonate. Combining the rigid glass and the soft polycarbonate allows these materials to meet higher levels of ballistic protection up to UL 752 level 8 while the thickness of the product and weight remains much less than an all glass product. While the exterior glass surface provides good weatherability and protection from cleaning, the interior surface remains a plastic (polycarbonate) and is more susceptible to damage from scratching or improper cleaning.
Finally, laminated glass provides a bullet resistant surface by laminating multiple layers of actual glass together to form one panel. To accomplish this, manufacturers apply synthetic materials in between the glass and fuse them together using chemical processes. They can then use heat or vacuum power to eliminate any air between the layers and create a solid surface that still offers plenty of visual clarity.
This type of ballistic glass is known for being durable and offering a look that’s very similar to regular glass windows or doors. It is also very easy to clean and maintain over time, while offering decent range in terms of its protection capabilities. It’s generally available in UL 752 levels 1 through 4 but in order to meet these levels of protection with an all glass product the thickness can grow to over 2” and the weight of the product can exceed 25 pounds per square foot.
If you think that your building or facility could benefit from ballistic glass, contact Insulgard to discuss your options. We work with top manufacturers to provide quality solutions and customize them to your exact specifications. Our bullet resistant systems include everything from basic doors and windows to entryway systems and transaction windows. We can also help to walk you through each step of the process, from choosing the right materials to connecting you with our large network of installation professionals. Additionally, all of our ballistic glass solutions are tested and certified to meet specific criteria outlined by recognized entities like UL. To discuss how ballistic glass is made or to find the solution that works for your needs, contact our team today.