24/02/2017 - 11:32

Leading the charge in switchable glass

24/02/2017 - 11:32

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The local business that undertook one of the nation’s largest switchable glass projects as part of the development of Perth Children’s Hospital is now planning to target overseas markets.

Roman Watkins says there is growing demand for intelligent glass. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The local business that undertook one of the nation’s largest switchable glass projects as part of the development of Perth Children’s Hospital is now planning to target overseas markets.

Switchglass director Roman Watkins decided about six years ago to grow his business from glass repair into switchable glass.

The product includes a laminated, opaque layer that becomes transparent when an electrical current is run through it, providing privacy when required and clarity when needed.

Work at the children’s hospital involved the installation of 1,000 square metres of glass, while the Fremantle Dockers is another recent customer, with the coach’s office fitted out with the Switchglass product.

Mr Watkins said his glass was a premium product, which was generally targeted to the corporate sector. “The volume is probably not high enough for us to just solely sell into Australia,” Mr Watkins told Business News.

“We’re looking at (selling into) Singapore and Hong Kong.”

Mr Watkins said Switchglass had claimed more than $1.3 million in tax credits for research and development work it had undertaken.

About half of the company’s intellectual property was bought from Switzerland, he said, with the other half created locally.

“The world is changing in glass; people are looking for glass that’s intelligent, and the technology hasn’t completely caught up with what the world wants,” Mr Watkins said. “There are a lot of things we’ve looked to pioneer.

“People want to use it in boats, they want it to have acoustic performance, potentially ballistic utilisation for banks.

“Some of our new testing is involved in manufacturing radiation glass, which is essentially a lead-based glass used to shield the radio waves when people are getting CT scans.”

Part of the manufacturing process is undertaken in Western Australia, at a facility in O’Connor, where the special middle layer, sourced from the US, is laminated and sandwiched between sheets of glass.

“Many companies that started to manufacture switchable glass have stopped producing,” Mr Watkins said.

“We’re just taking this natural organic growth that’s happening,” he said.

Switchglass was evaluating export allowances to explore distributing products overseas, he said.

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