It is also home to the double glazing activity of AGC Fabrication Belgium-Seapane which celebrated its 40th anniversary on this occasion. The site currently employs around 210 people.
A history of sustainable innovation
Since converting to the processing of glass(1), the development of the site has been synonymous with innovation in mirror glass, mainly by becoming more sustainable. In 1987 the plant opened a new mirror production line, the most productive and efficient in the world at the time, capable of producing mirror glass in large dimensions (6 x 3.21 m). Ten year later is invested in a second line specialising in painted glass (shiny Lacobel glass and Matelac glass with satin finish). In 1995 it introduced another world first with production of high-quality ecological mirror glass without copper(2) and with a lifetime of up to three times longer than traditional mirror glass. This product went on to win numerous international prizes and became a world reference, setting the standard for others to follow. Indeed it still leads the way thanks to successive improvements since then, including the elimination of all lead and formaldehyde in 2007. Mirox 3G was the first mirror glass to meet the EU directive for reducing the amounts of dangerous substances. In the same year the plant began production of the first-ever antibacterial glass, capable of eliminating 99.9% of all bacteria that come in contact with it. Then in 2011 and 2015 respectively the plant began production of toughenable versions of Lacobel and Matelac, so that whereas previously being limited to interior decor applications they could be used in outside structures.
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Double glazing becomes multifunctional
In 1975 Zeebrugge was the first plant in the Benelux to begin production of adhesive-bonded double glazing (the AGC Thermobel range), replacing the fused double glazing(3) marketed under the name of Thermopane. Further developments were spurred on by the oil crisis of the mid-1970s and the consequent emphasis on better insulation in order to save energy, a trend that was further consolidated by the efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Today, in addition to its heat-insulating properties double glazing meets a variety of needs ranging from solar control and acoustic insulation to safety and aesthetics. AGC Fabrication Belgium-Seapane has led these developments ever since it first started 40 years ago.
"The development of the Zeebrugge site is synonymous with sustainable innovation, an approach that also lies at the root of the economic success and corporate social responsibility," concludes Jean-François Heris, CEO of AGC Glass Europe.
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(1) From 1925 to 1975 the Zeebrugge plant produced window glass. When this activity was closed down the plant converted to fabrication of double glazing (1975) and mirror glass (1977).
(2) The copper coating that was previously used to protect the silvering has been replaced with a surface treatment. Moreover the lead used in the protective paint has been practically eliminated. The overall result is a reduction of 90% in the concentration of organic substances and ammonia in the production effluent.
(3) Thermobel is a type of double glazing in which the two layers of glass are separated by metal spacer which is bonded to the glass by adhesive, rather than being fused to it as in the case of Thermopane, its now obsolete predecessor.
AGC Glass Europe, a European leader in flat glass
Based in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium), AGC Glass Europe produces, processes and markets flat glass for the construction (external glazing and interior decoration), the automotive and solar industries. It is the European branch of AGC, the world's leading producer of flat glass. It has over 100 sites throughout Europe, from Spain to Russia, and employs around 14,500 employees.
The AGC Glass Europe site in Zeebrugge
The site houses two activities, namely production of mirrors and painted glass on the one hand, and production and sales of insulating glass on the other. The latter is carried out by AGC Fabrication Belgium-Seapane. Some 210 people are employed on the site: 105 for mirror glass and 105 for double glazing.
Every day the AGC plant produces some 40,000 m² of mirror glass (clear, bronze, grey, green and blue), Lacobel painted glass (25 standard colours available) and Matelac (12 standard colours). These are exported all over the world for the interior and construction sector and for the furniture industry. The plant is also active in thin mirror glass for solar applications (concentrating mirrors).
AGC Fabrication Belgium-Seapane for its part produces around 2000 m² of double glazing per day for residential and commercial application in the Benelux, not only for thermal insulation but also for the purposes of acoustic insulation, solar control, safety and aesthetics. The company supplied the glass for the Ghelamco Arena stadium in Ghent.