[PA-NJ Glassblowers] Corning Museum Of Glass (CMOG) And Spiral Arts Awarded Patent For Electric Hot Shop

Tony Patti gaffer at glassblower.info
Sun Feb 8 11:06:44 EST 2015



For those who are interested I have also attached the first page (of 34) of
the actual patent, downloaded from uspto.gov


The Corning Museum of Glass recently received a recognition that only a
handful of museums have earned: a patent. Both the Museum and Spiral Arts, a
Seattle-based manufacturer and distributor for glass furnaces and tools,
were awarded US Patent No. 8,891,582 on November 18, for the electric glass
hot shop system.


Most glassmaking equipment used in factories and studios is powered by
natural gas or propane, making for a relatively noisy, cumbersome set-up.
Imagine a silent, energy-efficient hot shop, powered by electricity-one that
can be transported and used in places where gases aren't available or are
prohibited. That's what was envisioned by Steve Gibbs, senior manager of hot
glass programs for The Corning Museum of Glass, and created by Fred Metz,
founder and president of Spiral Arts. 


Metz and his team have been designing and manufacturing the Museum's
equipment for nearly 20 years, starting with The Studio in 1996, then
working with Gibbs to revamp the Hot Glass Show in 1999, create the Roadshow
in 2002, and most recently working on the state-of-the-art hot shop for the
Contemporary Art + Design Wing. Gibbs has been working in glass much of his
life, first learning from his uncle's stained glass business, and eventually
working for Steuben Glass and then The Corning Museum of Glass. Metz and
Gibbs have collaborated on the majority of the Museum's hot glass projects.
But it was one particular request that came in 2006 that would eventually
lead to the first patent for both the Museum and Spiral Arts.


When Celebrity Cruises called to inquire about blowing glass at sea, there
was both excitement and pause. Although the Museum had already been taking
glassmaking beyond its doors with the Roadshow, blowing glass at the 2002
Olympics in Salt Lake City, UT, and places as far away as Australia, it was
primarily a gas-powered system that would not work on board a cruise ship.


"Cruise ships don't even allow candles with real flames, so it was a
thrilling challenge to figure out how to produce the amount of heat needed
to blow glass onboard," said Gibbs, who also happens to be a captain
licensed by the Coast Guard. "We knew we needed to make the magic of the Hot
Glass Show happen with hot shop equipment that did not use natural gas or
propane. That was crucial to ensuring the continued safety of the ship."


Many alternative sources, from compressed natural gas to diesel fuel, were
discussed as potential solutions. But ultimately, Metz and Gibbs knew they
would need to create an all-electric hot shop in order to realize this dream
of partnering with Celebrity. Although people had experimented with building
electric equipment before, no one had invented a hot shop that ran solely on
electrical power and functioned as well as a gas shop.


"We had no proven technology, and we were going to be blowing glass on a
cruise ship in two years," said Gibbs. "This had never been done before. The
world was watching us, so we needed to come through. Fred and I put our
heads together to begin to figure out how we could optimize and make a
dependable glassmaking shop, all powered with electric, that would run every
day with the vibrations and challenges of being on a cruise ship."


And that's exactly what they did. The all-electric hot shop includes a
furnace, glory hole (reheating chamber), pipe warmer, a pick-up box, a color
box, an auxiliary furnace, and a standard electric annealer. Some of the
highlights of this system include:


. Molybdenum disilicide elements. This is a crystalline metal that makes a
very durable resistance heater, but the elements are incredibly fragile to
the touch. At the melting temperature of glass, 2100 degrees Fahrenheit, the
elements become somewhat pliable, making them able to withstand the
vibrations and movement of the ship. The molybdenum disilicide elements glow
orange inside the furnace and glory hole, similar to the heating elements in
a toaster.


. A glory hole that allows for more thorough reheating. In an all-electric
glory hole, there is no burner circulating the air, so while it takes a bit
longer to reheat a piece of glass, it allows for a more thorough heat. Many
glassmakers come to prefer the less-intense heat of this glory hole.


. High-tech insulation allows for better energy efficiency. Knowing
electrical resources might be limited, the glory hole was designed with a
significant amount of insulation over a larger surface area so that the heat
would be absorbed, then released as needed, a concept Gibbs refers to as the
"Hot Rocks Theory." When the doors are opened to heat a piece, the surface
area of the glory hole has been thoroughly heated, and that heat migrates
out into the chamber to keep the glass hot. The glory hole is idled down
when not in use, conserving energy.


. Glory hole doors close tightly and can be changed quickly. Maintaining
heat in the glory hole is critical to the reheating process, and the tight
seal on the doors reduces waste heat.  Doors tend to last only for six
months, so "quick change" doors were created to reduce the downtime from
hours to minutes.


. Reduced downtime for furnace maintenance. Typical replacement of a bad
refractory or a cracked pot which holds the glass in the furnace is about
two weeks. A base was created so that the bottom would drop out, a new base
could be inserted, and the system could be back up and running in a few


. It operates in silence. Unlike a gas furnace where you hear the roar of
combustion, the electric system makes for a virtually silent hot shop.


. It can be used in unusual venues. Electric equipment makes working in
challenging environments, where access to gases is limited or impossible,
possible. In addition to Celebrity Cruises' ships, the Museum uses the
electric hot shop technology for its Hot Glass Show on the retrofitted
Innovations Stage. Since the space used to be a theater and therefore wasn't
built for glassmaking, there is limited opportunity for ventilation, making
the electric set-up ideal. It also allows the Museum to use the Auditorium
as an extra Hot Glass Show space during busy summer months.


"There were times we weren't sure it was going to work," said Gibbs. "Fred
really picked me up at a low point and said, 'Yes, we can.' And we did.
Being able to work together toward a dream that never existed before, in
such a professional and innovative way was nothing less than a pure joy."


"We think of ourselves as making ideas that will contribute to overall
studio glass," said Metz. "For us, it's nice to know we've got something
unique. When you're being really innovative and putting a lot of work into
something, it's nice to have that recognized patent."


Since 2008, the Museum has been blowing glass at sea on three of Celebrity's
Solstice Class ships and is consistently rated as a top entertainment
experience by guests. Over the course of a year, as many as 400,000 cruisers
from around the world can take in a Hot Glass Show at sea, essentially
doubling the reach of the Museum, which welcomes 420,000 visitors to
Corning, annually.


"It's our mission to tell the world about glass, and that's exactly what
we're doing on the ships with this electric hot shop," said Marie McKee, who
was president of The Corning Museum of Glass at the time the equipment was
developed. "This patent continues the history of The Corning Museum of Glass
being innovators. Telling the story of glass history is very exciting and at
the core of what we do, but we are also a museum that is reaching out,
innovating, and exploring the future."


Congratulations to CMOG and Spiral Arts!

Tony Patti
 <http://www.glassblower.info> www.glassblower.info
 <mailto:gaffer at glassblower.info> gaffer at glassblower.info

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