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Automated and non-destructive gas analysis for IGUs

The following specialist article discusses the development of Sparklike Laser™ product line and most importantly, the newest member of the product line, Sparklike Laser Online™ device. These devices allow automated measurement of insulating gas fill without breaking the insulating glass unit (IGU) or without having any extra components inside. Furthermore, this laser based technology enables the insulating gas analysis of triple and double glazed IGU’s, even through coatings and laminated glasses.

This article was written based on an interview with Mr. Kai Niiranen, the R&D Engineer at Sparklike Oy, the person who has developed the never-before-seen analysis technology. Mr. Niiranen has held the position as Sparklike’s R&D Engineer since 2011.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE DEVICES

Mr. Niiranen developed the product line to correspond to the changes in the insulating glass industry, where an ever-increasing number of IGU’s are manufactured with coating on both sides. Thus, a new technology was needed to enable non-destructive gas concentration measurement through coatings and laminated glasses.

Non-destructive gas analysis for triple glazed IGU with coatings and laminated glasses.

Before the development and manufacturing of the product line, Sparklike was selling Sparklike Handheld™ devices that have since then become the industry standard when analysing the argon or krypton concentration for standard double glazed IGU’s.

TUNEABLE DIODE LASER ABSORPTION SPECTROSCOPY

All devices within the product line are based on TDLAS (Tuneable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy). By using this technology, the device measures oxygen and from there, the amount of argon, krypton or other insulating gas, can be calculated. When measuring the gas concentration inside an IG unit, the laser beam goes through the first pane and is reflected to the detector from the first surface of the second pane. In addition, with a triple insulating glass units, the laser beam goes through two panes and is reflected from the third pane.  The below image shows how the laser beam travels through a triple glazed IGU with coatings.

How laser measures the IGU.

Finally, in order to get the focused laser beam to the correct measuring point, the IG dimensions are first scanned. This is done by moving the focused laser beam through the IG and collecting the reflected signal in order to obtain accurate dimensions of the IG. This, in return, enables the calculation of the gas concentration(s).

AUTOMATED QUALITY CONTROL FOR IGU’S

As the product line was developed to correspond to the changes in the IG industry, Mr. Niiranen first developed the Sparklike Laser Standard device, which is an offline solution for test laboratories and desktop use. However, it quickly became evident that another version of this popular device was needed, since the customers were requesting to be able to move the device around the factory and building site. Therefore, the Sparklike Engineers integrated the laser device into a robust case with wheels and a battery that allows up to three hours of cordless operation. This version was later labelled as Sparklike Laser Portable.

The third and latest addition to the product line is Sparklike Laser Online.  This device was developed since the customers were looking for a way to conduct automated quality control. In other words, the online version is a custom-made solution that is integrated directly into the insulating glass line.

The equipment consists of three different parts: a 16 kilo main unit of 500 x 350 x 132 (L x W x H, in mm), a 6 kilo measuring head of 200 x 90 x 350 ( L x W x H, in mm), as well as of a handy 10,1” touch screen display that comes with a pen.

Furthermore, every device comes with the Laser Software by Sparklike, which is run in the Windows 10 IoT Enterprise operating system. To enhance the device’s user-friendliness, there are several language options available for the software: English, German and French. Other language options, such as Spanish and Italian, will soon be available. The image below shows example results on the Laser Software by Sparklike, when measuring a triple glazed insulating glass unit.

Example results when measuring a triple glazed IGU.

As can be seen from the above image, in addition to the insulating gas concentration, these devices also measure the IG thicknesses and cavity thicknesses along with the total thickness of the IGU.

What makes Sparklike Laser Online™ an automated analysis device, is the possibility to create an integration between the device and the IG line. This communication is done by using an Ethernet port. The communication itself is HEX coded ASCII text. The system developed by Sparklike Engineers is reading the port and sending data back according to the communication protocol. To ensure an easy-to-use protocol, all the commands and replies have pre-determined lengths. 

In addition, specific commands enable the measurement of the IGU in sync with the production line. This, on the other hand, allows a much shorter measurement cycle. In this way the measurement time can be reduced even down to 9 seconds when measuring double glazed units, and all the way to 15 seconds when analysing triple glazed IGU’s. In other words, the measurement time depends on the settings and the nature of the IG structure.

Finally, the data logging capacity is equal to the other members of the production line, which is SSD Storage (15 GB), USB/Network transfer. Therefore, the data logging capability of the devices is virtually unlimited.

The ever-growing popularity of Sparklike devices™ is due to the fact that they offer the IG and window manufacturers, as well as test laboratories the possibility to analyse the gas concentration of IG units in a fast, economic and non-destructive way. Furthermore, with Sparklike devices™, the IG manufacturers are able to confirm the proper functioning of the gas press, in an automated way. Something that was not possible before. This, on the other hand, ensures that the end-user receives an IGU with the gas concentration that complies with industry norms, regulations, as well as customer expectations.

To gain access to the technical product leaflet for the  device, please click the link below:

DOWNLOAD SPARKLIKE LASER ONLINE BROCHURE

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