Glass production can be traced back to before the Roman civilization. The Latin term “glesum” can be roughly translated as “transparent lustrous substance”. Flat glass has changed very little since its inception as blown cylinders flattened out and the majority of today’s flat glass (about 90%) is produced using the float glass (Pilkington) process that was developed in the 1950s in England.
The global flat glass market was estimated to be over $30 billion in 2012, driven largely by demands of construction and automotive glass sectors. Current demand by China, North America, and Europe account for over 70% of products delivered. Future demand is expected to increase steadily as emerging markets develop.
To sustain these demands, there are over 200 float glass production plants worldwide. They produce over 60 million tons (about 7.5 billion square meters) of glass annually! But float glass production can be expensive due to the high cost of transportation and energy required for glass melting (often up to 1700 °C). In order to reduce costs, these plants tend to be regionally distributed to minimize the high costs of transportation and tend to operate continuously to minimize losses.