Smart Vinyl vs Smart Glass

We are often asked about the difference between the various switchable products available from Intelligent Glass and our team are always happy to help explain. It is important that those hoping to invest in switchable technology understand the differences between these products, so they can be confident that they have the appropriate and best value solution for their application.

Switchable Glass, Electric Glass or PDLC Glass are general terms used to describe a range of switchable privacy products that can change state from frosted to clear at the press of a button. Using polymer dispersed liquid crystal (PDLC) technology, crystals in the PDLC layer polarise in contact with an electric charge, which causes the once frosted glass to appear clear, as light is allowed to pass through the glass more than it was before.

Comprising of 2 main technologies, most Switchable products are manufactured around either Switchable Self-Adhesive film or Switchable Glass. Both technologies, whilst similar in effect and outcome, bring different benefits to certain projects, providing the correct solution has been specified. Switchable Glass, the original switchable product in the Intelligent Glass range, offers a wide range of standard and specialist glass options that allow designers and integrators to make the most of switchable technology in combination with additional protection and functionality.

Switchable Glass allows users to take advantage of extra protection, a clean-room manufacturing assurance and glass options such as Coloured Glass, Fire Resistance, Sound Insulation, Double Glazed Units and Laminated Safety Glass – all whilst attaining that core switchable functionality. Due to the manufacturing processes and the facilities that Intelligent Glass enjoy, Switchable Glass products are able to be produced with a range of glass options that allow for a greater level of use in design and construction applications, particularly applications that require legal compliance or specialist functionality. Switchable Glass is a full solution product, requiring the professional installation of a rigid screen or glass in the specified location.

Switchable Film, on the other hand, is a revolutionary innovation that offers one of the most flexible switchable products on the market. Available in 2 main varieties, Switchable Film grants the advantages of switchable functionality to most transparent surfaces.

One of these varieties – Switchable Film for lamination – allows for custom lamination dependant on the application. An ideal product for the glass and manufacturing industry, Switchable Film for lamination allows specialists to stock, specify and install switchable technology in conjunction with their own glass, making it a more cost effective and convenient option than other switchable solutions they may have considered.

The other variety, Self-Adhesive Switchable Film, developed by Intelligent Glass, offers a retrofit solution that can be applied to a transparent surface easily using installation tools. Available to be cut to bespoke shapes and sizes, Self-Adhesive Switchable Film represents a true innovation in the switchable product market, as premium privacy technology becomes not only more attainable, but also more versatile than ever. Using the film’s self-adhesive layer, users are able to apply Switchable Film to their pre-existing windows, partitions and glass, meaning they don’t have to completely replace the glass that is already installed in order to achieve switchable functionality. This key feature allows Intelligent Glass to offer Self-Adhesive Switchable Film at a lower price compared to Switchable Glass, as it does not require the extra manufacturing processes that necessitates use of a clean room environment, as well as the use of specialist labour to produce and finish the complete Glass solution.

Whilst Switchable Film is indeed incredibly versatile, use of the raw film does enforce a certain degree of constraint for some specialist applications where Switchable Glass may be more appropriate. The manufacturing conditions needed to produce the specialist Switchable Glass options mentioned earlier are most likely not able to be met in the various environments Switchable Film may be specified. Attempting to recreate a specialist option without meeting these manufacturing conditions is likely to cause installation imperfections or even breach compliance for any legally demanding applications. It may also be inappropriate from a functionality and design point of view to apply a film solution to certain applications. For example, simply retrofitting a Self-Adhesive Switchable Film layer to a DGU does not offer an ideal solution since the PDLC film would be exposed rather than encased within the glass layers of the DGU (Figure 1). Encasing the film in the layers of glass results in the finish, style and overall product being a far more appropriate solution than if you were to just apply the film to one side (Figure 2), especially when considering that the required electronics and cabling are contained within the unit, meaning that it can be installed by most DGU installers as any other DGU could be.

However, whilst there are certain specialist applications where Self-Adhesive Switchable Film may not fulfil the full list of specifications required, the vast majority of standard privacy applications lend themselves incredibly well to such a solution. Intelligent Glass offers switchable technology at a cost-effective price using Self-Adhesive Switchable Film, putting this aspirational technology in the hands of many who desire it, whilst at the same time, offering specialist Switchable Glass options to those who require them.

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