Fensterbau Makes a Sunny Spot for Windows Under Germany’s Economic Clouds

March 20th, 2024 by Drew Vass, Executive Editor

If the saying is “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” the same isn’t true for Germany’s Fensterbau Frontale. Instead, what happens at the show often serves as a precursor for what will make its way to the U.S.

Clean weld lines are a focus at this year’s show, including among machinery manufacturers.

This year, those trends include stronger, more thermally efficient window frames—some with extra clean weld lines, thanks to the latest machinery. Meanwhile, more software platforms and technology features have found their way to the cloud, making everything from identifying products to monitoring production easier tasks for door and window dealers and manufacturers.

For fenestration, Fensterbau is the “king of trade shows,” said Tony Mehringer, president and CEO of Sturtz. “I think our European counterparts would agree.”

Tuesday the show got off to a strong start, despite its reputation. Day one is typically a bit slow, said Diego Cardenas Ibanez, global marketing manager for the software provider Windowmaker. Ibanez should know; Windowmaker has exhibited for the past 30 years—long enough to take the company’s software back to the days of MS-DOS (Microsoft’s original, text-based operating system).

This year, “the show has been good,” Ibanez said in its opening day, adding, “Wednesday will be even busier, because the middle day [of Fensterbau] is usually the best.”

The event’s success is a welcomed change of pace for Germany’s fenestration market, which has been in decline due to the country’s current economic condition, said Sascha Gorhau, senior manager of marketing and communications for Rehau.

In February, the World Economic Forum warned that Germany’s economy was “likely in recession.” Monday, Bloomberg reported that to be the case.

Rehau’s new Window.ID allows anyone with a smartphone to scan a QR code to identify everything from glass type and size to frame materials.

Despite the circumstances, “You have to keep developing,” said Frank Zimmermann, chief technology officer for Rehau’s windows solutions division.

Years ago, Rehau fought to push the market for vinyl windows out of the “commodity range,” by offering features that help to differentiate PVC from the competition, Zimmermann said. Now the company is debuting new designs and materials to push the limits of vinyl performance even further. In addition to using fiberglass reinforced PVC, Rehau has introduced a proprietary “isolator bar” in its profiles that utilizes a thin layer of silver to reduce heat transfer. Isolator bars are placed into the hollow chambers of window profiles. The coating is ultra-thin and like the low-E coatings used on glass, reflects heat outward.

“It’s really important to us that these windows not include [insulating] foam,” Zimmermann said, which interferes with recycling and can also muck up production equipment.

With its new isolator bar technology, the company’s windows meet Passive House standards.

Rehau is also one of many at the show with new software and technology features—many of which lean on cloud connectivity to facilitate an industry-wide exchange of information. In 2022, the company debuted Window.ID—a system that utilizes QR codes to identify everything from glass types and sizes to the materials used in window frames.

Sturtz is debuting Sturtz Cloud Solutions at the event, which allows companies to track throughput of materials and products.

Fensterbau Frontale got off to a strong start Tuesday in Germany.

“You can watch orders come in and see them all the way through as they go out the door for delivery,” Mehringer said.

The system can be integrated to varying degrees, depending upon manufacturers’ preferences and existing software systems.

“This is new technology that we’re the first with, that we’re aware of,” he said.

The company has been talking to its customers about the new system for a couple of years, but now it’s slowly introducing the platform to key partners, to work out the final kinks.

Ibanez said Windowmaker’s software also leans on a cloud-based format to integrate with ERP systems. As a result, companies can tap into inventory and stock control features.

Cleaning Things Up

On the machinery side, Sturtz was one of many companies touting equipment designed to produce cleaner weld lines in vinyl doors and windows. The company’s Contour Line was first introduced in Europe, but recently debuted in the U.S., Mehringer said. As a result of the technology, “There’s no weld seam showing, no mushrooming,” he said.

Though it’s a machinery company, Urban GmbH & Co.’s booth included vinyl windows, showing off clean weld lines. At the top of each display was a monitor showing information about the machine used to make each product: the AKS 9610, a horizontal multi-head welding machine, which pre-mills profiles in a single clamping process.

Rotox also debuted a clean weld machine at the event, utilizing CNC technologies to route off part of the profile’s outer edge prior to welding. The machine has four axes on its welding heads, said Joe Sigmund, president of Rotox USA. Heater plates move independently so welds can be drawn in, followed by knifing.

The company kept its new machine so tightly under wraps that Sigmund said he knew nothing about it ahead of the show.

“We weren’t even shown this machine until last night,” he said.

The process is something his company has wanted to do for years. Now, CNC motion control technologies make it possible, Sigmund explained.

As for Fensterbau, “Anybody who’s anybody in the PVC industry—this is where you impress someone,” Sigmund said.

The show continues through Friday. Look for additional coverage on social media and in [DWM]’s newsletter.

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