76th Glass Problems Conference brings together glass industry experts from 16 countries | The American Ceramic Society

76th Glass Problems Conference brings together glass industry experts from 16 countries

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[image above] Aerial view of the Glass Problems Conference exhibit hall. Credit: ACerS

Update 11-13-15: Attendance at GPC has been corrected from “more than 370” to 427.

Last week in my “Unofficial Glass Week” post I mentioned the Glass Problems Conference, which was still underway in Columbus, Ohio, when I wrote the story. Today, I’ll take a moment to fill in some details of the event.

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Hong Li, senior staff scientist at PPG Industries, opened the Glass Problems Conference with a talk on the strength of glass. Credit: ACerS

“The conference serves two critical needs of the glass manufacturing industry. The first is to provide a platform where innovations and solutions to technical problems can be widely and timely disseminated. The second is to provide a consistent meeting place for the industry to share ideas and build relationships. Being organized by the industry’s trade association and an advisory board of industry volunteers, insures that the GPC is on target with both,” says Robert Weisenburger Lipetz, executive director of GMIC and conference director.

An industrial advisory board provides programming direction for the GPC. Lipetz says, “The conference being organized by industry is significant. The conference is dedicated to the needs of the industry, not the organizing organizations and creates a conference that is relevant and content rich.”

The technical program bears witness to the focus and needs of the industry—of the twenty talks that took place during the two-day conference, 19 were presented by industry glass engineers and scientists. The technical sessions are run in plenary style, which makes it easy to decide which ones to attend—all of them! Talks covered the entire range of issues that challenge glass manufacturers daily—energy, glass melting, batching, combustion, refractories, sensors, environment, modeling, and forming.

Attendance at the GPC under the GMIC–Alfred partnership testifies to the quality of the conference as one of the most important events on this topic in the world. At final count, 427 people attended the conference, including about 50 from 16 foreign countries. Among the countries represented were China, India, South Korea, Slovakia, Iran, Kuwait, and Finland.

Student participation at GPC has grown from no student participation—zero—just four years ago to 23 this year. GMIC supported student attendance with 20 travel grants, free registration, and discounted hotel rates.

A highlight of the student experience was a trip to Anchor Hocking’s glass plant in nearby Lancaster, Ohio. The trip provided the truly unique opportunity for students to get an inside look at a glass furnace. Plant engineers are preparing to rebuild the furnace so students got to walk around inside the furnace on top of the frozen residual glass. Very cool.

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Students from Missouri University of Science and Technology talk to a vendor during an exhibit break. Credit: ACerS

A new “student ambassador” program paired students with industry representatives to jumpstart networking with an added flavor of mentoring. “Student evaluations praised the value of the program, which, along with the conference experience, raised their opinion of careers in glass,” says Lipetz. 

Conventional wisdom says “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and in the context of a conference, it means networking is equally important to the technical program. GPC continued its tradition of hosting an exhibit hall for attendees to meet suppliers and vendors during breaks in the technical program. “There was definitely a lot of buzz and excitement on the expo floor during breaks as people came out and met the exhibiting companies,” says Kelly Santaguida of The American Ceramic Society. Hospitality suites and salons in the evening provided two evening occasions to meet glass industry colleagues. This year 61 exhibitors took advantage of the opportunity and 20 companies hosted guests in their hospitality suites.

For attendees needing a deeper dive on specific topics, GMIC organized three short courses before the event and a focused symposium that followed the conference. C. Philip Ross’ Introduction to Batch and Furnace Operations is popular with engineers early in their careers and solutions providers looking to better understand their clients concerns. Organizers also brought back a popular short course from John Connors of PPG and Kevin Lievre on Combustion, and American Glass Research’s Peter de Hann taught a short course on Breakage Analysis of Glass Containers.

The conference concluded on Thursday with a full day dedicated to a focused technical symposium. Organized by GMIC’s glass manufacturing and supplier members, this full-length symposium brings together some of the leading experts in the field providing in-depth examination of the latest technologies to support critical processes and address current challenges in glass manufacturing.

“It’s rare for the industry to be able to dig this deep into technical topics. Devoting an entire day to one topic increases the value of such technical education,” says Lipetz.

Next year’s Glass Problems Conference and symposium will be November 7–10, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. For information about the 77th GPC, check the website or contact Robert Lipetz directly.