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We get asked all the time if we can help people start up a bottle business in their area - so we have put together this short guide to the process and hopefully will soon have a set of videos available on youtube which explains each of the different processes - please check back here where we will post the links. 

There are many different ways of cutting and finishing glass bottles - this is just a short guide to the process and the equipment and services we can offer.

We have 12 years of experience manufacturing recycled glass products in the UK and can supply a range of machinery that can cut, grind, polish, edge melt, anneal, weld, sandblast, print and decorate glass bottles.  Many of our customers are looking to transfer the Green Glass idea to other countries and require a full turn-key manufacturing solution.  The key to a succesful business is understanding your market size, pricing and margins obtainable and therefore closely match your manufacturing capacity with your markets needs.

The first question we always get asked is "how much does a manufacturing unit cost?" - the answer is somewhere between 1000 GBP and 1 million GBP !  It is perfectly possible to put together a few hand operated tools to cut and polish glass for 1000 GBP but your manufacturing capacity is going to be very limited and you will only be making a few glasses a day.  You can also spend a million pounds on fully automated gear and be making a glass every 2 seconds - but then you also have to sell a glass every 2 seconds so you have to have good marketing skills....

As a guide a fully kitted out production line with hand operated machinery will cost approximately 35,000 GBP- this is particularly suited to areas of the world where labour costs are lower as the manpower requirement is higher.  A semi automated production facility such as we have here in the UK will cost approx 75,000 GBP - 125,000 GBP depending on the level of automation required - In our UK factory we have conveyoring to move bottles between machines and robots to load some of the machines.

 

 

 

The processes

Bottle cutting

The first stage in the process is to cut your bottle.  This is the most important process to get right - because if you start off with a bad cut, every other process down the line will take you longer and cost you more - so its worth putting the investment in on this process.  There are many ways to cut a bottle you can get a primitive bottle cutter off e-bay for 20 GBP or pay 200,000 GBP for a commercial lazer cutter.  The method we recommend is one called thermal shock which scores the bottle, heats the score line and then rapidly cools the score line to get the bottle to crack and separate on the line.  This can be almost magical in that the bottle suddenly separates - and with a uniform and clean cut which requires much less time grinding, bevelling and polishing than other methods. As a guide a 6 station semi automated cutting machine which would cut a bottle every 7 -12 seconds (depending on the bottle wall thickness) would cost 7000 GBP new and 2500 GBP second hand. 

Grinding and bevelling

The second stage is to grind and bevel your cut bottle surface - and can be very labour intensive.  Grinding and bevelling done by hand requires water cooled diamond disks and bevelling belts.  Machinery for hand manufacture would cost approx 2500 GBP and is commonly used in operations in Africa and other parts of the developing world. We would strongly recommend however that a semi automated (or automated) grinding and bevelling machine is used which gives a high quality finish and processes a glass in c. 10 -20 seconds.  An efficient second hand machine will set you back c.20,000 GBP a new machine will cost you anything from 50,000 to 100,000 GBP depending on the specification

Rim polishing

The edge of the glass can be polished by hand/mechanically or edge melted using heat.  Depending on the requirements of the market that you are targeting we would normally recommend that the best quality products are made using a fire polishing process to melt the edge of the glass.  Again there is a huge variation in the cost of machinery to do this - a good second hand machine is going to cost 5000 GBP up.

Annealing

Once you have messed around with the bottle cutting, grinding and melting the edge you then need to anneal the glass.  This is a heating process which brings the glass up to a temperature of 540 degrees and then cools the glass on a temperature curve to remove the stress from the glass.  This will give you a glass which is tough yet will not shatter under extremes of temperature or shock.  A simple flat bed kiln will cost c. 4000GBP new but you can pick these up second hand much cheaper.  The problem with Kilns is that they take a long time to run through a heating cycle and you have the labour costs of loading and unloading the kiln every time.  In the UK because of the number of glasses we make we use a lehr - which is a big long oven with a conveyor belt running through the middle.  This allows you to have continuous operation and we are so lazy that we even have a robot on the hot end taking glasses off our edge melter and loading them into the lehr.  Lehr are much more expensive that a kiln but you should be able to pick one up second hand for under 10,000 GBP 

Decorating and final product manufacture

Depending on what final product you want to manufacture there is a large range of different techniques you can use.  You can join bottle components to manufacture wine glasses, candle holders, vases, coat hooks, oil pourers etc.  Sandblasting designs on the glass takes away scratches on the bottle surface and increases the value of the product.  Designs can be screen printed onto the glass in enamel glass inks and fired on or transfers can be applied for corporate and promotional gifts.  In the UK we have a range of different printing and sandblasting machinery and can advise on which would suit your particular needs. 

The knowledge

Although a good degree of automation can be achieved, working with glass has a large element of skill - either in operating the machinery (hand made products) or in setting up the machines to give optimum performance (semi automated manufacturing).  This is something that needs to be learnt through experience and we can provide on the job training either in our own UK factory or in place in your own manufacturing set up.  Due to the nature of working with recycled bottles you are always using new bottle types, different glass properties and developing different products.  What works for one bottle - doesnt work for the next and so its important to gain that experience of how to handle different bottles and what to do when things dont work out as expected. 

 

Contact us

If you are interested in making things from bottles then please e-mail us (info@greenglass.co.uk) and we will be able to help you get your project off the ground.  We will also be asking you a lot of question such as...

What sort of products do you want to make ? where will you get your raw materials ? what is your target market ?  how many products do you think you can sell ? what is your retail price point ? what are your labour costs ? what is your budget for machinery ? etc etc

If you dont know the answer to these -we can help you out !

cheers! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
  Greenglass, Trading Green, UK, Unit 1, Knights Business Centre, Palmers Way, Trenant Industrial Estate, Wadebridge, Cornwall UK PL27 6HB. Tel/Fax: +44(0)12088 12531 Email: info@greenglass.co.uk