PPG Partnering with DOE to Improve Fiber Glass Manufacturing

PPG and the DOE will use high-performance computers to reduce glass fiber breakage during fiber glass manufacture, improving yield and energy efficiency and reducing waste.

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PPG will partner with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to use high-performance computers to help reduce glass fiber breakage during the fiber glass manufacturing process to improve yield, reduce waste and become more energy-efficient. The PPG/LLNL collaboration was recently awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s new High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program.

Fiber glass is made using a continuous high-speed process. If even one of several thousand glass fibers breaks while being pulled through a die (or bushing), it causes the entire bundle of fibers to break, wasting a significant amount of glass and energy until the manufacturing process can be restarted.

To help eliminate this waste, PPG and LLNL will develop numeric computer models to simulate the impact of thermal and physical environments on the glass-fiber forming process over a 4,000-tip bushing. The complexity and magnitude of the simulations requires the vast supercomputing resources at LLNL to model the process.

John Meng, PPG Senior Research Associate, Fiber Glass, and principal investigator for the project, says the program will develop models that, for the first time, are representative of real-world fiber glass manufacturing. “The fiber glass industry has simulated the impact of varying one process parameter over many fibers and changing several process parameters over one fiber, but no one has modeled multiple process parameters over the thousands of fibers needed to adequately simulate actual production,” he says. “The supercomputing capabilities at LLNL and PPG’s manufacturing expertise will enable us to develop sophisticated models that encompass all of these parameters. Ultimately, that will help us gain insight into fiber-forming and fiber-to-fiber interaction so that we can reduce fiber breaks through improved bushing design and fiber-forming processes.”

PPG estimates that continuous-strand fiber glass manufacturers in the U.S. could save 1.7 TBtu annually by controlling fiber breaks.

PPG will provide $99,000 in technical support to the project. The DOE will contribute $300,000 to LLNL to fund its effort on the project.

PPG is one of several industry partners selected for award under the new HPC4Mfg program. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) administers federal support of the HPC4Mfg program at LLNL. AMO supports applied research, development and demonstration of new materials and processes for energy efficiency in manufacturing as well as platform technologies for the manufacturing of clean energy products. AMO’s goal in this program is to encourage manufacturing companies to apply high-performance computing techniques to reduce production costs, increase energy efficiency and bring new products to market more quickly.