No More Curtains: Smart Tinting Glass Starts Large Scale Production

Californian-based Kinestral Technologies has commenced mass manufacturing its patented smart-tinting glass at its newly-opened factory in Miaoli, Taiwan.

The 10,000sq m facility, provided by the company's strategic partner G-Tech Optoelectronics, has been retrofit to produce up to 38,000sq m of glass per year using existing solar industry and flat panel production lines.

Kinestral, founded by pharmaceutical and biotech professionals, has now begun shipping its "next-generation" electrochromic glass, capable of achieving maximum tint in three minutes, five-times faster than current smart-glass competitors.

The company's flagship product Halio, looks just like natural, clear glass until it tints to cool spectrum neutral grey within seconds of receiving a command to tint.

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“Taiwan has a long and distinguished history as a manufacturing enabler. It has a unique combination of engineering talent, world-class infrastructure and a government that supports the next generation of tech manufacturers.”

Kinestral chief executive officer Dr S.B. Cha
Kinestral's $140 million factory uses patented technologies to manufacture its next generation electrochromic glass in sizes up to 3 x 1.5 meters.

The ability to break the three minute mark has been made possible by a team of industry-leading chemists, physicists and engineers based at the company's headquarters in Hayward, California.

“After our materials are wet-coated onto the glass, they undergo a series of thermal treatments that help deliver the desired electrochromic properties of our product,” Kinestral director of process engineering Ameen Saafir said.

“These treatments have been specifically engineered to optimise the performance of our home-grown materials set.”

The dynamic product aims to eliminate the need for shades, blinds, and second skins, claiming to be able to lower a buildings energy consumption by up to 20 per cent by reducing loads on air-conditioning systems and the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours.

“A Halio panel will go from 68 per cent light transmission down to two per cent light transmission in minutes,” Kinestral product and marketing VP Craig Henricksen said.

“We also have a version called Halio Black that can go down to 0.1 per cent light transmission.”

The glass can be fully-automated to respond to changing weather conditions as well as to occupant activities and preferences.

Occupants can control the glass via voice activation, home automation, cloud-based devices and it can even be programmed into compatible building management systems.

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“Wherever you have to control the transition of light through a transparent medium, we have the technology that can achieve it more elegantly.”

Kinestral chief executive officer Dr S.B. Cha
Craig Henricksen, Kinestral’s VP product and marketing, demonstrates the Halio control features at the company's official factory opening in Miaoli.

The distribution of the product comes as the result of a joint venture between Kinestral and Tokyo’s AGC Group, the world’s largest flat-glass manufacturer, who will provide the Californian tech-company with the sales and service infrastructure needed to meet worldwide demand.

“For over 100 years, AGC has pioneered some of the most important breakthroughs in glass and coatings for our customers,” AGC senior executive officer Jean-François Heris said.

“We see Halio as the natural next step for glass to really connect people to their environment while neutralising all the negative aspects of heat and glare from the sun.”

Kinestral has also received an equity injection from fellow Californians Katerra, a technology company providing end-to-end building services.

Katerra, swiftly becoming one of the largest builders of smart homes and buildings worldwide, will now integrate Halio into its building management systems.

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“Forward-thinking companies that value their employees and want to continue to attract new employees with the latest technology are really excited by new products like this.”

Kinestral VP sales Josh Hogan
Kinestral now expects to see a drop in Halio's cost and retail price partly due to the increases in production volumes.

Kinestral’s first US-based customer, property developer Alexandria Real Estate, specialise in life sciences laboratories and office space, notably developing Google's first campus.

The developer has begun utilising Halio glass both inside and outside existing campuses and plans to incorporate the smart-tinting glass across all future projects.

Alexandria has a 97 per cent occupancy rate across its holdings, highlighting its alignment with pioneering technologies to maximise amenity and tenant satisfaction.

Kinestral's first commercial shipment of Halio will now travel to Brussels to be installed in a new Avondzon-designed aged care facility, followed closely by a pipeline of large-scale US-based projects.

“By building upon proven methods used in the flat panel display industry, we will achieve similar production yields, enabling us to very quickly have the capacity to fulfil our mission to see Halio in every building and every home around the globe,” Kinestral chief executive Dr S.B. Cha said.

Kinestral have set ambitious targets for Halio, planning for a new factory in Taiwan within the next three years aiming to make the high-end product more affordable and accessible.

Industry analysts anticipate the smart glass market is expected to take off, reaching $13 billion by 2020.

Editor’s note: The writer was a guest of Kinestral at the Miaoli Halio launch.

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