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A $750,000 glass printing machine commissioned in Warkworth north of Auckland is the prime catalyst for some spectacular predicted growth for an innovative New Zealand business.
Glasshape Limited’s new Israeli-made machine represents the very latest in glass printing technology providing the foundation on which the company expects to greatly build revenues.
Glasshape has been significantly upgrading its manufacturing capabilities in the town, its latest investments of some $3 million in Warkworth which has a population of less than 5,000. 
On the back of the investment the company secured an additional grant from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s International Growth Fund to establish a North American base to service its rapidly expanding export market.
Prime Minister John Key was guest of honour at the official opening of the company’s new plant emphasising in his address the importance of international markets and the opportunities they represent for NZ businesses.
Managing director Rick Forrest says he expects Glasshape global sales in 2016 to be up some 40 percent on this year.
“That figure represents growth of more than 200 per cent over three years ago and thoroughly supports our development strategy in partnership with NZTE,” Forrest says.
The new printing technology – marketed by Glasshape as VisionInk – provides for “unprecedented” graphics impact and durability according to Forrest. 
“Our success has been forged by focusing on complex jobs that just can’t be delivered by most other industry players, curving being the main driver,” he says. “With the addition of the VisionInk printing technology and enhanced glass processing facilities, Glasshape can now provide clients with a full end to end service – toughening, laminating, printing and curving, or any combination of those processes.” 
The VisionInk technology has applications over and above simply the aesthetic. Through manipulation of the laydown of the ink, specific thermal and solar controls can be delivered making it ideal for facades, partitioning and windows. 
With up to 720dpi ultra fine detail photorealistic printing in full colour on any glass substrate, the opportunities for more temporary applications are an area the company is looking to spearhead. 
“The secret is in VisionInk’s ceramic inks that fuse in to the glass in the furnace,” Forrest says. “It resists practically anything you can subject it to and is fully recyclable. This significantly extends the possibilities for what is already a remarkable substrate.
“With or without our signature glass-curving, VisionInk can turn plain balustrading, partitioning, facades and windows in to stunning works of art. It’s a genuine alternative to building envelope applications.”
Forrest says the new technology builds on Glasshape’s “proven track record of delivering innovative solutions to unique problems through glass” combining art with functionality. 
“Our business philosophy has always been to focus on niche opportunities that others find too challenging,” he says. “Kiwi ingenuity and a commitment to delivering excellence has been pivotal in our international success. 
“You can see the VisionInk technology in the interior and exterior of some of the most iconic structures across the globe. By augmenting our own stable of niche glass offers with this, we are able to deliver unique glazing solutions that enable owners, architects and designers to realise their visions.”
Speaking of global reach, now with sales offices in Seattle, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, Glasshape has achieved export levels of more than 75 per cent of turnover in recent years. November 2015 sees the culmination of 24 months’ expansion coinciding with the company’s 30th year in operation. 
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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