Timeline History of the Auto Glass Industry

The auto glass industry has expanded from its humble origins in 1913, when a very basic windshield was first installed in assembly-line vehicles, to a global sector with annual sales of $19 billion.

Windshields shelter vehicle occupants from wind and flying debris like dust, insects, and rocks, and provide an aerodynamically curved front glass. Applying a UV coating provides protection against UV radiation. However, this is typically unneeded because the majority of automobile windows are composed of laminated safety glass.

Two European inventors, the Frenchman Edouard Benedictus and the Englishman John C. Wood, invented glass lamination. Benedictus, a gifted artist, author, composer, bookbinder, textile designer, and scientist, made a chance discovery in his laboratory. In 1903, he allegedly dropped a beaker, and his lab assistant, believing it to be clean, put it back on the shelf. Later, when ascending a ladder, Benedictus collided with the shelf, causing the beaker to tumble back to the floor. It fractured, but its pieces remained intact. The remaining cellulose nitrate, a transparent liquid plastic, had hardened and prevented the glass from shattering. Benedictus invented safety glass, which consisted of two layers of glass sheets separated by a cellulose layer, and planned to encourage its use in automobiles.

The initial windshields were made of standard window glass, which might cause severe damage in the event of an accident. A series of mishaps led to the creation of windshields with increased strength. The most noteworthy instance of this is the 1917 case Pane v. Ford, in which it was determined that Pane was only harmed due to irresponsible driving.

These were replaced by windshields made of tempered glass and coupled with a rubber or neoprene seal. When the windshield broke, the tempered glass fractured into several bits that were mostly harmless. These windshields, however, might be damaged with a simple rock.

Modern, bonded windshields contribute to the rigidity of automobiles, but in the past, the necessity to protect injury from glass fragments was the primary driver of innovation. Almost all nations require windshields to remain intact, even if they are broken, unless they are penetrated by a sufficient force.

In 1904, the automobile windshield was introduced. It is made of glass panes and is horizontally foldable. The following decade, however, windshields, headlights, and speedometers became optional. Oldsmobile created automobile history in 1915 when it introduced standard windshields. In the late 1910s, windshields were generally accessible but far from flawless; they frequently shattered and occasionally caused the deaths of drivers who collided with them. He requested his company’s foremost mechanical genius, Clarence Avery, to devise a new method for producing glass. Avery, in collaboration with experts from the British firm Pilkington, created a method in which machines would roll, grind, and polish the molten glass. In 1903, the French inventor Edouard Benedictus discovered that cellulose nitrate protected his glass from fracturing when it was dropped.

By putting a layer of cellulose between two flat pieces of glass, he created glass that was significantly more resistant to breaking. John C. Wood, a British inventor, created a comparable glass in 1905, which was later marketed under the brand name Triplex. In 1927, Ford Motor Company began incorporating Triplex into its automobiles.

In the 1920s and 1930s, advancements were made to vehicle glass. A unique urethane was employed to improve windshield attachment to the frame. Lincoln Motor Company started providing bulletproof glass for police vehicles. And in 1934, Chrysler sold the first automobile with a single-piece, curved windshield. Additionally, in 1938, American inventor Carleton Ellis created polyvinyl butyral, a synthetic resin that could absorb ultraviolet rays and keep windshields from deteriorating. In the same year, Pittsburgh Plate Glass introduced Herculite, a sort of rapidly heating and cooling tempered glass. Herculite had superior shatter resistance to its predecessors.

In the 1950s, automobile glass grew more popular and cheaper to produce. The groundbreaking 1951 General Motors LeSabre concept automobile had a panoramic windshield for a better perspective of the road. By the late 1950s, both wraparound windshields and tinted variants were commonplace. In 1959, Pilkington created float glass production, in which glass components are melted, combined, and forced through a small aperture onto molten tin. The end result is an affordable, high-quality, and incredibly transparent glass.

The federal government of the United States has controlled the thickness of windshields since the 1960s. In the 1990s, a film was created to minimize the penetration of infrared wavelengths, resulting in better windshield visibility. First, it is feasible that all auto glass, not just windshields and certain windows, will be laminated, resulting in quieter rides. In addition, recycled glass is anticipated to become more prevalent in automobiles, and windshields that clean themselves may also become popular. Even more intriguing, sensors and other digital technologies will result in intelligent windshields that can display driving directions and other data. In fact, General Motors is already developing a smart windshield prototype.

Historically, early vehicles and other automobiles were frequently topless and lacked windshields. Drivers were required to wear sunglasses to shield their eyes from dust and other airborne particles, such as insects. This grew increasingly uncomfortable and unworkable until the invention of the windshield in 1904, which marked a significant shift from open to covered automobiles. Initially, though, windshield glass was easily broken in collisions. This proved counterproductive, as it resulted in more injuries than wearing glasses alone.

After numerous incidents of windshield glass breakage, new options were created. Manufacturers of windshields began experimenting with tempered glass. The windshield was eventually perfected by using tempered glass since it was safer and more durable. The technique of tempering involves heating the glass to harden and strengthen it. In the 1950s and 1960s, multilayer laminated glass supplanted tempered glass as the standard for windshields in the automotive industry.

They are identical to tempered glass, with the exception that they flex slightly under pressure. This makes them safer than windshields made of tempered glass. Laminated glass windshields are now the industry standard, having gone a long way from the basic glass windshields used a century ago. In the majority of nations, including the United States, their installation is mandated by law.

Initial windscreen initiatives

When automobiles were initially introduced, windshields were an optional accessory that could be acquired for an additional fee. By today’s standards, speeds were still low, therefore dust and debris were less of a bother. Beginning in 1915, windshields were a typical component of automobiles; nonetheless, manufacturers used a simple glass panel in the frame to block wind and debris. The issue with the glass panel is, however, its response to impact. In the event of an accident, the plate will shatter into dangerously huge pieces. If someone in the vehicle flew through the windshield or was struck by the shattered glass, they would undoubtedly sustain severe injuries. This resulted in numerous lawsuits against automobile manufacturers until safety glass was developed.

As a result of receiving many of the first requests, Ford Motor Company pioneered the development of safety glass – tempered glass that would not shatter into huge, sharp shards. Instead, it was engineered to shatter into little, blunt-edged pieces to prevent people from cutting themselves. The tempered material with frosted edges was more durable and damage-resistant to begin with.

For the side and rear windows, safety glass was sufficient, but the windshield required additional support to withstand the most typical collisions. Automobile manufacturers began experimenting with laminated glass, which consisted of a layer of sealant placed between two sheets of the material. Even if it fractured upon contact, the windshield remained rather secure because to the resin.

The enhanced strength improved the structural integrity of the vehicles, which was an added safety benefit. Due to the layers of laminated glass, passengers did not fly through the windshield after a crash. As a result of the rising demand for safety and laminated glass, manufacturers sought for more cost-effective production techniques, particularly when it became mandated in 1937.

Sealants used to adhere two panes of glass together vary by business. In 1938, however, a chemist named Carleton Ellis created a chemical known as polyvinyl butyral (PVB). The material proved to be clearer and more durable than previous resins or cellulose, and it maintained its clarity even after years of use. As windshield safety increased, the blocking of ultraviolet rays became more and more vital.


Two European inventors developed glass laminating, Frenchman Edouard Benedictus and Briton John C. Wood. Benedictus dropped a beaker and his lab assistant, thinking it clean, put it back on the shelf. Later as Benedictus climbed a ladder, he bumped that shelf, once again sending the flask to the floor. It broke — but its pieces held together. Cellulose nitrate, a clear liquid plastic left in the beaker, had dried and kept the glass from breaking into shards. After experimenting further Benedictus developed safety glass, two layers of plate glass with a layer of cellulose between them, and he hoped to promote its use in automobiles

Triplex glass laminating , however, had been available for windshields in France from 1911 and in Britain from 1912;

it was adopted as an accessory by some high-end American auto manufacturers

Oldsmobile made automotive history in 1915 by including windshields as standard features.

The most notable example of this is the Pane vs. Ford case of 1917 that decided against Pane in that he was only injured through reckless driving .

Henry Ford begins the standardized use of laminated glass on all of his manufactured vehicles.

The Ford Motor Company began using Triplex in its cars in 1927. The Lincoln Motor Company began supplying police vehicles with bulletproof glass.

First year all GM vehicles were installed with optional vent windows which were initially called “No Draft Individually Controlled Ventilation” later renamed “Ventiplanes”

Chrysler sold the first car with a curved windshield comprised of just one piece of glass. Further, American inventor Carleton Ellis fabricated an artificial resin that could block ultraviolet rays and keep windshields from discoloring;

he patented that resin as polyvinyl butyral in 1938.

Bud Glassman and Art Lankin opened Service Auto Glass in Wichita, Kansas.

General Motors LeSabre, a show car that debuted in 1951, had a panoramic windshield for a better view of the road, the “Wrap Around Windshield”

Pilkington initiated the float style of glass-making, in which glass components are melted, mixed, and pushed through a narrow opening onto molten tin. The result is cheaper glass that is nonetheless high in quality and exceptionally clear.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was founded. Among other responsibilities, the NHTSA sets safety standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.

Who invented windshield repair? The first company to produce a repair system was Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company in St. Paul, Minn.

The 3M Company first introduced a system they called “Scotch Weld”. It used ultra sound vibrations to clean the break and a syringe to inject new resin, or adhesive into the cracks.

Ford introduces InstaClear, a windshield innovation to defrost windshields. It entailed a thin mesh of silver and zinc-oxide wires, about a 100-billionths of a meter thick, and placed them between the two sheets of glass that make up a windshield on Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable model automobiles.

First Advanced driver-assistance systems windshield issued as standard feature on a mass market targeted vehicle, the 2000 Cadillac Deville, which introduced the Night Vision feature

The automotive glass market was valued at USD 19 billion

Smart glass options rapidly adopted by car manufacturers in the production of sun and moon roofs.


About the Curator:

Jim Murphy is a windshield replacement technician, currently doing his thing in Sugar Land, Tx

Follow Jim on Twitter