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Innovative Designs, Materials & Technologies for Architectural Hardware for Doors and Windows
Gaurav Oswal, Kelegent
As our fenestration industry is becoming organised with the growing awareness of system windows and doors in India, system companies and fabricators are increasingly on the look-out for innovative and out-of-the-box window and door systems that are well-engineered for performance and at the same time appeal to the end-users in terms of modern design aesthetics and ease of use.
Conventional sliding and openable window/door systems that are available in the market are still in demand for projects and price-sensitive markets because either the volumes are high or the lack of appetite for paying more. Here, the focus is more on the pricing. There is very little scope here for promoting innovative solutions because innovation comes at a price.
Current Trend in Architectural Hardware Systems
The last few years have seen an exponential increase in demand in the retail segment for architectural systems that are minimalistic and aesthetic in design. Already several prominent projects are looking for such systems as a default offering in their projects. In the current competitive market, the most unique product design proposals are key to standing out among the crowd and being ahead of the race to attract and conquer the market.
In the case of aluminium systems, as the profiles reduced in size and are becoming slimmer, the technical challenge lies in such hardware design which will be able to deliver the required functionality and suit required aesthetic concepts.
This trend name is the “slimline concept”, where the outlook of the openings, and mullion profiles appear as a thin line on the large size of the glazed openings. This is a call for the complete revision of conventional hardware designs and concepts and to find a proper solution for the new architectural trends in the market.
As the minimal systems are still evolving, there is a lack of standardisation in its design approach. Each system is designed to be different from the other. Systems are being designed and then the search for suitable hardware begins. As usual, there are very limited ready-made solutions that could be fit for such a non-standard concept. For the hardware suppliers, it is a new challenging task: To fit required hardware inside smaller-sized aluminium profiles, make it “invisible” for the end-user and provide the aesthetic design of the locking control to match with aluminium profiles concept.
Innovative Design, Materials & Technology Implications for Architectural Hardware
• Sliding roller assemblies (For sliding systems) For shutter-mounted rollers, the challenge lies in designing of the roller units with small-sized wheels typically 16-17 mm diameter, to maintain a minimum exposure of the bottom shutter profile with increased load capacities and free smooth rail movement as they are expected to perform for large-sized heavy DGU shutters.
Concealed hinges (Photo ref.: SOTRALU)
First of all, smaller size wheels need smaller size bearings. Small-size bearings with high load capacity are costly. Price effective solution leads to an increment of the wheel’s quantity in one assembling unit. Instead of 2 wheels for conventional 120-160 Kg shutter weight “heavy-duty” rollers, now we have to use 3 or even 4 wheels in one unit to achieve a capacity of above 200 Kgs.
Secondly, the smoothness of the free sliding movement needs a bigger diameter of the wheels. Since the wheels are small, to achieve smooth movement it is necessary to use polished stainless-steel rails instead of aluminium, and stainless-steel wheels instead of plastic as an option. For frame-track embedded roller designs, selecting the right type of wheel is crucial for performance and also for economics. Therefore, for the frame-track embedded rollers, the best solution is to use stainless steel bearings.
Considering the quantity of the bearings in one frame, it is not a money-saving solution. However, the main concern is corrosion resistance and durability. By the way, this type of sliding roller allows for raising the load capacity of one track incredibly. But the price and performance here is critical and depend on customer choice.
Wheels, in both options, must have good corrosion resistance, as their exposure to weather conditions influences the quality and durability of the usage.
• Locking solutions (For Sliding and Casement systems) Locking solutions are very customised as the aluminium system designs are very much driven by different shapes and aesthetic concepts. Opportunities prevail for designing locking solutions for shutter side locking, perimeter locking, locking on interlock for sliding and embedded sill locking. There are challenges to providing locking solutions in a very tight space provided in the small-size aluminium profiles.
In some cases, the solution is to adopt profile design to existing hardware parts and sometimes there is a need to develop new products to fit with aluminium profile requirements.
• Handles (For Sliding and Casement systems) Design for innovative handles is also a very challenging area as it has to be “minimal” in size, sturdy and also at the same time to be compatible with the locking system used. The ability to offer them in multiple finishes like powder coated, anodized, PVDF coating – is an additional advantage. Therefore, there is a lot of scope in designing a unitized locking mechanism that will offer the flexibility to design and use a wide range of customised handles.
• Concealed hardware “Slim line concept” also could be expanded to Concealed hinges, friction stays, parallel hinges & concealed tilt-and-turn hardware – They are in demand nowadays as well. The concept is realised by “hiding” normally visible, catching the eye, hardware parts inside the perimeter gap between the frame and shutter making the glazed opening outlook clear and neat.
• Automation applications Digital access locking handles, automated opening-closing mechanisms like linear operator control mechanism for skylight windows and chain operator control mechanism for top-hung windows, motorised roll-up sun shading screens – these architectural hardware are not widely used for general purposes due to their high price. Mostly, they are used for “Green building” concept and other prestigious projects, private villas, hospitals, bank buildings, and hotels.
There is great scope in integrating them into computerised building control systems for safety and security, energy-saving, fire alarm smoke ventilation, skylight windows control, high raised windows control, regulation of the indoor temperature and light, etc.
Architectural hardware has lots of potential for innovation in design and technology to be done in the above areas to improve our life quality to achieve a better future. (Note: Product images used in this article are for explanation and illustration purposes & do not intend to infringe any type of copyright.)
Gaurav Oswal, Kelegent
Gaurav Oswal is Director at KELEGENT, a product company based in Pune, which specializes in manufacturing and exports of architectural hardware worldwide. KELEGENT has a very diversified range of high-quality engineered architectural hardware products for Aluminium and uPVC window and door systems. Gaurav Oswal heads the technical design and innovation team at KELEGENT which is responsible for developing its new range of products and works with many system companies and fabricators closely in designing and developing hardware solutions for new evolving systems.