How Low Can They Go?

Will the Future Bring Even Shorter Drive-Away Times?

By Kyra Thompson

There is no denying that as society develops and technology progresses demand for quick service—if not instantaneous—has become expected. The need for speed has not skipped over auto glass adhesives, as urethane manufacturers work to meet the demands of a fast-paced society. In the past several years, urethane products have shrunk from days-long minimum drive-away times (MDAT) down to just 30-minute minimum drive away times (MDATs) in some cases.

In an earlier edition, AGRR magazine covered several other improvements installers requested to make it easier for both original equipment (OE) and aftermarket installers to work with urethane products. Features such as an odor-free product, wider temperature curing ranges and more viscous materials have become more of a reality as the industry seeks more convenient installation processes and adhesive manufacturers adapt to the demands of the market.

With so much adaptation already taking place, what does the future hold for urethane products?

Several urethane manufacturers and providers shared their thoughts on where the industry is headed.

Record-breaking is no longer just for racing when it comes to cars. Urethane adhesive manufacturers have been able to lower MDATs to 30-minutes for some products. Steven Allison, transportation and industrial group research investigator for DuPont, says that over the past ten years, the evolution of adhesives systems has grown fast-er and easier to use.

“If you look at our original systems from about ten years ago we’ve got a lot of different primers that have very specific applications,” says Allison. “Now our primers cover a lot more applications and you can get a lot more use out of one primer and obviously the drive-away times for everything have gotten a lot faster,” a trend that Allison says he expects to continue.

Based on a survey that AGRR magazine conducted last year, Allison’s observation of the significance for convenient MDATs proved accurate. More than 80% of auto glass re-placement businesses that participated in the survey say MDATs were a very important factor. And installers expressed their desire to see faster drive-away times, possibly even dipping down to 15 minutes.

Though not everyone is convinced that drive-away times need to be much faster than the current minimum of 30 minutes. Joanne Feibel, Pilkington accessory product line manager says that there is only so much time that you can shave off of the MDAT and still have enough time to set the glass before it cures. She says it is critical for installers to ensure there is zero shifting of the glass prior to the MDAT being achieved in order to ensure all safety and other features work as intended.

“There’s definitely a healthy balance between drive-[away] time and working-time,” Feibel says.

Keeping in line with his previous statement to AGRR magazine last year, Allison echoed this sentiment, saying that based on the feedback they hear from their customers, the current 30-minute minimum still seems to be the “sweet-spot” for most installers.

“After they install the glass, it’s going to take them a period of time to button the car back up and get the paperwork figured out, and right now the feedback we’re hearing is that 30 minutes fills that void,” says Allison. “What we tell customers is that, we can make the adhesives go as fast as you’d like them to go.”

Francis Boyle, vice president of Sika’s aftermarket business unit, gives another and significant reason why the market might not be ready for shorter MDATs–cost.

“Can you get faster? Sure, you can, at a cost,” Boyle says. “As a [research and development] specialist told me once, ‘we can make anything you want, it’s just at what cost do you want to pay for it?’”

So, while shorter MDATs are a valid possibility for future adhesive products, manufacturers don’t necessarily believe there will be a market for them in the near future at the cost levels they would currently require.

SDAT vs. MDAT: The Drive-Away Time Debate

For some time, the auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) indus-try has used the phrase “safe drive-away time,” or SDAT, to describe the length of time necessary for the adhesive used in a windshield replacement to cure properly so the customer is safe to, you guessed it, drive away.

But is “safe drive-away time” the right phrase to use? Believe it or not, the use of the term safe drive-away time has been debated in the AGRR industry and replaced with “minimum drive-away time,” or MDAT, to be more appropri-ate. “We know the minimum time that a urethane must have to cure,” says Bob Beranek, chair of the Auto Glass Safety Standard (AGRSS) Committee of the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC). “When we reach the minimum cure time, does that mean the car is safe to drive? Safety depends on a lot of factors—including proper installation techniques and procedures. That’s why we have moved to SDAT to MDAT in terminology,” he says.

What is Minimum Drive-Away Time?Minimum drive-away time, or MDAT, is a term that describes how long a vehicle must sit unmoved after a windshield is has replaced to ensure that the urethane has cured.

Minimum drive-away times vary by type of vehicle glass, weather conditions and type of adhesive used. Some replacements allow drive-away time in as low as a half-hour. Others require the vehicle remain stationary for several hours following a windshield replacement.

This is because the curing, or hardening, of the adhesive holding the windshield in place can vary due to many factors. These include the type of adhesive, outside temperature, humidity level and other conditions at the time of replacement.

Facing Challenges

Another question urethane manufacturers are planning to address, as many others in the auto glass re-placement industry already are, how will Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) change the landscape?

Feibel says she sees a shift toward non-conductive adhesives due to safety requirements for many vehicles with electronic systems.

“The number of vehicles that require high-modulus low-conductive urethane continues to increase,” says Feibel. “Obviously, using a urethane that meets vehicle manufacturers’ standards is crucial, because using the wrong urethane could not only diminish the structural integrity of the vehicle, but also interfere with the ability of the electrical components to function properly, possibly one that plays a key role in some of the safety features of these vehicles.”

Another trend she sees is the demand for higher viscosity products which could be a result of the need for proper decking in order to guarantee more accurate placement of the glass and components required by ADAS system vehicles.

And while Boyle says there hasn’t been an obvious shift in the demands for adhesives due to ADAS, he speculates there will be changes. One challenge he also suspects manufacturers will gear up for is the next big trend— larger auto glass lites. Boyle sees the glass be-coming a more prominent feature and that adhesives will need to be able to support this trend.

“[This] will cause more challenges placed on the adhesives systems,” says Boyle. “Whether that be a higher tensile-strength, or more of a challenge on the slip-down of the material and varying other technical factors of what will be required of the adhesive system.”

However, all of this is just speculation, Boyle says. For now, he says, the best they can do is keep an eye on the market and be ready for whatever demands arise.

“It’s hard to know what the future holds which is why it is important that we all stay up on this technology,” says Feibel. “I am sure that as additional advancements come along, additional products and/or product improvements will be needed to meet those needs.”

Kyra Thompson is a freelance writer based in Central Virginia. She is a former editorial assistant for Key Media & Research, the parent company to AGRR.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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