Vetrotech's origins date back to 1884, when Giesbrecht Glas was founded in Bern – a company that specialised in supplying glass for cathedrals and churches. 13 years earlier, Nikolaus Kinon had begun his glass business in Aachen-Burtscheid, and this company would later be acquired by Vetrotech in 2013.
It was around 1900 when the first fire-resistant wired glass appeared – an invention that would later become commonplace among all vehicles and vessels. Another related development came in 1913 when Kinon invented Triplex, the world’s first laminated safety glass for cars.
Nearly 40 years later, Kinon's company was acquired in 1952 by Vegla, part of the Saint-Roch/Saint-Gobain group.
In 1962, Temperit AG (based in Hinwil, Switzerland) pioneered horizontally tempered glass and heat-soaked glass – a process that made it much more resistant to breakage than other types of toughened glass. Kinon, then known as Vegla-Werk Aachen, produced its first electrically heatable glass in 1974 – a product called Thermovit®.
The changes in the glass industry really started to show from the 1980s onwards. Vetrotech itself was founded in 1980 by Giesbrecht Glas in Walchwil, Switzerland. Its mandate was to develop the world’s first clear fire-resistant glass with integrated safety characteristics – and consequently, Pyroswiss® was launched.
The same year, Vegla, the German unit of Saint-Gobain, introduced Contraflam®. Produced on the Kinon Aachen site, Contraflam® was the first tempered fire-resistant glass to feature thermal insulation properties.
1983 saw the launch of the first Underwriters Laboratory (UL) – an independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organisation. As a result, Contraflam® reached the North American market in the same year, where it was subject to UL's testing and certification processes.
One year later, Vegla-Werk Aachen became Kinon Sicherheitsglas GmbH. And in 1988, Vetrotech Deutschland GmbH opened in Düsseldorf, Germany, to develop the European markets further. With its presence in Germany then firmly established – and with the European markets beginning to flourish – Vetrotech France Sarl opened in Paris in 1990, with the aim of expanding the French market.
If the 1980s was a decade of “firsts”, then the 1990s was a decade of continual development. Pyroswiss®, which had already been launched in Europe in 1980, reached the USA in 1993 and received UL certification. 1996 was a year of significant growth. Continuing its European expansion, Saint-Gobain acquired the Giesbrecht-Temperit-Vetrotech Group in Switzerland, and several regional European sales offices were opened.
Also in 1996, there was the creation of the specialised international Fire Protection Business Unit. The same significant year also saw a joint venture between Saint-Gobain and Corning Glass in which production began on Keralite, followed by the launch of fire-rated glass applications in North America.
As the company approached the new millennium, Vetrotech North America opened and began manufacturing and trading directly to market. In 2000, Vetrotech relocated its head office to Bern. It also constructed the first of several high-volume production lines to produce a new generation of environmentally friendly variants of Contraflam®.
During the 21st century, Vetrotech has seen worldwide progress. Saint-Gobain Hanglas was established in South Korea and Japan, and the fire-resistant Pyroswiss® was released in these regions. 2006 was also a landmark year for the company, with Vetrotech Saint-Gobain becoming Europe's leading manufacturer for fire-resistant glass. Building on this worldwide progress, Kinon widened its offering by branching out into high-security and specialised marine glasses in the same year.
Just two years later, and with a presence spanning much of the world already, 2008 saw Vetrotech expand yet further into South Asia – developing markets in India, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
Back to European shores, and Vetrotech France was created in 2012 in Condren, France. This plant is used for high-volume manufacturing of Pyroswiss® and Vetroflam® fire-resistant glass. And in neighbouring Germany, the company commissioned its seventh fire testing laboratory the following year – the International Fire Testing & Services (IFTS) laboratory in Herzogenrath. Also in 2013, Kinon Sicherheitsglas GmbH in Aachen was integrated into Vetrotech Saint-Gobain, creating an enlarged business unit dedicated to the development and manufacture of high-performance glass.
Today, Vetrotech continues to go from strength to strength. Achievements in 2014 to date include the beginning of the company's commercial representation of SageGlass in Europe, and the launch of Keralite Select – a polished grade fire-rated glass ceramic.