A Singapore company is moving to Columbus to find its niche in the emerging “smart glass” industry.
A Singapore company is moving to Columbus with the goal of transforming the emerging “smart glass” industry.
The company, Nodis, has developed what it says is a less-expensive way to produce glass that can be tinted and otherwise controlled by a user.
Nodis worked for five years in Singapore to develop its TruTint technology and is now moving its executive team to Columbus. The company plans to open a factory in central Ohio to manufacture its key “nano particle” component, which will be applied to a film in Korea before being shipped to glass manufacturers worldwide to embed in the final smart glass product.
“We use nano particles suspended in liquid that can be oriented when a voltage is applied, acting like a shutter on the window,” said Mike Holt, an adviser to the firm and principle of its main financial backer, a venture capital firm called Get2Volume.
While smart glass has been around for decades, it is still relatively uncommon because of its cost. But proponents expect it to become common, even standard, because it allows consumers to lighten or darken windows, eliminating the need for shades, and to block UV rays to save on energy costs.
“About 40% of total energy use in the U.S. is in residential and commercial buildings, and roughly one-third of that is used to heat and cool buildings,” said Manoj Choudhary, an adjunct professor in Ohio State’s Materials Science & Engineering Department and former president of the International Commission on Glass.
“Much of the heat and heat loss is through the windows. We use blinds and shades and things to control that, but smart glass is one hell of a technology that allows us to achieve energy conservation at the same time allowing light to come through.”
Annual smart glass sales are expected to rise from about $3.4 billion in 2018 to $9.76 billion in 2024, according to the Market Research Reports website.
Nodis TruTint applies voltage to suspended particles embedded between sheets of glass to change the properties of the glass. Holt said Nodis uses the only smart glass technology that allows glass to be colored electronically.
“TruTint is a unique technology,” he said in an email. “Other, older-generation smart glass technologies SPD and electrochromic have significant disadvantages: higher cost, no color, slow switching, no infrared control.”
Nodis technology also allows smart glass to be produced for far less money than competing methods, he said.
“The thing that’s really held this back is simply cost,” Holt said. “Smart glass has simply been too expensive. … If you can address that, then suddenly smart glass makes a lot of sense for buildings and for cars.”
Holt moved to Columbus in February in anticipation of Nodis moving its headquarters here in May. He said the company’s CEO, Sergey Shokhor, also is moving to Columbus, and that the company’s sales, marketing and financial staff will grow in Columbus as the company grows.
He said he chose Columbus because of its proximity to much of the nation’s population and to some large glass manufacturers such as Vitro (formerly PPG) in Pennsylvania; Fuyao Glass in Dayton; Nippon Sheet Glass, which is opening a new factory near Toledo; Cardinal Glass Industries in Minnesota; and Carlex Glass in Nashville.
“We manufacture the nano particles,” Holt said. “We do it in prototype quantities now but we’re transitioning to volume manufacturing capability. We’re doing that in Columbus.”
While smart glass is too expensive now for vehicles, Tom Feeney, CEO of Safelite AutoGlass in Columbus, welcomed Nodis to the region.
“Central Ohio is rapidly becoming the glass capital of the world,” Feeney said. “We know that integrating smart glass into the in-car experience is on the horizon, and we look forward to learning more about Nodis’ vision for the future of auto glass.”