Like with everything else it does, Apple is expected to rock the architectural world when its new California headquarters opens for business next year – raising the fortunes of the Israeli glass technology firm that is playing a central, if indirect, role in the construction of one of the world’s most innovative buildings ever.
The building in Cupertino, California, officially called Apple Campus 2 – and unofficially called “the Spaceship” because of its circular, Star Trek Enterprise-like vibe – will feature huge panes of curved glass, as high as 60 feet (18 meters), some of it printed.
And according to Max Perilstein, one of the world’s foremost experts on glass production, there is only one company in the world that has the technology to produce printed glass panes of that type. “In a sense, Dip-Tech is to the world of glass what Apple is to the world of computers and devices,” Perilstein told The Times of Israel.
“There were computers and music players before the Mac and the iPod, but Apple’s take on these devices puts them in a whole different – and better – category. So too with Dip-Tech – we see glass everywhere, but what they have done with glass is to elevate it far beyond what we are used to.”
Apple – then under the helmsmanship of the late Steve Jobs – has been planning its new headquarters for over a decade, and in 2013 broke ground on the complex, which Jobs told the Cupertino City Council in June 2011 would be amazingly innovative for its architecture, size, and aesthetics. “It’s got a gorgeous courtyard in the middle, and a lot more. It’s a circle, so it’s curved all the way round. This is not the cheapest way to build something.”
“Every pane of glass in the main building will be curved. It’s pretty cool.” Jobs said.
It was to be his last public appearance before he died the following October. The building is expected to be finished sometime in 2016.
The Israeli connection to the project goes back to last year, when Kfar Saba-based Dip-Tech separately sold two of its printers to sedak GmbH & Co. KG of Germany and Tianjin Northglass Industrial Co., Ltd in China. In October, the printer was listed in the Guinness World Book of Records for its ability to print a single pane of glass with a total area of up to 64 square meters (688.89 square feet) – the biggest for any digital printer anywhere.
According to industry sources, the large glass panels being used by Apple are being produced at Tianjin and shipped to California, where local crews – ever so gently – install them in the rapidly rising building. Neither Dip-Tech, Apple, nor Tianjin would comment on the matter.
Digital glass printing works in a manner similar to digital paper printing: An image is sent to the printer, which then gets transferred into the glass. Afterwards, the glass is dried and tempered in a tempering furnace.
Dip-Tech’s digital printing solution includes special digital ceramic inks the company has developed, made out of nanoparticles of glass and inorganic pigments, with the ink infused into the glass by the end of the process, said the company.
After the tempering process, the ink becomes an embedded and inherent part of the glass – as opposed to an overlay – meaning that it can stand up to all weather and environment conditions without fading.
“The technology revolution in glass printing enables architects and designers to expand their creativity. The projects being undertaken today are breaking the boundaries of what was possible until now, as new techniques of glass production are have become available,” said Yariv Matzliach, Dip-Tech CEO.
Dip-Tech’s printed glass can be seen in many places – including Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s newly refurbished Terminal 5, where Goldray Industries produced a 4,000 square foot (370 square meter) “curtain” of digital ceramic printed glass designed to make the experience of going through security checkpoints more pleasant and aesthetic, along with beautifying the entire terminal, said Goldray President Greg Saroka.
“We worked through all the various color and design options until one met all expectations. Using the Dip-Tech solution we were then able to fabricate this highly comprehensive, detailed project exactly how it was conceptualized and drawn by Epstein architects,” he said.
Dip-Tech glass is also on display in the facade of Harlem Hospital in New York. The building was refurbished several years ago, and to strike a dramatic note, the exterior of the building was decorated with a glass mural facade, duplicating works of art that depict the struggle of southern US slaves for freedom. The glass was made to specifications by manufacturer PPG Industries of Pittsburgh — using Dip-Tech’s equipment. The result: A set of murals that look painted into the windows, with 429 individually printed panes of glass giving viewers a lesson in history and an appreciation of art, with the building becoming a tourist attraction.
Whether Jobs or Cook saw these buildings before the design for Apple Campus 2 were developed isn’t known, but what is clear is that Cook himself is personally approving the building’s final designs and materials – including the glass production.
On a visit last February to Germany’s sedak, Cook said that Apple had “searched around the world for someone who can implement Steve’s ideas on glass, and we ended up here because no one else can do it as well as you. The quality and the size of the panes is greater than has ever been implemented worldwide. You are the best in the world.”
Like in other areas, said Perilstein, Apple is pushing the envelope when it comes to architectural design, and its ideas are bound to be copied and implemented by many others.
“Apple has actually used a lot of glass in its design, for example its famous glass cube at its midtown Manhattan Apple Store,” said Perilstein. According to Perilstein, Apple likes the glass motif because it symbolizes openness and innovation, with the “new day” motif representing the company’s innovation ethos.
One feature of the Manhattan and other Apple Stores is its glass staircase, descending from street level down to the store area; Steve Jobs has two patents on the design of those staircases.
“No one would have thought to do a glass staircase before this, but now they are showing up everywhere,” said Perilstein. “The glass designs on the new Apple building are even more dramatic, and there is no doubt that they will disrupt the architectural world, as other Apple products have disrupted other industries. The new building is going to be studied at many levels of the building industry, from design to construction, for years to come.”