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Thick vs Thin: Which is Better?
April 12, 2016 Allison Kulow

Thick vs Thin: Which is Better?

Posted in Borosilicate, Glass Imports, Raw Materials

I will preface the answer with an interesting fact. In 1995, Motorola commissioned a study with Harvard Business School as to why their new (at the time) game changing phone; the Startac, was failing. The answer had zero to do with the phone, it’s design or function….people simple felt it was cheap and inferior…but could not substantiate why because the phone was in fact engineered very well and offered much more functionality in a much smaller phone. Later, the ‘why’ of this phenomena was discovered: Lousy ‘Hand-Feel’. People associate weight with quality or at least getting ‘more’ for the dollar spent.

It flies in the face of common sense, but is none the less is still very real. Motorola decided to slip a small block of iron into the phone as a response. The ratings went through the roof and the Startac phone eventually became the huge success Motorola had envisioned it would be…for no other reason other than they made it heavier.

If you read the study, there is an interesting foot note that Motorola allowed HBS to print. There was an unintended boost in sales at the replacement level. The new heavier phones were more apt to slip out of peoples hands AND they broke far more than their earlier (lighter) counterparts and had to be replaced more often.

Here’s why. It’s one of the basic laws of Physics; Newton’s second law: Force = Mass x Acceleration or F=M(a) where F is the force imparted to an object when an item with Mass (weight) is acted upon by a form of (a)cceleration, in this case; Gravity measured at 9.8m/second(squared). Luckily for us, Gravity on earth is fairly consistent…it’s why we don’t fly off into space. Lack of Gravity is why moonwalkers can bounce around like they’re on a trampoline.

If Gravity is consistent, then the only variable in the F=M(a) equation is Mass….therefore you have a one to one relationship; as Mass increases, so does the Force. If you drop a 40gr piece of glass in the presence of Earth’s gravity, it hits with (40gr)(9.8m/sec(2)). If you drop an 80gr piece in the same situation it hits with 2X the force of the 40gr piece.

The wall thickness of a heavier piece is also a contributor to a thicker/heavier piece having a greater tendency to crack/break. Glass looks like a solid, but it is not, it is the worlds slowest flowing liquid. Go to an old, turn of the century house and look at the original windows….they’re always thicker at the bottom. That’s because while it is very slow and imperceptible to the naked eye, over time, glass flows downward with gravity. Glass actually bends slightly before it breaks, however, the degree of flexibility (how much it will bend) goes down as the wall thickness goes up. An appropriately thick piece of glass will actually survive a fall more often than it’s thicker (for the sake of being thicker) counterpart.

Chameleon designs it’s models to be the appropriate wall thickness based on the length and diameter of the pipe, not based on some hokey premise that something is better because it is heavier. We’ve been at it for 25 years, so we have more long term PROVEN quality because we apply science to the engineered material we call Pyrex. I write PROVEN in caps because we don’t design glass pipes to just get out the door. We design it for the long life it will lead once it walks out the door and keeps it’s owner happy, use after use after use during a life of hard knocks in the real world.

Here’s one of our standard (not super thick) pieces being tossed about by Brothers With Glass: https://youtu.be/PEyRdCujqJM

These days, there are shysters everywhere that are willing to simply give the people what they want, even if the people are wrong. The opportunistic – take the money and run – folks are here today, gone tomorrow types slapping a bake on label on poorly made import pipes. At Chameleon, we like things to last. Is glass unbreakable? No, never, and I would not be caught saying it was….but we take great care to design and manufacture the best possible quality finished product to last as long as it can, even if that means offering a factually better design, even though our customers may think otherwise. Do we know better? In this case, yes, and unfortunately, it’s not the easy or popular choice. Instead, we follow the science and do what’s right.

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