The PHP Family, one of the leading business conglomerates in the country, has taken an initiative to mass produce soundproof glass with a vision of modernising the country's glass industry.
PHP Float Glass Industries Limited, a concern of the PHP Family, plans to go into production by October this year. The company hopes to deliver the product to consumers by early next year.
Soundproof glass or acoustic glass is essentially a laminated glass manufactured by joining two or more layers of glass with an interlayer of Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB) in between them, which serve as a noise dampener.
Sultan Mahmud, assistant general manager of PHP Float Glass Industries Ltd, told The Business Standard, "A separate plant, at a cost of around Tk25 crore, has been set up inside our factory area in Barbakund of Sitakunda upazila in Chattogram."
"The machineries for the plant are being manufactured in China, merging European and Chinese technologies. We will use the Chinese Vertical Automatic Insulation Glass technology to produce the glass. A Letter of Credit (LC) has also been opened for importing the equipment," he added.
The use of acoustic glass in commercial or private establishments is becoming ever so popular among people who live in noisy and crowded areas.
The glass, which is much stronger and more durable than other varieties of glass, has multifaceted use in hospitals, educational institutions, luxurious settlements, resorts, hotels and motels, railways, and residential buildings near airports.
Annual demand for the sound dampening glass in the country is about 2,400 tonnes, 90% of which depends on imports. Only a small handful of companies are producing it on a limited scale.
At present, the market price of soundproof glass is Tk 900-1000 per square feet. If produced commercially, PHP hopes to bring the price down to Tk 500-600.
According to company officials, this glass can resist 90-95% of outside noise. It also prevents harmful sun rays and is able to keep the temperature inside the glass cooler.
Mohammed Amir Hossain Sohel, managing director of PHP Family, told The Business Standard, "The living standard of people is improving along with their economic potential. More and more people are preferring acoustic glass over normal ones while constructing buildings."
"Our goal is to reduce the cost by mass producing the glass in the country. We have talked to many communities in the capital's posh areas, including Gulshan, Banani, Bashundhara, Airport and its adjoining areas, and they are very interested in the product."
"The glass will be produced as per demand. Usually, the demand for two-layer glass is high, but our plant will have the facility of producing four-layer glass," he said, adding that the plant is capable of producing 500 tonnes of glass daily.
At present, Bangladesh's annual demand for glass is about 25 million square feet. Around 32 million square feet are produced in the country's factories.
The glass market of the country is worth Tk2000 crore, and PHP Float Glass Industries Ltd holds 40% of the domestic market.
PHP currently produces seven types of glass, including clear float glass, bevel glass, edge glass, moulds glass, tempered glass and reflective glass.
After meeting the country's demand, PHP exports clear float glass to India, Bhutan and Nepal, which accounts for 8-10% of total production.
The country's glass industry was founded about 70 years ago by the state-owned Usmania Glass Sheet Factory Ltd. At the time, only black and white glass was produced in Bangladesh.
In 2005, PHP, a steel company, invested in glass production. Currently, the company produces about 91,000 tonnes of glass a year.
In 2021, PHP invested around Tk2,500 crore in reflective glass production. The company currently employs 1,500 people.
Investment in this sector is also increasing due to availability of raw materials. Silica sand is one of the raw materials of glass and 60% of it comes from native silica sand.
Other raw materials are soda ash, dolomite, limestone, salt cake and coal powder. These raw materials are imported from Europe, China, Egypt, Bhutan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Indonesia.