Under the Glass
Imagic Glass: The sultans of surface
By Jack Kohane
Imagic impresses with artistic carving, etching and printing
By Jack Kohane
Lots of people talk the talk about fenestration innovation, but Imagic Glass walks the walk. “We thrive on complex glass fabrication and love to figure things out,” says Adam Shearer, president of Imagic Glass.
He speaks from his 30,000-square-foot plant in Vaughan Ont., north of Toronto. It’s a cutting-edge facility that has both drive-in and multiple dock level access for streamlined shipping and receiving, a custom built multi-bridge crane system and racking systems which allow for safe and efficient glass-handling. There’s a separate clean room for digital printing and glass lamination assembly so that these functions are isolated from glass processing.
AT A GLANCE | Imagic Glass, Vaughan, Ont.
- Location: Vaughan, Ont
- Founded: 2012
- President: Adam Shearer
- Employees: 45
- Regions: Primarily North America, some overseas
- Markets: Commercial, high-end residential, institutional, hospitality, retail, gaming, health care, education
And in just six years, Imagic’s capabilities have expanded quickly to cover a breadth of products and technologies, including digitally printed glass, back painted glass, switchable glass, with a particular specialty in exquisitely etched and carved glass.
“Our focus has been on innovation, it’s in our DNA,” enthuses Shearer. Launched in 2012, the company is constantly on the search for new techniques that can be incorporated into its production capabilities that include high resolution digital printing, CNC machining, multi glass polishing lines, large format glass washing, two automatic etching and sandblasting lines, high capacity lamination oven and a technologically advanced high capacity paint line that includes in-feed and out-feed conveyors, panel pre-heating, multi-head spray cabin and a high temperature curing oven.
One outstanding example of Imagic’s frontispiece finesse is the custom-carved feature glass etched on the new Manhattan flagship store of the famed ultra-upscale Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille. “We have carved glass for multiple store locations for this client over the years,” says Shearer. “Because we had successfully completed multiple locations previously, we were invited to be a part of the team working on this New York project.” The feature glass, depicting the intricately detailed internal workings of a Richard Mille wristwatch, is comprised of a surface 30-feet high and over 20 feet wide. The largest piece is over 1.5 inches thick, 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide and weighs in at about two tonnes. It was a very complex project to say the least. Shearer points out it necessitated breaking up the feature glass area into sections. This meant carving the artwork in such a way that it transitioned seamlessly from piece to piece. And, because of the scale, the glass had to be specially engineered to ensure it met safety and load requirements. The client had very specific artwork that required tremendous precision in carving. Only annealed glass can be carved, which meant engineering a glass that would accept carving while also providing strength. In addition to the complex engineering, there were huge challenges in handling such gargantuan slabs of glass during fabrication. Imagic had to commission a custom carving line for this project in order to handle the massive pieces. Imagic’s own custom crane system includes a five-ton bridge which allowed safe loading and unloading of the glass on to the carving line and then into huge custom crates for shipping (direct from the company’s Toronto location to New York). Not one piece of glass was damaged over three months of fabrication in the Imagic Glass facility. Many of the pieces spent over 160 hours on the carving lines to achieve the desired esthetic. “There were to be three layers of feature glass physically separated and carved on five of the six surfaces,” he explains. “Customers will literally walk through the feature glass upon entering the store. And all of the feature glass was to be illuminated with custom LED fixtures. It is visually stunning.” It will also, literally, stand the test of time as an iconic location along the posh Park Avenue district known as Billionaires’ Row.
Shearer credits Imagic’s ingenious carving technology for etching the company into the minds of its growing roster of A-list clients. Some of the high-profile projects in Imagic’s portfolio:
- The UP Express office at Toronto’s Union Station. Custom-printed gradient laminated glass was installed to hide cement bulkheads. The gradient transitioned from 500 per cent opacity to zero per cent to clear and back again
- Princeton University, using custom sandblasted and laminated glass
- Casino Niagara, employing custom-printed laminated glass, custom artwork and multiple opacities
Imagic’s technology can produce lightly shaded glass, surface etchings, and deep carving. “This results in crisp, distinct artwork reproduction which provides tremendous visual depth and allows us to meet the client’s strict requirements,” notes Shearer.
Printed and mirrored glass is a point of pride for Imagic. It holds a patent for one of its printed glass applications. The company can achieve one of the highest resolutions in the industry for digital images at 1,500 dots per inch. Unlike traditional ceramic ink glass printing, the Imagic technology offer outstanding colour reproduction across the entire colour spectrum. Imagic can print in multiple layers, which means its achieves opacity levels from zero to 500 per cent or more on the same piece of glass. It can print gradients with no banding or “lawnmower” effect. Because Imagic doesn’t use traditional ceramic ink methods, it can print on annealed, heat strengthened or tempered glass as well as mirror. It can print directly to the glass or to film and laminate producing exceptional resolution, vivid colours and outstanding artwork reproduction. Print capacity is up to 200 by 98 inches and on glass thicknesses of three to 19 millimeters. Because of the outstanding clarity and colour reproduction, Imagic has seen increased demand for reproducing artists work onto glass for public art projects. The result is beautiful large format art reproduction that is visually breathtaking.
Imagic Glass has metamorphosed from a brash startup to a world class producer and supplier of custom architectural glass and patent-pending high resolution direct-to-glass digital printing. It’s currently an international supplier of upscale glass products with clients across North America and as far as Hong Kong and Dubai, servicing multiple industries including hospitality, gaming, high rise residential, commercial office, retail, residential, institutional, health care, professional sports and more.
How’s it grown so fast? Shearer likes to echo Steve Forbes: “The most wildly successful start-ups are led by people who follow their dreams, and who understand and undertake the measured risks associated with launching a business.” An apt description of the entrepreneurial architects at Imagic Glass.
Co-founder and managing partner, Vilius Garsva, who hails from Lithuania, began his apprenticeship in a glass shop on arriving in Canada, eventually getting promoted to plant manager. “One of the key goals of the company from the start was to ensure we fabricate the highest quality glass in the industry. To achieve that, we invested heavily in state-of-the-art equipment, processes and safety training to ensure we could accomplish our quality goals and stay ahead of the curve. We’re focused on R&D as evidenced by a patent we own for glass and mirror fabrication techniques.”
Breadth of product offerings is what co-founder and business development leader, Colin Sless, believes raises Imagic above the herd. “We can do simpler solutions (for instance, single tempered, painted, laminated) and we do them very well. But we really get energized when asked to problem-solve complex glass challenges involving multiple techniques, like multi-lite, printed and painted and laminated. We make sure that Imagic Glass is among the easiest shops our clients will ever deal with.”
Bringing a wealth of deal-making savvy to the management team, chairman Steve Rogers, who formerly built a global $1.5 billion franchise enterprise from the ground up, is Imagic’s notable business strategist and brand visionary. He’s been instrumental in providing guidance when establishing partnerships with important vendors and suppliers, for example Intermac, Bottero, Kurary (SentryGlas), ICD (Opaci-Coat-300), Vitro and many others. “We are very selective when deciding who we partner with,” Rogers says, emphasizing that Imagic’s philosophy is to put quality and service ahead of lowest cost.
“You can have great products, great marketing, great equipment, and great processes, but if you don’t have great people, it doesn’t matter,” asserts Shearer, who joined the company in 2016 with a background in branding and customer service that includes stints as president of California Closets and as director of sales for Lucent Technologies/Bell Labs. “We made the decision to hire the best people we could and ensure we were aligned on values first. We value our employees as they bring vast experience and skills to the table. We communicate openly, coach and develop our team – factors we believe are the successful blueprints in forging a winning corporate culture. We’ve seen rapid growth at a pace of over 50 per cent per year since 2013 and we expect that trend to continue over the next few years.” It’s a tribute to Imagic finding new ways to stretch it’s ability to etch.