New Glass Panels Installation Underway for Grand Canyon Skywalk
April 14, 2011

After just four years, the Grand Canyon’s Skywalk—the U-shaped glass walkway that extends 70 feet beyond the Canyon's west rim—is undergoing a facelift. Since it opened in 2007 millions of tourists have traversed across the walkway and though required to wear protective coverings over their shoes, a certain amount of dirt and debris, inevitable in a desert climate, has left the glass in need of replacement.

Highland Glass Products in Kingman, Ariz., is currently at work replacing 46 glass panels; the new glass was manufactured by Rioglass Solar Inc. in Spain and each panel measures 4 by 9 feet.

Micah Jones, owner of Highland Glass Products, explains that the new panels consist of a structural component and a “sacrificial” component.

“There’s the main structural piece, which consists of four layers of glass and DuPont’s SentryGlass® Plus interlayer and then a sacrificial top layer that’s installed over the structural glass,” says Jones. “The sacrificial piece is vacuum sealed on, so in the future when the glass is scratched or in need of replacement, we just have to replace the top layer.”

Jones says the installation, which began this past Monday, is being done at night. Workers remove each panel, one at a time with a vacuum cup manipulator and once the old piece is out the vacuum cups are immediately placed onto the new piece, which a crane boom lifts over the canyon and into the walkway.

“The crane is located away from the walkway and the operator can’t even see us working,” says Jones. “All of our coordinates are radioed to him.”

He adds, “This whole process is tough mentally; it’s got to be perfect every time. There are no do-overs.”
The team has 14 days to complete the project and Jones says in order to stay on schedule they’ve been working 16-hour nights—weather permitting.

“You can’t swing glass if we get wind speeds of 18 miles-per-hour or more,” adds Jones.

The Skywalk’s original glass was constructed with DuPont’s SentryGlas® Plus interlayers as well as Saint-Gobain’s low-iron Diamant® glass.

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