EUGENE SULLIVAN joins Corning and creates an industrial-research lab to drive innovation in glassmaking. At the time, half of Corning’s revenue comes from manufacturing lightbulbs—by hand.
Corning develops HEAT-RESISTANT GLASS for railroad-signal lanterns. A similar material is used to make Pyrex scientific glassware and cookware. (The cookware business has since been sold.)
Two Corning engineers invent the RIBBON MACHINE, which can produce 400,000 lightbulb blanks every 24 hours. Still used today, the machine boosted efficiency of bulb production fivefold and slashed bulb prices.
With the “spin-casting” method, Corning pioneers mass production of CATHODE-RAY TUBES for televisions, dramatically reducing the cost of TVs. For two decades, Corning dominates manufacturing of tubes for both black-and-white and color TVs.
With the accidental overheating of a batch of glass, a Corning scientist creates a porcelain-like,shatter->resistant material called CORNINGWARE. Like Pyrex, the flower-adorned CorningWare is now made by World Kitchen.
The WINDOW GLASS for the U.S.’s first manned spaceships, Freedom 7 and Liberty Bell 7, is made by Corning. It has been the window supplier for every NASA ship, including the forthcoming Orion.
By inventing a claylike ceramic to scrub 95% of the pollutants from car exhaust, Corning helps carmakers meet emissions standards. Corning ceramics form the guts of more than half of today’s CATALYTIC CONVERTERS.
Corning introduces OPTICAL FIBER—>glass strands that can transmit telecom signals flawlessly at the speed of light. In the 1990s, it makes most of the fiber that enables the Internet. Today, Corning is the only U.S. manufacturer of optical fiber.
Corning commercializes lcd glass, using a process invented by the firm 20 years earlier. Corning’s LCD-GLASS business now supplies more than half of the glass screens for the world’s electronics—and half of the company’s profit.
Seventy percent of Corning’s revenue today comes from products that did not exist five years ago, such as EAGLE XG, an eco-friendly LCD glass made without heavy metals. On the horizon: a new MERCURY-REMOVING FILTER to clean the exhaust of coal-fired power plants and a tiny GREEN LASER that could allow cell phones to be equipped with microprojectors.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2008 issue of Fast Company magazine.