SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2009 > USA

The Duryea plant in Pennsylvania has been a leading ­manufacturer of high-quality optical components in the U.S. and the second largest SCHOTT R&D site since it was founded in 1969. Reason enough for presidential candidate Barack Obama to visit in late 2008. Photo: American Aerial Scenes LLC

Flagship under the Star-Spangled Banner

SCHOTT has been manufacturing and conducting research at its U.S. site in Duryea quite successfully for 40 years.

Matthew Kraft

When the first optical glass melt was completed in Duryea, Pennsylvania, in June of 1969, the moon landing was still one month and the Woodstock festival two months away. Since then, the plant has grown from 75 to 200 employees in total and five of the original employees still work here. Today, the Duryea site is part of SCHOTT North America, Inc. and ranks as the flagship on optical glass manufacturing and research for SCHOTT in the U.S. It also serves as the group’s second largest full-service R&D site, next to the research center at the company’s German headquarters in Mainz.

The road that has brought the company where it is today was not without obstacles. Although the rapid developments in the area of optics and microelectronics in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s offered major market opportunities, foreign companies found it difficult to keep up. Nevertheless, growth and expansion came along quickly for the first manufacturing company founded as SCHOTT Optical Glass in the United States. The optical glass division of PPG Industries was acquired by SCHOTT in 1970 and eventually became the Ophthalmic Division. By 1975, manufacturing had already tripled its floor space to accommodate an increased product range that included radiation shielding, color filters, laser glass and the Zerodur® glass-ceramic. Physical expansion continued with the construction of the components manufacturing building in 1977, followed by the research and development facility in 1981. SCHOTT expanded its product line and geographical reach in the U.S. with the acquisition of Reichert-Jung in 1986, which would become known later as SCHOTT Fiber Optics. The very next year, SCHOTT bought the assets of the Owen-Illinois laser glass facility.
Innovative research. Photos: SCHOTT
Product expansion has been more than the result of acquisitions, however. Highly-educated employees, but also innovations have contributed significantly towards this. Because glass and its applications embrace a variety of sciences, the experts in Duryea that study its properties and develop new products include physicists, chemists, glass and ceramics specialists, and materials scientists. Their work, combined with the efforts of the production staff, has produced 45 patents and four IR-100 Awards. The coveted Industrial Research Prize was presented each year by Industrial Research Magazine for the best 100 new products. SCHOTT was hailed for ultraviolet-transmitting fiber optics in the U.S. in 1971; HighLite® ophthalmic glass for thinner lenses in strong prescriptions in 1973; neodymium-doped fluorophosphate laser glass in 1979; and platinum-particle-free neodymium-doped phosphate laser glass for the very high-power lasers used in nuclear fusion research in 1987. To meet demand from the California-based Lawrence Livermore ­National Laboratory and other laser glass customers, SCHOTT set up the appropriate production lines in 1996. That same year, the Duryea plant received its ISO 9001 certification.
Quality control of the specially poured castings (below) and strips (top) is ­considered to be one of the most important steps in manufacturing optical glass in Duryea. Photos: SCHOTT/G. Cali
The employees who have worked at the Duryea plant for the full 40 years were able to follow its progress and growth: Maintenance Supervisor Tony Angelella and Pacifico Stella in Grinding & Polishing are among those veterans. Rich Andreoni, for instance, who works in acid etching, and Ray Haduck from the pots department both agree that broad scale computerization has been one of the greatest changes during this period. And engineering administrative assistant Matilda Licciardone points to the increased complexity involved in shifting from melting to finishing high-precision optical components.

Change also accompanied the further development of the product portfolio: infrared materials were introduced in 2008 and are now available in all major wavelengths of the spectral range. This has made Duryea the only full-range optical and technical glass material manufacturer for industrial, medical, scientific research and security applications in the U.S. Duryea is also the competence center for precision high homogeneity optical glasses.

In recent years, additional knowledge and expertise has been continually amassed in the area of high-precision processing. Today, SCHOTT is one of the leading manufacturers of high- quality optical components for a wide variety of different applications. Only recently, construction work was completed on the 30,000 square foot finishing facility that extends Duryea’s capabilities into such finishing services as a full range of grinding and precision polishing capabilities along with 3-, 4-, and 5-axis CNC milling, water jet cutting, and specialized coatings. This essentially makes SCHOTT a one-stop source for both blank and finished quality optics. Research and development are integral core competencies of the manufacturing site in Duryea, in addition to melting, hot molding and precision processing of glass. The complete range of optical glasses, filter glasses and Zerodur® glass-ceramic are manufactured on 270,000 square feet of floor space. The subsidiary has also developed many other unique products over the years, including contrast enhancement filters for displays in aircraft, laser glasses for high-energy applications, and night vision compatible glasses.
Veterans at the site have been overseeing these processes for 40 years. Photos: SCHOTT/G. Cali
“Continuous customer service improvements along with expansion of our sophisticated product and manufacturing technology base will continue to be our top priorities,” says Stephen Krenitsky, Vice President and Site Manager in Duryea. “While melting remains an important part of production, the expansion of our finishing facility enables us to respond faster to our customers’ requests for precision finished products,” he adds.

Nevertheless, the site has more to offer than just technological highlights: in 2008, the former Senator and current u.s. President Barack Obama came to the plant for a 4-hour visit, kicking off the fall campaign that would bring him to the White House. This means that SCHOTT looks back on 40 years of turbulent history in the United States and is looking forward to achieving many more important milestones. <|
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