Owens Corning is marking its 75th anniversary with a special welcome to its headquarters in Toledo (above). Corporate leaders (and the cartoon mascot for its pink fiberglass insulation products) rang the New York Stock Exchange’s closing bell on Oct. 28th. (Both photos credit: Owens Corning.)
Like so many great inventions, the discovery of a way to make commercial quantities of glass fibers was a happy accident.
An article in the Toledo Blade newspaper sheds a bit more light on the company’s history. According to the article, in the mid-1930s glassmaking giants Owens-Illinois Inc. and Corning Glass Works were both working to develop glass textile materials. The companies decided to work together on the technology, and on October 31, 1938, a new company—Owens Corning—was born.
Since then, the company has driven many innovations in glass fiber technology and processing, from fiberglass-reinforced boat hulls and auto body panels (starting with the quintessential American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette) to the ubiquitous pink fiberglass insulation, glass fiber-reinforced asphalt roofing shingles, and other building materials. According to a timeline on the company’s website, Owens Corning researchers developed the rotary fiberizing process still used to make centrifugally spun fiberglass wool in 1954—coincidentally, the year Chevy officially launched the Corvette.
As might be expected for any 75-year-old, the company has weathered its share of ups and downs. The latter included Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2000, the result of growing liability In asbestos-related lawsuits. Owens Corning emerged from bankruptcy in 2006 and kept on innovating. Most recently, in 2011, the company launched its EcoTouch insulation featuring natural materials, a formaldehyde-free formulation, and 50% recycled content.
Today, Owens Corning is a Fortune 500 company that employs more than 15,000 people in 27 countries. It reported total sales of $5.2 billion last year, and now operates a significant composites business in addition to its more well-known business segments.
“Our 75th anniversary provides a great opportunity to celebrate where we’ve been and who we are as a company, and get excited about our bright future,” chairman and CEO Mike Thaman says in the company release. “What makes our employees most proud is that our products improve people’s lives. Homes and buildings are more energy efficient. Cars are lighter and conserve more fuel. Wind blades are longer and stronger. Our commitment to our customers is to enable them to deliver those solutions to worldwide markets.”
Much more information is available on the company’s 75th anniversary website.
Note from Eileen:
Almost two years ago in December 2011 ACerS executive director Charlie Spahr visited the Owens Corning Science and Technology Center in Granville, Ohio to present a certificate on behalf of the Society in honor of the Center’s 50th anniversary. Pictured in the photo from the event are (left–right) Charlie Spahr, Carlos Herrera, Julie Ricciardo, John Mishra, Gary Milosovich, Paula Russell, Warren Wolf (ACerS past president), and John Hillenbrand. Hillenbrand, as vice president and chief innovation officer at the Center, accepted the certificate on behalf of Owens Corning.