James G. Pennycuick, a British-born inventor living in Boston, Massachusetts, receives a USA patent for “a new and useful Improvement in Tiles for Illuminating Purposes. . . in pavements, vault-covers, and in other situations.” His new glass tile design features a pattern of light-refracting prismatic ridges to direct sunlight into dark areas.
Pennycuick expands his prismatic tile idea to include 10-centimenter-square tiles that can be joined together to form windows; he receives another patent. The same year, he receives a patent for another invention: a method of creating screw threads in glass insulators used on power poles. Pennycuick has difficulty finding investors to finance manufacturing of his prism tiles, but after four years, he secures financing to purchase a glassworks factory in Sandwich, Massachusetts, to make his glass insulators.
JPennycuick founds the Electrical Glass Corporation and the following year begins manufacturing glass insulators at his newly acquired factory. However, the business fails in less than a year, and lenders foreclose on the factory—but other manufacturers adopt Pennycuick’s design.
Pennycuick moves to Toronto, Canada, and enters into a partnership with Thomas W. Horn, a Canadian businessman. In February 1896, Horn founds the Prismatic Glass Company of Toronto to produce Pennycuick’s tiles. However, the method of bonding tiles together into windows proves problematic; using soldered lead or zinc strips, standard glazing materials at the time, produces heavy windows prone to joint leakage.
A major breakthrough occurs when Pennycuick meets William Winslow, an American inventor from Chicago, Illinois. Winslow has invented an electro-glazing process using thin copper strips and an electrolytic bath; his new method bonds Pennycuick’s tiles into strong, rigid window panels that are both leak-proof and lightweight.
In Chicago, Pennycuick and Horn found the Radiating Light Company with Winslow as a shareholder. Winslow introduces Pennycuick and Horn to a number of prominent Chicago businessmen and investors who buy shares in the new company, including John Meiggs Ewen, a leading building engineer. Ewen becomes the chief shareholder and first president of the company, which is renamed the Semi-Prism Glass Company in December 1896.
In the opinion of some of the foremost architects of this country, the Luxfer prism is destined to work an entire revolution in planning and necessitate very extensive changes in construction.” Later in 1897, Luxfer hires an aspiring young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright to design decorative patterns for tiles (one of which, his flower” pattern, is now a popular “collectors’ item). Wright also designs a 10-story skyscraper with a façade composed almost entirely of Luxfer prisms. (Although the structure was never built, Wright’s drawings of it are considered by some historians to be important precursors of modern architectural design.)
Luxfer also hires two prominent experts on the behavior of light, physics professor and spectroscopist Henry Crew of Northwestern University (Chicago) and his assistant, Olin H. Basquin, to help optimize tile performance. Basquin conducts unprecedented experiments to measure sky brightness at various times and uses the results to calculate the best angles for Luxfer prisms to maximize interior light in various locations.
On May 11, Luxfer establishes its first overseas subsidiary: The British Luxfer Prism Syndicate, Limited, in London. To distinguish itself from this and other foreign “syndicates” to come, the parent company changes its name to the American Luxfer Prism Company. Crew and Basquin publish their popular Pocket Hand-Book of Useful Information and Tables Relating to the Use of Electro-Glazed Luxfer Prisms, describing Luxfer products and installations and showing architects and engineers how to calculate prism angles.
Luxfer even offers the services of “lucical engineers” who travel to job sites to help optimize prism tile usage. In August, Luxfer’s rapid growth in the United States is documented in The Economist (Chicago) magazine, which notes that “some 1,500 different [Luxfer prism] installations have been made in 100 different cities. . . .”
Luxfer syndicates are founded in France, Belgium and Germany. In the USA, well-known architect Louis Sullivan uses Luxfer tiles extensively in a new department store in Chicago that receives a great deal of nationwide publicity, boosting demand for Luxfer products (the building later became the Carson Pirie Scott department store, a Chicago landmark). After Luxfer windows survive a devastating building fire in Chicago, the company adds fire-proof glazing to its product line.
Millions of Luxfer glass tiles are produced in North America and Europe, and the company’s product line expands to include a large selection of pavement lights (installed in sidewalks), floor lights and cellar lights; dome lights and skylights; and decorative and ornamental tile designs. Early in the new century, Luxfer begins producing metal casements for windows—its first metal products and a harbinger of the future.
During World War I, the British government calls upon Luxfer’s London operation to use its metal-forming capabilities to produce screw pickets to support barbed wire on battlefields. Soon after the war, Luxfer adds metal fasteners and formed-metal construction components to its product line.
The name of the British branch of the company is changed to Luxfer Ltd., reflecting its growing diversification into products other than glass prisms.
Demand for prism tiles declines as the use of electric lighting spreads and load-bearing, hollow glass blocks provide a less-expensive way of “daylighting.” In England, Luxfer begins manufacturing ready-glazed windows and adding new metal products, including sheet-steel shelving, cabinets and office furniture, to its product line. By the end of the decade, metal products comprise the majority of the British business, and the other glass product businesses in North America and Europe have ceased production.
During World War II, Luxfer Ltd in England uses its steel finishing expertise to produce a variety of armaments and military products capable of withstanding harsh battlefield environments. In 1941, a French company, Société Métallurgique de Gerzat (SMG), uses hot-extrusion technology to produce the world’s first seamless aluminum cylinders for gas containment. (SMG will be acquired by Luxfer in 2001 and become known as Luxfer France—see below.)
Luxfer develops an innovative extrusion process for applying putty to its ready-made windows used in factory-made houses that replace many British homes damaged during wartime bombing. This new process later leads to extruded metal products, including steel and aluminum tubing.
Luxfer tubing products are widely used in automobiles, aircraft, scaffolding and a variety of home and office equipment, including Hoover vacuum cleaners. To supply mortar shell casings and rocket bodies for bazookas used during the Korean War (1950-53), Luxfer develops a new process called cold-indirect extrusion, an engineering milestone that changes the course of the company.
Using its proprietary technology, Luxfer introduces the world’s first cold-extruded, seamless, high-pressure aluminum cylinders. The company’s first cylinder manufacturing plant opens in Nottingham, England.
Initially used in the beverage industry, lightweight, corrosion-resistant Luxfer aluminum cylinders grow in popularity, and the company rapidly expands its product range to include cylinders for many other applications, including industrial gases, medical oxygen, fire extinguishers, life-support for firefighters and rescue personnel and various automotive and aviation uses.
Luxfer sells its remaining non-cylinder product lines to concentrate on its rapidly expanding cylinder business and changes its name to Luxfer Gas Cylinders.and various automotive and aviation uses.
Luxfer opens its first aluminum cylinder manufacturing plant in the USA in Riverside, California. In collaboration with Jacques-Yves Cousteau—inventor of the original Aqua-Lung® diving equipment, pioneering undersea explorer and chairman of U.S. Divers—Luxfer produces the world’s first aluminum scuba tank.
Luxfer begins manufacturing higher-pressure hoop-wrapped composite cylinders with fiberglass-reinforced walls.
Luxfer introduces high-pressure, even lighter-weight composite cylinders fully wrapped with fiberglass (and later Kevlar®). These products prove to be particularly well suited for self-contain breathing apparatus (SCBA) used for firefighter and first-responder life support.
1987—Luxfer metallurgists formulate a proprietary version of 6061-T6 aluminum alloy. Now marketed as L6X®, this alloy is specially designed to provide excellent performance in the most demanding high-pressure applications. Compared to conventional versions of 6061 alloy, Luxfer’s L6X has been optimized to improve durability, fracture toughness and resistance to tearing and cracking, even under high-pressure loads over long periods. 1991—Luxfer opens a new aluminum cylinder factory in Graham, North Carolina USA.
Luxfer introduces its LCX® line, its lightest-weight composite cylinders, which are fully wrapped with aerospace-grade carbon composite fiber. Initially used for firefighter life-support, these ultra-lightweight, high-capacity cylinders are soon introduced into other markets, including medical, automotive, aviation, inflation and paintball.
Luxfer acquires Hydrospin, a California-based manufacturer of seamless aluminum liners for composite cylinders, as well as custom aluminum and steel cylinders and other specialized pressure vessels.
Luxfer acquires French cylinder manufacturer Société Métallurgique de Gerzat (SMG), now known as Luxfer France. The plant is located in Gerzat, France.
A team of Luxfer managers from around the world create the company’s first Strategy Map using the Balanced Scorecard approach to strategic planning and execution.
Luxfer introduces its L7X® higher-strength aluminum alloy.
Luxfer France adds a new full-wrap composite cylinder facility to its plant in Gerzat. An updated version of the Luxfer Strategy Map is created and introduced.
In special ceremonies in Barcelona, Spain, in June, Luxfer Gas Cylinders is inducted into the prestigious Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame for Executing Strategy, one of only three companies to be honored that year by the Balanced Scorecard Collaborative (BSC). The Balanced Scorecard concept was created by Dr. Robert S. Kaplan and Dr. David P. Norton in 1992 and featured in their best-selling Harvard Business School Press book, The Strategy Focused Organization. The BSC approach has been implemented in thousands of corporations, government agencies and organizations around the world and has been cited by Harvard Business Review as one of the most important ideas of the past 75 years.
In 2000, Drs. Kaplan and Norton launched the Hall of Fame program to honor publicly companies successfully using the BSC. When presenting the award, Dr. Norton identified Luxfer Gas Cylinders as a “truly strategy-focused organization” and Luxfer’s “breakthrough performance results.” Later in the year, Luxfer opens a new factory in Shanghai, China, to manufacture carbon composite life-support cylinders for China and the rest of the Asia Pacific market.
Luxfer begins manufacturing composite alternative fuel (AF) cylinders in California for use in trucks and buses, as well as for storage and transportation of compressed natural gas (CNG). Luxfer introduces its LCX-SL® “SuperLight”, the world’s lightest-weight carbon composite life-support cylinder. In the same year, the company also launches two more life-support cylinders: LCX-XD®, “XtremeDuty” impact-resistant models for especially demanding firefighting environments, and LCX-EL® “ExtraLife” models with possible 30-year lifespans (based on ongoing compliance with special permit provisions). Luxfer also introduces its SuperNatural™ line of highly corrosion-resistant aluminum scuba tanks.
Luxfer consolidates all its US composite cylinder operations, including the former Hydrospin aluminum liner plant, into a single, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Riverside, California, and moves all US aluminum cylinder operations to its Graham, North Carolina, plant. The company introduces its TradeUp™ program for aluminum medical and industrial cylinders.
Luxfer and Uttam Air Products, a leading gas manufacturer in India, sign an agreement that creates Luxfer Uttam India (LUI) to manufacture aluminum cylinders in that country. A new LUI factory opens in New Delhi a year later. After an intensive planning session, a global management team produces the third Luxfer Strategy Map.