Here is a list of some of the world’s top refractory firms, all of which are true industry giants.
Tour Les Miroirs, 18 Avenue d’Alsace
92 096 La Défense Cedex, France
CEO: Pierre-André de Chalendar
Saint-Gobain is a global designer, manufacturer, and distributor of high-performance and building materials, including solar glass, industrial ceramic components, and more. In 2014, the group’s overall net sales (across all business sectors) were €41.1 billion (roughly $45.5 billion), almost flat from the previous year. In 2014, the company spent €400 million ($436.3 million) on research and development. Saint-Gobain filed more than 350 patents in 2014, with 3,700 workers working on R&D at seven locations across the world.
The Innovative Materials segment of Saint-Gobain, which employs almost 59,000 people in over 500 locations across the world and manufactures flat glass, abrasives, ceramics, and refractories, accounted for 22 % net sales in 2014. “Through its innovation potential, network of application engineers, and expertise in materials transformation processes, Saint-Gobain offers solutions specifically tailored to the dynamic automotive, aerospace, health, and energy markets, developed in close collaboration with its customers,” according to the company.
In 2015, Saint-Gobain celebrated its 350th anniversary, which was a significant achievement. Saint-Gobain 1665-2015: The History of the Future was commemorated with a travelling pavilion that visited four major cities across the world, an online exhibition, and a book. (Read “350 Years of Achievements” in our August 2015 issue to discover more about the group’s history.)
“Our history demonstrates that we are a corporation that has continuously pushed back barriers and taken on technological challenges,” said Chairman and CEO Pierre-André de Chalendar. “As we reflect on our past and consider the world and what we do today, we are confident that there are several reasons to be optimistic about the future.”
2. Corning Inc.
One Riverfront Plaza, Corning, NY 14831
CEO: Wendell P. Weeks
Around the world, Corning employs roughly 35,000 employees. North America, Europe, and Asia all have research facilities; R&D spending accounted for 8% of net sales in 2014, surpassing $815 million. In 2014, Corning secured around 400 patents in the United States, as well as more than 750 patents worldwide. “In our Display Technologies segment, we continue to focus on new product development in areas such as glass substrates for high-performance displays, wireless solutions for diverse venue applications in the Optical Communications segment, and advancement of new product attributes for our Corning® Gorilla® glass suite of products in our Specialty Materials segment,” the company says.
Display Technologies (glass substrates for flat panel displays and LCDs), Environmental Technologies (ceramic substrates and filters for automobiles and trucks), and Specialty Materials (formulations for glass, glass ceramics, and fluoride crystals) are just a few of the segments. Display Technologies saw a $1.3 billion gain in net sales, while Environmental Technologies saw a $173 million increase and Specialty Materials saw a $35 million increase in net sales in 2014. Corning’s total net sales in 2014 were $9.7 billion, up 24% from the previous year.
TR Manufacturing, Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.’s fiber optics business, iBwave Solutions, Inc., and Gerresheimer AG’s pharmaceutical glass tubing business were among the main purchases completed by Corning in the last year.
3. AGC Group
1-5-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo 100-8405, Japan
CEO: Kazuhiko Ishimura
The AGC Group is made up of over 190 consolidated subsidiaries and employs over 51,000 people in over 30 countries and regions throughout the world. AGC’s total net sales in 2014 were $1,348 billion ($10.9 billion), up 2.1 percent from the previous year.
Glass (53 % of sales), which includes float, low-e, and automotive glasses; Electronics (22 %), which includes glass substrates for various electronics applications, synthetic quartz glass, and glass frit/paste; Ceramics/Other (2 %), which includes refractory materials, fine ceramics, and sputtering targets; and Chemicals, which includes refractory materials, fine ceramics, and sputtering targets; and Chemicals, which includes refractory materials (23% ).
In September 2014, AGC announced it would invest ¥16 billion (~ $149 million) in subsidiary company PT Asahimas Flat Glass Tbk to set up a state-of-the-art float glass furnace in Jakarta, Indonesia. Mass production of float glass for architectural and automotive applications is expected by the third quarter of 2016.
In April of this year, AGC said that it planned to raise production capacity of solar control low-e glass in Thailand by 50% to fulfil growing demand from the Southeast Asian construction market. The Samut Prakan Plant of AGC Flat Glass Thailand Public Co., Ltd. Is planned to begin expanded production in the first quarter of next year. AGC also stated in April that it would construct a TFT-LCD glass substrates furnace in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China. TFT-LCD panels are still in high demand for usage in TVs, mobile devices, and IT applications. AGC intends to transplant production facilities from Japan for this project, resulting in a significant savings in capital investment. The operation is planned to start in late 2016 or early 2017.
4. Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
10-1, Higashikotari 1-chome, Nagaokakyo-shi Kyoto 617-8555, Japan
CEO: Tsuneo Murata
Murata is a company that specializes in the production of advanced ceramic components for use in electronics. Multilayer ceramic capacitors (MLCCs) and piezoelectric ceramic components, among other things, are made by the company’s almost 52,000 global employees. Total net sales for the 2015 fiscal year (ending March 31, 2015) were $1,040 billion ($8.4 billion), up more than 23% from the previous fiscal year.
Peregrine Semiconductor Corp., one of Murata’s key suppliers for radio frequency (RF) front-end modules, was acquired by Murata Electronics North America, Inc. (a full subsidiary) in December. Murata expects to construct an integrated development system as a result of the acquisition, which will include everything from RF component semiconductor process development to semiconductor design, circuit design, and module design.
For its performance in 2014, Murata was one of 11 firms to obtain Intel Corp.’s Supplier Continuous Quality Improvement (SCQI) award. Murata reportedly provided Intel with MLCCs, inductors, and electromagnetic interference components, as well as SAW filters and RF modules.
Mostafa Aghazadeh, Intel’s vice president for Chandler Assembly Technological Development, said, “Murata has continually worked to assist us fulfil our technology development and affordability concerns throughout 2014.” “They’ve shown a constant readiness to collaborate with Intel on next-generation technologies and platforms…”
5. The NSG Group
Sumitomo Fudosan Mita Twin Building
West Wing, 5-27, Mita 3-Chrome
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-6321, Japan
CEO: Shigeki Mori
With 27,000 people in 28 countries, the NSG Group services customers in more than 130 countries. NSG produces high-performance glass and glazing solutions in three business areas, with total revenue of 626.7 billion (5.2 billion) in its 2015 fiscal year (ended March 31, 2015). Architectural and Building Products (40% of sales), producing products such as solar control glass, self-cleaning glass, and glass for solar applications; Automotive (50 percent); and Technical Glass (10 %). For the fiscal year, the company spent $8.2 billion ($66 million) on research and development.
The Architectural division's operating results improved over the previous fiscal year as a consequence of cost reductions realized as a result of the group’s restructuring initiative, as well as improving market circumstances in North America. The Automotive segment’s revenues increased marginally, owing to a weaker Japanese yen, while earnings fell due to unfavorable market conditions. The Technical Glass division saw a drop in income, owing in part to lower pricing for some goods. Thin glass for display revenues have also suffered as a result of increased competition.
6. Kyocera Corp.
Takeda Tobadono-cho, Fushimi-ku
Kyoto 612-8501, Japan
Chairman: Tetsuo Kuba
Kyocera employs about 70,000 people across its 226 global group enterprises. For the fiscal year ended March 31, 2015, consolidated net sales totaled $1,527 billion ($12.7 billion), up 5.5% from the previous fiscal year. Kyocera earned $2.1 billion in advanced ceramics/glass-related sales in the 2015 fiscal year, according to Elly Yoshikawa, Kyocera’s deputy manager of Corporate Communications. (This figure includes revenue from non-ceramic items, but excludes revenue from the company’s Fine Ceramics and Semiconductor Parts businesses). Total revenue in the company’s consolidated Fine Ceramics sector climbed 13.3 percent year over year, while total revenue in the consolidated Semiconductor Parts segment increased 16%.
Kyocera is stepping up its development of parts for next-generation semiconductor fabrication equipment, which includes equipment for next-generation, larger-dimension silicon wafers, in the industrial machinery industry. The company is working on camera modules for rearview detection and collision avoidance for the automotive market, which is expected to grow in demand due to new safety standards. At the same time, Kyocera is focusing its research and development efforts on ceramic parts for diesel engines that help reduce CO2 and other exhaust gas emissions.
In the environment and energy sector, Kyocera is focusing on solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems and components, which have a lot of potential as new energy supply systems for a low-carbon society, as well as LED-related goods, which are becoming more popular in lighting applications.
In the digital consumer electronics sector, demand for multifunctional smartphones and tablet computers that are also smaller and thinner continues to develop. Electronic components utilized in such equipment are becoming smaller, while semiconductors are becoming more densely integrated, in accordance with this trend. Demand for quicker, higher-capacity infrastructure is increasing in the information and communications network business. Kyocera is aiming to develop new high-value-added products that use its material, design, and stacking expertise to increase its company in response to these market developments. In the ceramic package business, the company is developing high-strength, high-rigidity, ultra-small and thin ceramic packages that use micro-wiring, as well as ceramic packages for optical communications that can operate at higher frequencies.
According to Kyocera’s financial prediction, total consolidated revenue will increase by 4.8 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016. (This projection includes both ceramic and non-ceramic business segments.) There are no separate forecasts for particular company segments).
7. SCHOTT AG
Hattenbergstrasse 10, 55122 Mainz, Germany
Chairman of the Management Board: Frank Heinricht
SCHOTT’s workforce of approximately 15,400 individuals offers specialty glass and glass-ceramics products to customers all over the world. The group’s materials and sophisticated technologies are used in the architecture, pharmaceutical, electronics, transportation, and optical industries, with total sales of roughly €1.9 billion ($2.1 billion) in the 2013/2014 fiscal year (October 1, 2013-September 30, 2014). SCHOTT spent €86 million ($94.2 million) on R&D in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, accounting for 4.6 percent of group sales.
SCHOTT stated in November that it would relocate and concentrate a portion of its optical glass manufacturing from its Duryea, Pa., facility to its Mainz headquarters. The transfer had an influence on the Advanced Optics Division’s optical glass output. The site’s non-continuous melting operations, as well as its function as the division’s North American customer support hub and North America Research & Development Center, were unaffected.
8. Vesuvius plc
165 Fleet St., London EC4A 2AE, England
CEO: FranÇois Wanecq
Vesuvius employs almost 12,000 people in 38 countries around the world, specializing in steel flow management, foundry technology, and sophisticated refractories for a variety of end sectors. The business has 65 production facilities, 84 sales offices, and 16 R&D centers and generated total revenue of £1.4 billion ($2.4 billion) in 2014.
In 2014, Vesuvius spent £26.1 million ($40.5 million), or 1.8 percent of its revenue, on research and development. The company opened a new Global Foundry R&D Centre in Enschede, Netherlands, in December, which will coordinate the R&D efforts of the company’s other sites in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Feignes, France, and Tamworth, United Kingdom. Vesuvius is also building a cutting-edge global center of excellence for steelmaking and foundry refractories in Pittsburgh, as well as a center of excellence for Advanced Refractories in Visakhapatnam, India.
9. CoorsTek, Inc.
16000 Table Mountain Pkwy., Golden, CO 80403
CEO: John K. Coors
CoorsTek employs 6,000 people in 50 locations throughout 14 countries, spanning four continents. Hundreds of technical ceramic items are manufactured by the company for usage in aerospace and defense, semiconductors, oil and gas, automotive, household durables, and heavy sectors including rail, energy, and mining.
CoorsTek completed its acquisition of Covalent Materials, a top Japanese engineered ceramics firm, in January of this year. The acquisition significantly increased CoorsTek’s access to Japanese and other key Asian markets, complementing the company’s existing operations in Japan and South Korea, as well as its North American, European, and South American footprint. Over 10,000 technology and manufacturing customers across all major industrial segments are served by CoorsTek and Covalent. CoorsTek’s newly enlarged business is the semiconductor sector. CoorsTek Semiconductor and Medical has taken over the Covalent facilities.
In June, the firm bought the assets of Cambridge, Ontario-based BLS Textiles, Inc., and merged the company’s DEW Engineering & Development ULC (DEW) subsidiary with the production equipment, technology, and current contracts. DEW is a well-known leader in military vehicle armor up fitting, design, production, and integration, according to reports. DEW and CoorsTek vehicle armor systems were expanded to protect officers across a spectrum of police, security, and law enforcement organizations as a result of the acquisition.
DEW purportedly became the only ballistic door panel producer to pass the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Level III and Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) ballistic protection criteria after acquiring BLS. Several of the most popular police car and utility models in North America have specific OEM solutions that meet these industry criteria for factory and retrofit installation. CoorsTek CeraShield™ ceramic armor is incorporated into a custom insert that transforms a car door into a protective shield in these ballistic door panels.
CoorsTek Membrane Sciences, a developer of ion-conducting ceramic membranes used in direct gas-to-chemicals (GTCh) and gas-to-liquids (GTL) conversion applications, was founded in June. CoorsTek, Ceramatec, and Protia (all CoorsTek firms) have been developing hydrogen transport membrane (HTM) and oxygen transport membrane (OTM) technology for the past two decades and are currently commercializing with energy and chemical industries. CoorsTek designs and manufactures innovative HTM and OTM ceramic membranes in planar and tubular shapes for applications such as GTL, GTCh, micro reactors, oxygen sensors, molecular separation, solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC), and ceramic microchannel heat exchanger (CMHX).
10. RHI AG
Wienerbergstraße 9, Vienna, Austria 1100
CEO: Franz Struzl
RHI serves over 10,000 clients globally across the full refractories value chain, from raw materials to completed products, with over 8,000 people, 32 manufacturing locations, and more than 70 sales offices. Steel, cement, nonferrous metals, glass, energy, and chemicals are among the industries supplied. RHI manufactures over 1.9 million tons of refractory products each year and offers a wide range of tailored product and system solutions.
In 2014, total sales were €1.7 billion ($1.9 billion), a small decrease from the previous year. RHI submitted 21 new patent applications in 2014, and the company spends more than 1% of its revenue on research and development.
RHI declared in September of last year that their purchase of a raw material factory and mining rights in Erzurum, Turkey, from the Chihan Group (announced in April 2014) through subsidiary Magnesit Anonim Sirketi will not go through. Several contract terms, according to RHI, were not met even after several deadline extensions.
11. Morgan Advanced Materials
Quadrant, 55-57 High St., Windsor
Berkshire SL4 1LP, England
CEO: Pete Raby
Silicon carbide seals and piezo electrics are among Morgan Advanced Materials’ offerings, as are lightweight armor systems and insulating refractories. Transportation, electronics, defense, medical, and energy are among the industries served. Morgan employs over 9,000 people globally and operates over 100 manufacturing plants in over 30 countries.
In 2014, the group’s total sales was £921.7 million ($1.4 billion), down 3.8% from the previous year. (Revenue increased by 1.8% in constant currency.) Morgan boosted its research and development spending by more than 11% in 2014, to £21.7 million ($33.8 million), or 2.3 percent of revenues.
The Canadian government granted Morgan’s Composites and Defense Systems subsidiary two body armor development contracts in October 2014, focusing on a next-generation lightweight, low-profile, higher-performing design for personal armor plates. Morgan announced the move of its Composites and Defense Systems company to Burlington, Ontario, in the same month, in order to expand its capabilities in advanced composite hard armor, soldier systems, vehicle armor, lightweight vehicle technologies, and aerospace armor.
Morgan stated in March that it had extended its design and manufacturing capabilities for ceramic pockets that store medical device circuits. The company’s improved CNC machining skills, according to reports, allow it to produce alumina ceramic pockets with tighter tolerances and shorter lead times. Morgan uses a ceramic injection mold technology to create higher-strength yttria-stabilized zirconia pockets for extremely small medical devices with thinner walls.
Following increased demand from the oil and gas sector, Morgan announced a significant investment in its capability to construct high-specification hydro cyclone liners at its site in Rugby, Warwickshire, in July. To meet rising demand from oilfields in Southeast Asia and Africa, the investment included the hiring of five new personnel as well as the expansion of kiln and grinding capacity.
12. PPG Industries
One PPG Place, Pittsburgh, PA 15272
CEO: Michael H. McGarry
Coatings, specialty materials, glass, and fiber glass are all made by PPG. PPG employs more than 46,000 people worldwide and maintains 141 manufacturing plants in 44 countries.
In 2014, total net sales were $15.4 billion, an increase of 8% over the previous year. The glass business, which services industries like construction, transportation, electronics, and energy, generated $1.1 billion in net sales last year. Sales in the glass segment increased by 4% this year as a result of higher sales volumes and price. PPG spent $509 million on research and development in 2014, up from $479 million the year before (3 percent of sales).
PPG stated in June that at its float glass factory in Fresno, Calif., it would increase production capacity and deploy oxy-fuel furnace technology for its Starphire® ultra-clear glass product. PPG head of marketing for flat glass Patrick J. Kenny remarked at the time, “As far as we know, Starphire glass will be the first ultra-low-iron glass in the world created on an oxy-fuel float glass line.” “Architects and product designers who wish to employ the most sustainable products available will find this existing Cradle to Cradle Certified product much more appealing.”
In September, PPG sold nearly all of the assets of its Mount Zion, Illinois, float glass manufacturing facility to Fuyao Glass America Inc., an automobile glass manufacturer. The sale was in line with PPG’s flat glass business’ strategic commitment to concentrate on higher-technology, coated glass capabilities for residential and commercial construction applications, as per the company.