James Gray 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.
J Pennycuick 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 (today “Pennycuick-style” insulators are valuable collectors’ items).
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 serviceable 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.
On March 20, the new company undergoes yet another—and propitious—name change, becoming the Luxfer Prism Company. Early Luxfer advertisements explain that the name is a combination of two Latin words: “lux” (light) and “ferre” (to carry or bear)—so “Luxfer” means “light bearer.” The well-financed new company opens its first factory in Chicago and begins producing prismatic tiles that quickly become known as “Luxfers.”
The company invests heavily in marketing and promotion, advertising in building and architectural publications throughout North America and coining the term “daylighting” to describe the use of Luxfer prisms. The product is immediately successful, receiving accolades from numerous architectural journals, such as the prestigious Inland Architect magazine, in which this statement appears in 1897: “To characterize this new prism as one of the most remarkable improvements of the century in its bearing on practical architecture, is to speak but mildly. 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 is 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.
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 subsidiaries to come, the parent company changes its name to the American Luxfer Prism Company.
Crew and Basquin publish their popular, 282-page 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. The handbook contains more than 70 photographs of actual Luxfer prism installations in 11 U.S. states and Canada, along with numerous testimonial letters from customers praising Luxfer products—an indication of how quickly use of Pennycuick’s invention spread in only a year.
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. . . .”
New 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, further 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 fireproof glazed windows 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, floors and cellar ceilings; dome lights and skylights installed on roofs; and decorative and ornamental tile designs. Luxfer prisms are particularly popular in cities and towns in which electricity is not yet widely available.
On January 9, 1901, James Gray Pennycuick, inventor of the Luxfer prism, dies in Toronto, Canada, at the age of 68 after having seen his invention succeed spectacularly around the world.
Early in the new century, the Luxfer operation in London begins producing metal casements for windows—the company’s first metal products and a harbinger of the future.
During World War I, the British government calls upon Luxfer 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 Limited (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 admitting natural light into rooms. In England, Luxfer begins manufacturing ready-glazed, metal-framed windows as well as additional metal products, including sheet-steel shelving, cabinets and office furniture. By the end of the decade, Luxfer glass product businesses in North America and Europe have ceased production, and the British business is focused on metal products.
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 being used in factory-made houses that help assuage the housing shortage caused by wartime bombing. This new process later leads to production of extruded metal products, including steel and aluminum tubing.
Luxfer tubing products—used in automobiles, aircraft, scaffolding and a variety of home and office equipment (including Hoover vacuum cleaners)—are being produced at a factory in the Colwick suburb in the eastern part of Greater Nottingham, England.
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. William (Bill) Page, Managing Director of Luxfer Ltd., realizes that this new technology could be used to make aluminum cylinders, and he and his colleagues embark on an extensive research and development program.
Using its proprietary extrusion technology, Luxfer produces the world’s first cold-extruded, seamless, high-pressure aluminum cylinders. Bill Page personally leads the sales effort to introduce these new products, initially targeting the beverage industry in England, which primarily uses steel cylinders at the time.
Lightweight, corrosion-resistant Luxfer aluminum cylinders grow in popularity in the beverage industry, and the company expands its product range to include cylinders for other high-pressure applications, including industrial gases, medical oxygen, fire extinguishers, breathing air for firefighters and rescue personnel and various automotive and aviation uses. Bill Page travels around the world, bringing Luxfer cylinders to new countries and markets.
Luxfer Ltd. sells its remaining non-cylinder product lines to concentrate on its rapidly expanding cylinder business and changes its name to Luxfer Gas Cylinders.
Bill Page convinces Alcan Aluminium Limited (Canada) to begin manufacturing aluminum cylinders at its existing facility in Riverside, California, and Alcan enters into a licensing agreement with Luxfer Gas Cylinders. A few experimental cylinders are made late in the year.
The first 55,000 Luxfer-Alcan commercial cylinders are manufactured and sold to various markets in the USA and Canada.
In collaboration with pioneering undersea explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau—inventor of the original Aqua-Lung® diving equipment and chairman of U.S. Divers—Luxfer produces the world’s first aluminum scuba tank.
On June 23, 1973, Luxfer USA is formed, and Bill Page appoints Don Borden as president of the new subsidiary company.
Alcan acquires Luxfer Gas Cylinders. Luxfer also enters into a licensing agreement with Commonwealth Industrial Gases (CIG), a subsidiary of British Oxygen Company (BOC), to manufacture aluminum cylinders at the CIG plant in Sydney, Australia (also see 1997, below).
Luxfer begins manufacturing higher-pressure hoop-wrapped composite cylinders with fiberglass-reinforced walls. Because these cylinders can hold more air under higher pressure, they become popular as part of self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment used by firefighters.
Luxfer introduces high-pressure, even lighter-weight composite cylinders fully wrapped with fiberglass (and later Kevlar®), and these products also prove to be particularly well suited for firefighter SCBA kits, as well as for first-responder life-support applications, including oxygen containment.
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.
Luxfer opens a new aluminum cylinder factory in Graham, North Carolina USA. (Also see 2008, below.)
John Rhodes becomes President of Luxfer Gas Cylinders North America.
Alcan sells Luxfer Gas Cylinders, as well as other downstream operations, to a group of former Alcan managers and outside investors, who form a new multi-national company with an old name: British Aluminium (BA). (The original BA, founded in England in 1894, had been acquired in 1982 by Alcan, which had changed the company name to British Alcan Ltd.). John Rhodes becomes president of Luxfer Gas Cylinders.
The owners of the “new” British Aluminium rename their company Luxfer Group to reflect a global identity in keeping with the company’s holdings around the world and future aspirations. (See more on Luxfer Group in 2012, below.)
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, aerospace and inflation.
Luxfer acquires CIG Gas Cylinders in Sydney, Australia. Prior to the acquisition, CIG had manufactured aluminum cylinders under a licensing agreement with Luxfer (see 1976, above).
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. Prior to the acquisition, Hydrospin had been Luxfer’s primary liner supplier.
John Rhodes becomes President of Luxfer Gas Cylinders worldwide.
Luxfer acquires French cylinder manufacturer Société Métallurgique de Gerzat (SMG) from Pechiney and subsequently renames the company Luxfer France. The plant is located in Gerzat, a small town in central France. (Also see 1939-45, above.)
Luxfer carbon composite cylinders become the first to be granted a five-year retest cycle by the U.S. Department of Transportation. At the time, all other carbon composite cylinders must be retested every three years.
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 (also see 2006, below).
Luxfer introduces its patented L7X® higher-strength aluminum alloy in Europe. The alloy is first used to make ultra-lightweight medical gas cylinders.
Luxfer introduces its line of Type 3 (aluminum-lined) carbon composite cylinders for alternative fuel (AF) vehicles that run on compressed natural gas (CNG).
Luxfer introduces the Luxfer Limited, the world’s first composite (hoop-wrapped) scuba cylinder with a pressure rating of 300 bar or 4,350 psi (compared to 200 bar or 3,000 psi for conventional aluminum scuba tanks).
Luxfer introduces its patented L7X® higher-strength aluminum alloy. The alloy is first used to make higher-pressure (200-bar or 3,000-psi) medical oxygen cylinders that provide up to 50 percent more oxygen in a package no larger than conventional cylinders.
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 (also see 2006, below).
In special ceremonies in Barcelona, Spain, 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. When presenting the award, Dr. Norton identified Luxfer Gas Cylinders as a “truly strategy-focused organization” and referred to Luxfer’s “breakthrough performance results.”
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 opens a new facility in California for manufacturing carbon composite alternative fuel (AF) cylinders to be used in trucks and buses, as well as for storage and transportation of compressed natural gas (CNG).
Luxfer introduces its LCX-SL® “SuperLight” product line, the world’s lightest-weight carbon composite life-support cylinders. In the same year, the company launches two more life-support cylinders: LCX-XD®, “XtremeDuty” impact-resistant models for especially demanding firefighting environments, and LCX-EL® “ExtraLife” models with 30-year lifespans (based on ongoing compliance with special permit provisions).
Luxfer introduces its SuperNatural™ line of unpainted, highly corrosion-resistant aluminum scuba tanks.
Luxfer consolidates all its U.S. 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 U.S. aluminum cylinder operations to its Graham, North Carolina, plant.
Luxfer Gas Cylinders and Uttam Air Products, a leading gas manufacturer in India, sign a joint-venture agreement that creates Luxfer Uttam India (LUI) to manufacture aluminum cylinders in that country. Work begins on a new manufacturing facility in New Delhi.
After an intensive planning session, a global management team produces the third Luxfer Strategy Map (also see 2006, above).
Andrew (Andy) Butcher, who joined Luxfer in 1991, is named President of Luxfer Gas Cylinders North America.
High-pressure Luxfer oxygen cylinders made from patented L7X® higher-strength aluminum alloy are used in the successful rescue in Chile of 33 copper miners trapped 2,300 feet (700 meters) underground for more than two weeks after a disastrous mine collapse. The rescue effort gains worldwide attention.
The new Luxfer Uttam India manufacturing facility opens in New Delhi.
Luxfer employees in Nottingham, England, work many extra hours to provide urgently needed oxygen cylinders to Japan in the aftermath of the massive 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11.
In September, Luxfer acquires Dynetek, a Calgary, Canada-based manufacturer of composite cylinders for containment of compressed natural gas (CNG) for the alternative fuel (AF) market, as well as high-pressure cylinders and valves for containment of hydrogen used for fuel-cell vehicles and for power generation. The former Dynetek manufacturing facility in Calgary, Canada, is renamed Luxfer Canada.
In October, Luxfer Group, parent company of Luxfer Gas Cylinders, lists on the New York Stock Exchange under the trading symbol LXFR. Other Luxfer Group companies are Magnesium Elektron, MEL Chemicals and Superform (for more information about Luxfer Group today, visit www.luxfer.com ).
Luxfer Gas Cylinders enters into a joint venture with GTM to make and market gas storage modules. The name of the new venture is Luxfer-GTM Technologies, Inc. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, GTM operates a manufacturing facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Luxfer introduces its improved Type 3 (aluminum-lined) carbon composite cylinders for alternative fuel applications under the name G-Stor™ Pro.
Luxfer Gas Cylinders wins the 2013 gold medal from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) for making “a significant contribution to the industrial application of materials.” The prestigious award is presented at a ceremony in London attended by senior managers from Luxfer Group and Luxfer Gas Cylinders.
Luxfer introduces its exclusive SGS™ (Superior Gas Stability) aluminum cylinder internal surface for specialty gas applications in which gas purity and stability are critical.
Andrew (Andy) Butcher is named President of Luxfer Gas Cylinders worldwide, succeeding John Rhodes.
Luxfer managers from around the world update the company’s Strategy Map.
Luxfer introduces its new Type 4 (polymer-lined) carbon composite cylinders for alternative fuel (AF) applications under the name G-Stor™ Go, becoming the first major cylinder manufacturer to make both Type 3 and Type 4 AF cylinders.
Luxfer-GTM Technologies, Inc. (see 2013, above) introduces two new products: its patented, pickup-towable GTM1350 Refueler for dispensing high-pressure compressed natural gas (CNG) and its G-Pak™ systems for storing and transporting a variety of gases, including CNG and hydrogen, at pressures up to 5,000 psig (345 bar).
Luxfer-HEI (formerly HyPerComp Engineering Inc.) joins the Luxfer Gas Cylinders team. The company specializes in very high-pressure, ultra-lightweight vessels for containment of gases used in aerospace and military applications.
Green Alternative Systems (GAS) picks Luxfer G-Stor™ Pro Type 3 carbon composite cylinders for a fleet of Freightliner work trucks to run on environmentally friendly compressed natural gas (CNG). The vehicles become part of a growing fleet of CNG-powered package delivery trucks deployed by a major transportation company.
Luxfer provides lightweight CNG systems for the Iveco bus fleet that carries visitors at Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy.
Luxfer introduces its second-generation of G-Stor™ Go Type 4 (polymer-lined) carbon composite alternative fuel cylinders. Featuring patented boss technology, the new GEN2 cylinders offer more gas volume and significant weight savings compared to competitive products.
Tests from two separate independent laboratories confirm the outstanding gas stability provided by Luxfer’s exclusive SGS™ (Superior Gas Stability) aluminum cylinder internal surface for demanding specialty gas applications in which gas purity and stability are critical.
Tony Edwards, Managing Director of Luxfer Europe, is named President of the British Compressed Gas Association. BCGA member companies, including Luxfer, employ 19,000 people and produce annual combined revenue of about £3 billion.
Luxfer Uttam India (LUI), the joint venture between Luxfer Gas Cylinders and the Uttam Group, introduces to the Indian market Luxfer’s latest G-Stor™ Pro Type 3 (aluminum-lined) lightweight, high-pressure carbon composite cylinders for containment of environmentally friendly compressed natural gas (CNG) to power trucks, buses and other natural gas vehicles.