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PPG Industries: Innovation with Impact


Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries is a truly global company. Founded in 1883, it now manufactures in more than 40 countries and does business in more than 70. PPG’s products are concentrated in four categories: Paints and coatings, optical, specialty materials, and glass and fiberglass.

PPG’s corporate tagline is Bringing Innovation to the Surface, and in each of its divisions, the level of innovation is impressive.

In the coatings category, PPG serves industries including automotive, aerospace, marine, industrial coatings, and packaging coatings. In 2013, PPG expanded its Springdale, Pennsylvania plant to accommodate a new electronic materials manufacturing cell. The group manufactures graphene and nano-silver conductive links, which are innovative materials used in the automotive, telecommunications, and medical fields.

In the optical arena, PPG produces optical monomers and coatings, visors and goggles, photochromic dyes, and through a majority-owned joint venture, the Transitions photochromic lenses for eyeglasses.

PPG recently invested $9 million to expand its Barberton, Ohio plant, which makes optical casting resins for eyewear, coatings for passports and silica for a variety of paint and rubber products. The expanded plant will now make organic light-emitted diode (OLED) products. These thin, efficient lighting products are used in smart phones and televisions.

The PPG story began in the glass industry, and their innovation in that field continues today. For example, Dassault Aviation in 2013 announced it will use uniquely curved, lightweight glass windshields and side cockpit windows designed by PPG for the new Falcon 5X business jet. The custom-shaped windshield provides optimal pilot visibility, and uses the company’s Surface Seal coating to shed water. The windows are manufactured in Huntsville, Alabama.

Innovative glass from PPG is playing an important role in sustainable building, as well. The Bullitt Center, an office building in Seattle that has been called the “greenest” structure of its type in the world, features PPG’s Solarban low-emissivity glass and Starphire ultra-clear architectural glass. All of the building’s energy harvesting, water harvesting and treatment, and waste processing can be conducted on-site. Architects chose PPG’s glass product for its balance of thermal, solar control and lighting performance. Solarban is part of a curtain-wall system fabricated by Northwestern Industries in Seattle. Because of the large windows and high ceilings, the building draws 82 percent of its lighting needs from the sun.

PPG’s glass products were also employed at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which was selected for a 2013 Green Design Award. The project used three types of PPG glass to achieve the desired energy-efficiency objectives.

Much can be learned from any company that survives for 130 years, especially one that continues to be a global leader in its product categories. Innovation clearly is one of the driving forces in PPG’s continued success.