Thinking Citizen Blog —The Miracle of Glass Making — The Story of Two Machines That Changed The World

John Muresianu
4 min readMay 24

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Thinking Citizen Blog — Tuesday is Economics, Finance, and Business Day

Today’s Topic: The Miracle of Glass Making —The Story of Two Machines That Changed The World

Last week the story of Nike, Phil Knight, Michael Jordan, and Deloris Jordan. Today, the story of two machines that led to two companies having dominant market shares in two segments of the glass industry — bottles and light bulbs. The bottle-making machine, developed in the 1890s, was the work of Michael Joseph Owens (1859 -1923) who dropped out of school at age 10 to become a glass-making apprentice. The Owens-Illinois company today has roughly a 50% share of the glass container market globally. The bulb-making machine (called the “Ribbon Machine”) was the product of the collaboration between glass-maker William J. Woods and engineer David E. Gray in the 1920s. “Incredibly efficient, seven ribbon machines all owned or controlled by Corning were able to produce all lamp bulbs that were needed in the world during the 1950s and 1960s.” Do you have a story of a mind-blowing machine to share? Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

THE BOTTLE MAKING MACHINE — ONLY TWO MEN: 2,500 BOTTLES PER HOUR!

1. “The most significant advance in glass production in almost 2000 years…” (American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1983)

2. “From the surface of a pot of molten glass, a piston pump sucked up a heated gob and pulled that gob into a mold, the then the pump reversed to blow the glass into the shape of the mold.” (Carlsson, p.109)

3. “Although the Owens bottling machine was complex — it ultimately involved over 9,000 parts — it could be operating by two men and those two men, with that machine, could turn out 2,500 bottles an hour.”

THE LIGHT BULB MAKING MACHINE — AKA “THE RIBBON MACHINE” (1926)

1. “While Thomas Edison perfected the first practical and durable filament in 1879, it was not until much later that electricity left the laboratory to become the universal source of light.” (second link below)

2. “This required a tremendous number of glass envelopes for light bulbs.”

3. “In the 1890s the top speed of the finest glass-blowing team produced two bulbs a minute. In 1926 Corning Glass Works developed the ribbon machine, capable of producing up to two thousand light bulbs a minute.”

MORE DETAILS ON THE RIBBON MACHINE — from 300 to 1,600 bulbs per minute

1. “By moving a ribbon of glass across a sequence of orifice plates and molds, into which air is blown to form the light bulb envelope, the machine produces a constant stream of bulbs.”

2. “By 1926, the Corning Ribbon Machine could produce up to 300 light bulbs per minute, hour after hour, day after day. “

3. “Continued innovation led, in 1998, to a ribbon machine able to produce over 1,600 bulbs per minute.”

NB: “As late as the 1970s, almost every light bulb in the world was produced by just 15 ribbon machines scattered around the globe.” “The ribbon machine could also be fitted with a variety of molds for producing other hollow glass objects, such as holiday ornaments, table lamps, and automobile lamps.” “Changes in lighting, with the transition to fluorescent and, more recently, LED bulbs have dramatically reduced the demand for incandescent bulbs.”

SOURCES

W. Bernard Carlson, “Understanding the Inventions that Changed the World” (Chapter 24, “Steel, Glass, and Plastics”

All About Glass | Corning Museum of Glass

https://www.asme.org/about-asme/engineering-history/landmarks/81-corning-ribbon-machine

Michael Joseph Owens — Wikipedia

Corning Inc. — Wikipedia

O-I Glass — Wikipedia

The Ribbon Machine: A Corning invention that revolutionized how lightbulbs were made

The machine that lit up the world

Owens Corning — Wikipedia

https://www.asme.org/wwwasmeorg/media/resourcefiles/aboutasme/who%20we%20are/engineering%20history/landmarks/81-corning-ribbon-machine.pdf

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?

ATTACHMENTS BELOW:

#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

PDF with headlines — Google Drive

YOUR TURN — Please share:

a.) the coolest thing you learned this week related to business, economics, finance.

b.) the coolest thing you learned in your life related to business, economics, finance.

c.) anything at all related to business, economics, finance.

d.) anything at all

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John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.