A century of innovation
Innovation is at the core of Holophane’s business. Located at the Les Andelys site (Eure), the company was created in the aftermath of the major optics discoveries of the late 19th century.
Late 19th/Early 20th century
Augustin Fresnel invents the eponymous lens. It allows light diffraction and control of light distribution.
Invention of prismatic glassware moulding by André Blondel (based on the Fresnel lens principle). The invention was patented under the name “Holophane”, the Greek root meaning “balanced light distribution”.
Purchase of the patent by an American businessman, Otis Mygatt, who creates two companies on each side of the Atlantic for the production and sale of Holophane products:
- Holophane Glass Cie (USA): manufacture/sale
- Holophane LIMITED (UK): sale
In 1920, birth of Holophane SA
The UK company (Holophane Limited) is merged with a French manufacturer to create a production site and install a glassmaker at Les Andelys. Holophane SA was born.
Les Andelys: a strategic site
Located in Normandy, near to Paris and the Seine, the glassmaker is located in the buildings of an old factory, initially used for woodworking then as a drapery.
The 1920s: changing expertise and various applications
In the 1920s, Holophane based its development on the glass expertise of employees from the East, notably Baccarat, with its common thread being the development of Fresnel optics, styling and glass transparency.
- Street lighting,
- Art glass (blown glass under the Verrerie des Hanots brand),
- Optical units for lights and beacons,
- Road signage,
- Flat lights for cars.
Independence and development of new markets
Otis Mygatt sold Holophane SA (France) to Comte Exelmans, the 3 Holophane companies became independent, each of them addressing their own market.
It was start of the industrialisation which accompanies the premises of a growing market: the car.
Holophane still produced blown glass, but pressed glass became increasingly important. It allowed the opening of new markets linked to styling and safety.
Rapid expansion due to the automotive industry
In twenty years, Holophane’s glass production increased ten-fold from 50 tonnes/month at the end of the 1940s to 630 tonnes/month in the 1960s. In a few years, the company, which then had 900 employees, saw its turnover increase four-fold.
The company stopped producing glassware to focus on three major markets:
- Lighting (chandeliers, street lighting, public and private): it accounted for 50% of turnover,
- Special glasswork: viewfinders, studio projectors, trays for refrigerators, dentistry, electric meter covers…
- Automotive industry: the burgeoning industry marked the start of automation.
Holophane then developed convex lights (1945) and pressed prism optics (1950).
Holophane also invented ribbed lights. It became a key player in the automotive lighting market with a production of 700,000 lights per year.
This period also marked the start of mass production and partial automation.
The company also looked for new areas for development, particularly overseas, and with the creation of Europhane (1979), a new entity totally dedicated to chandeliers and public lighting.
Innovations in major processes
The UK group EMI THORN bought the two companies Holophane and Europhane, then sold Holophane to the French company SEDIVER.
Holophane is assigned by SEDIVER to its management.
The car saw a new development with the arrival of plastic as a substitution for glass in main lighting.
Holophane reinvented itself to adapt to this change: focus was placed on fog lights and aspherical lenses for Xenon lights which were appearing on the market.
As Holophane was independent at the time, the new management focused its activity and its investments on process improvements.
Introduction of glass tempering – a Holophane process innovation which combines mass production and high quality glass. Expansion from 9 to 12 production lines. Implementation of the tempering workshop for large parts.
Aspherical lens production through glass injection, an innovation which revolutionised pressed glass technology.
Following on from the boost in the 1990s, Holophane continued with its strategic development in three areas: products, processes and industrial facilities:
- Production of the first microstructure aspherical lenses
- External developments:
- Brazil: purchase of the glassmaker Prismatic (1999)
- Taiwan: partnership with a local glassmaker (2001)
- China: opening of a factory in Dalian (2002)
- Romania: Opening of a polishing shop as an exclusive industrial partnership.
Exponential growth of the Asian market
The aspherical lenses market experienced strong growth in Asia: lenses increased from one to eight million parts per year between 2002 and 2013. Holophane adapted by regularly increasing the capacity of its Chinese factory.
and the future
Continuously expanding, Holophane invests in new markets and new resources:
- Opening of new markets (LED, Industries, Architecture and Design…)
- Deployment of new processes in Asia and Europe
- Pressing of different types of glass (from preforms or bars)
- Consolidation of development resources (optical engineering, project management, prototyping).