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Owens Corning ranks first in innovation

Post Time:Apr 13,2009Classify:Industry NewsView:390

GRANVILLE -- Owens Corning, the company that invented the glass fiber used in insulation, has continued to advance the technology with glass reinforcements that now improve the performance of things such as armored vehicles, sports equipment and wind turbines.

In March, Owens Corning was recognized as the best in innovation in the Building Materials -- Glass category of Fortune's 2009 America's Most Admired Companies list. This was the second year in a row Owens Corning's industry peers ranked its ingenuity first.

Among the inventive minds are the researchers at Owens Corning Science and Technology Center in Granville, the international company's largest research facility and its innovation hub.

"If you look at what's necessary to grow our business over time ... the need to innovate is really important," said Scott Deitz, media spokesman for Owens Corning. "Innovation is a bit of a race without a finish line."

In 2007, Owens Corning introduced a high-performance glass reinforcement, now called WindStrand, that facilitates the construction of larger, stronger wind turbines. The reinforcement also reduces the weight of the blade by 10 percent.

"As you go longer in the blade, you get more efficiency and output," said John Hillenbrand, chief innovation officer for Owens Corning. "As the wind market changes and goes to larger turbines, it requires stronger glass."

Turbines typically possessed blades 20 to 30 meters long. With WindStrand, the blades can be built up to 60 meters long, he said.

The WindStrand reinforcements, which are combined with resins, additives and filler to produce a composite, are used in wind turbines all over the world. Owens' sales to the wind energy market have more than tripled since 2002, Deitz said.

"The vast majority of wind turbines have Owens Corning glass fiber in their blades," he said.

In 2008, wind energy generation capacity in the United States grew by 50 percent, the American Wind Energy Association announced in February. In Ohio, the greatest potential for wind energy is along the Lake Erie coast, according to the trade association.

Barry Hornbacher, Greening Our Operations leader for Owens Corning, said the company's efforts to green its products and its operations have attracted the interest of top researchers, many from Ohio State University. About 340 employees work at the Granville science center.

"We've seen the college students and other recruits show lots of interest," he said. "They are really motivated to do what they do because they see the benefit to society. I've heard many individuals say they were interested in Owens Corning because of that."

Whether those jobs will expand, or even be preserved, is uncertain. In the last few months, the company has had to eliminate jobs at the Granville center, as well as at other locations, Deitz said.

Increased demand for renewable energy, however, certainly would help job creation, he added. The wind energy sector is expected to grow by 20 percent per year.

In addition to its work in composites, the company also has developed new products in its building materials lines, Hillenbrand said. The AtticCat, for example, combines blow-in insulation and lightweight equipment to allow homeowners to improve energy efficiency themselves.

Source: NewarkAdvocate.comAuthor: shangyi

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