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The Availability of Pyrex and Pyrex Blanks – There will be no shortage of Low Expansion Borosilicate Glass
(Market Overview by: Newport Glass Works, Ltd.)

The trademark name “Pyrex” was registered by Corning Inc. to designate its low expansion borosilicate glass (LEBG) with a expansion coefficient of 3.3 x  10^-7 cm/cm/degrees C. Up until three years ago, Corning produced Pyrex or low expansion borosilicate glass in many forms. One of the forms was large rolled sheets which ranged in thicknesses from 1/8 inch to 2.250 inches for industrial and optical applications.

In 2006, Corning decided to discontinue making Pyrex in the large rolled sheet format. Once the decision was made, Corning notified its distributors that it was discontinuing its Pyrex sheet line and it would make its last production run at the end 2006. Corning encouraged all of its distributors to stock up on the material. In response to Corning’s action, the distributors and other end users purchased all of the sheet material that Corning could make in the last production run.  It is from this stock pile that Corning’s distributors have been able to meet the market demands to date. But this stockpile is near depletion.

When Corning made the announcement that it was discontinuing its Pyrex sheet production, its international competitors who made equivalent low expansion borosilicate glass began developing products for the industrial market that Corning was preparing to leave. Overall, the low expansion borosilicate glasses made by these companies were similar in chemical compositions and had the same thermal expansion coefficient as Corning’s Pyrex. However, they did not have the capacity to melt large blocks or sheets in the size that Corning did. Their primary products were laboratory and culinary ware. The announcement had caught everyone off guard and had left Corning’s competitors with the task of deciding how they could best service the industrial market that was being abandoned by Corning.

As of September 2009, there are two or three international companies that will be offering low expansion borosilicate glass in either strip form or in sheet form to meet the needs of the industrial and optical markets. Of these companies, it was Schott Technical Glass Solutions GmbH that purchased Corning’s roller line and moved it to a Schott plant in Germany. Schott now has the roller line in full operation and is offering low expansion borosilicate sheets through its distributors. These rolled sheets are being made in the same length and width that Corning had made them in. However, the rolled sheets are available only in seven thicknesses that range been 1.125 inches to 2.625 inches. The rolled material is being marketed under the trademarked name of Supremax 33. For sheets that are thinner than 1.125 inches in thickness, Schott offers its equivalent material (made using the float process and not the rolled process) under the trademarked name of Borofloat. Both of these low expansion borosilicate materials, i.e., Supremax 33 and Borofloat, have an expansion coefficient of 3.3 x 10^-7 cm/cm/degrees C and are basically the same chemical composition with different trademark names.

In addition to Schott’s material, there are two other low expansion borosilicate glass manufacturers.  Both manufacturers’ offer their material in strip or block form. Both materials tend to have more striae, inclusions and bubbles than the material made by Schott. One of the materials is reported to have an expansion coefficient of 3.3 while the other has a slightly higher coefficient of expansion of 3.7. While these materials may not be suitable for certain optical projects, they may be useful for industrial applications and glass tooling.

The only other difference between these materials and Corning’s Pyrex material is their cost. Once Corning had decided not to rebuild its Pyrex melt tanks that were used to make the large Pyrex sheets, it stopped adjusting its Pyrex sheet prices. As a result the Pyrex sheet pricing did not reflect the true market price after 2005. With this in mind, the end user should expect a price jump for the replacement material. This price jump is going to reflect the fact that energy costs have increased since Corning stopped making the material. This price jump will also reflect the costs of the new melting facilities and the current raw material costs. Also, mixed into the price jump will be the effects of the currency exchange rates as the replacement material enters the United States (All of the replacement raw material is foreign made).

Currently, there is very little pricing difference between the three foreign suppliers when all factors are considered. The pricing, shipping terms and conditions being quoted on the replacement material appears to be approximately the same from all three foreign manufacturers.

As for the end users, they should not be affected by the transition from Pyrex sheet material to the replacement material that is entering the market. Other than the shift in trademark names, Schott’s material matches or exceeds that quality of the Pyrex sheets that were available from Corning at the end of its last production run.

From a distributor and a fabricator perspective, both Newport Glass Works, Ltd. and Newport Industrial Glass, Inc., will continue to offer “Pyrex” parts and sheets from equivalent replacement material. Newport will be stocking and distributing Schott’s Supremax 33 and Borofloat in lieu of “Pyrex”. They will also offer “Pyrex” replacement material in strip form made by other manufacturers.

Both Newport Glass Works, Ltd. and Newport Industrial Glass, Inc. still have a limited stock of Pyrex material in different sizes that will be offered to meet specific requests until the sizes are sold out.

Please e-mail Newport Industrial Glass, Inc. or Newport Glass Works, Ltd. (sales@newportglass.com) if you have any questions that we can help you with and/or if you need technical information covering any of the “Pyrex” replacement material discussed above.