LEXAN® Resin 50th Anniversary

Happy Birthday: LEXAN® Resin Turns 50!

50 Years After its Discovery, GE’s Amazing LEXAN Polycarbonate
Continues to Improve the Products We Use

PITTSFIELD, Mass., January 29, 2003 – You may not know it by name, but some of the greatest innovations of the past 50 years depended upon it. From man’s first steps on the moon to laptop computers, GE’s LEXAN® resin – one of the most versatile materials in the world – has been an important part of our lives. This year, GE Plastics, a division of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the invention of this innovative material.

LEXAN resin is one of the most widely-used engineered materials in the world and has contributed to product revolutions in virtually every industry. It has helped make cars safer and lighter; enabled the digitization of music and film as CDs and DVDs; and ushered in new design trends in computers, cell phones and literally hundreds of other products. LEXAN resin is widely used in sporting and boating equipment, building and construction materials, commercial and military aircraft and outdoor signage. It also plays a vital role in the security industry in the form of LEXGARD® laminated bullet-resistant window glazing.

It all began with a serendipitous discovery in 1953. After a series of experiments, GE lab chemist Daniel Fox found himself with a gooey substance that hardened in a beaker. Despite his best efforts, Dr. Fox found he could not break or destroy the material. LEXAN polycarbonate was born and has continued to revolutionize our lives, work and play.

Today, Dr. Fox’s “goop” is available in a variety of finishes and over 35,000 colors. In fact, with the help of GE Plastics ColorXpress® color-matching services, its colors are virtually limitless (it can even be made to glow in the dark!). Since 1953, GE Plastics has sold approximately 21 billion pounds of LEXAN resin, and today produces nearly one million metric tons of LEXAN resin each year, serving customers around the world in dozens of industries.

Important dates in the history of LEXAN resin:

1953 – Dr. Daniel Fox invents LEXAN polycarbonate.

1962 – NASA begins using LEXAN resin for both Astronaut Pressure Helmet Assemblies and Astronaut Helmet Visors.

1968 – GE Plastics develops LEXAN sheet. Tougher than glass, LEXAN sheets are now used in applications such as bus and train windows, signs, greenhouses, and bullet-resistant laminates.

1969 – Taillights and indicator lenses made from LEXAN resin are used on European sports cars to add lightweight toughness and durability. This is the first of many uses of LEXAN resin in the automotive industry.

The United States places the first man on the moon on July 20th. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin each wear a “Bubble Helmet” made of LEXAN resin as they take man’s first steps on the moon.

1970s – During the 1970s, football helmet manufacturers begin modeling their helmets using LEXAN resin.

1972 – A new molding process makes it possible to manufacture products made of LEXAN resin on a huge scale. One of the first uses is a removable roof section for the Jeep® CJ, the largest LEXAN resin application in the 1970s.

1974 – Traffic signal manufacturers begin to replace metal with polycarbonate. Today, both housings and lenses are made from tough, rust-resistant LEXAN resin.

1978 – The first headlamp system made of LEXAN resin debuts on the Dodge Mirada. This breakthrough application leads the way for today’s tough, versatile and aerodynamic headlight systems.

1980s – Starting with the F-14, the U.S. military begins using LEXAN resin in the canopies and windshields of its fighter jets. These jet fighter canopies are built to withstand the impact of objects while approaching the speed of sound.

1980 – Automobile manufacturers begin using LEXAN resin in the production of automotive instrument panels. The use of plastics in automobile interiors allows for a tremendous amount of design flexibility and helps lead to today’s modern, flowing dashboards.

1983 – Computer systems appear in offices around the world. Companies discover they need portable units that can be transported from site-to-site, so computer manufacturers turn to strong, durable and lightweight LEXAN resin for the design of laptop computer housings.

1984 – Compact disc technology is introduced. GE Plastics develops a polycarbonate formula so pure that it allows for the delivery of digital sound with an unbelievably clear quality at a low cost. Soon after, CDs are being sold at “record” stores thanks to LEXAN resin.

1986 – LEXAN sheets are used to create pathways through the Houston Zoo, allowing visitors the opportunity to view the animals in their element – without bars.

1990 – Lightweight, optically clear and extremely durable, LEXAN resin helps make everyday eyewear safer and more comfortable.

1994 – Using LEXAN resin and new thin-wall technology, Motorola once again revolutionizes the cell phone industry by developing the first Micro-TAC® Ultra-Lite mobile phone. The new, smaller phone can fit into a handbag or on a belt clip, but is as tough as its larger counterparts. Soon after, the even smaller Star-TAC® is developed and the “wearable phone” is born.

1995 – Taking thin-wall technology a step further, IBM introduces the IBM Thinkpad® “Butterfly” Notebook computer. Using LEXAN polycarbonate, the designers at IBM produce a laptop computer with an expandable full size keyboard – a first for the industry.

1996 – DVDs, or Digital Video Discs, are made from an ultra-pure LEXAN polycarbonate that allows for both digital quality sound and video images.

1998 – GE Plastics introduces a new line of special effect LEXAN resin grades that forever change the look and feel of the products we use every day. Ranging from translucent to glow-in-the-dark, the new line of LEXAN resin materials allows designers to create entirely new looks and products. The new look is popularized by a leading computer manufacturer who uses a variety of wild colors to accent its new line of PCs. As a result, a design revolution begins in the consumer products industry.

2000 – GE Plastics expands the LEXAN Visualfx™ resin line with a brand-new effect, Edge Glow. The new technology adds a bright accent to CDs, DVDs and bottles, and receives “glowing” reviews from designers everywhere.

2001 – LEXAN SLX resin – a new, high-gloss, scratch-resistant plastic film that could eliminate the need to paint cars, potentially saving the auto industry billions – is introduced. The first commercial application of LEXAN SLX film is the fender of the Segway™ Human Transporter.

Today – Fifty years after its invention, there are even more cutting-edge LEXAN resin innovations on the horizon:

  • Automotive Design – polycarbonate side and rear-view car windows that allow for unprecedented design flexibility, provide greater impact resistance, and reduce overall weight for better gas mileage.
  • DVD Technology – GE Plastics is currently developing new LEXAN resin technology that will be used in a limited play DVD that is currently being evaluated for introduction later this year.
  • Computer/TV Screens – GE Plastics is developing LEXAN resin for use in the computer and wide-screen TV industry. Potential benefits include reduced costs and clearer, sharper images.

About GE Plastics

A division of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), GE Plastics is a leading producer of engineering thermoplastics, with major production facilities worldwide. GE Plastics materials, including LEXAN polycarbonate, are used in a wide variety of applications such as CDs, automobile parts, computer housings, cookware, outdoor signage, cell phones, bullet-resistant shielding and building materials. Through its LNP Engineering Plastics business, the company is a worldwide leader in the custom compounding of engineering thermoplastics. GE Plastics is also a global distributor of resins through GE Polymerland, and of sheet, film, rod and tube products through GE Polymershapes and GE Structured Products. The company’s Web site is located at www.geplastics.com. For information about LEXAN resin, visit www.gelexan.com.

# # #

Visualfx is a trademark and LEXAN, LEXGARD and ColorXpress are registered trademarks of General Electric Company.
Jeep is a registered trademark of DaimlerChrysler.
Thinkpad is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation.
Segway is a trademark of Segway LLC.
Micro-TAC and Star-TAC are registered trademarks of Motorola, Inc.

For more information (press only): Jim Moock
Peppercom for GE Plastics
(212) 931-6158

Cecilia Siu
GE Plastics
(413) 448-6959