Specialized in press moulded glass, as opposed to blown or flat glass, Holophane has delivered high-quality glass solutions for almost a full century. The company was created in 1921 following the merger of UK-based Holophane Ltd. with a French manufacturer to establish a production plant in Les Andelys in Normandy in northern France.
Since then, Holophane has processed glass, using press moulding, into a wide variety of products for automotive, lighting, industrial, decorative and architectural applications. Today, the company is a global leader in automotive fog lamps and aspherical lenses with customers in more than 40 countries worldwide and two highly automated production sites in France and China.
Both Holophane in France and its Chinese subsidiary belong to a US-based holding group, which is owned by a major private equity fund. What sets the company apart from the competition is its unique combination of press moulding and optical technology. “Integrating advanced optics into pressed glass is one of our main competitive strengths,” says Sales Director Nicolas Michelat.
In addition to pressure moulding and optical technology, Holophane masters several other important processes required for delivering high-quality Holophane glass products, such as thermal tempering, surface treatment and plastic overmoulding of glass components.
Holophane turns over 50 million EUR and employs a total of 550 people, including 250 at the company’s Chinese manufacturing plant. The company processes liquid glass by means of pressure moulding in three shifts round the clock. “We produce about 50 million Holophane glass components a year,” states Mr. Michelat.
Approximately 85% of its products go the automotive sector, as glass components for car lighting systems and fog lights and as aspherical lenses for HID, halogen and LED lamps. Other applications include glass covers for water meters, solar concentrators for photovoltaic systems, street lighting glass, lenses for LED lighting, decorative glass tiles, spotlights, glass caps for fragrance bottles, art deco-style glass lighting globes and collectors’ glass marbles.
Holophane ships almost 90% of its glass products abroad. “Our main international markets are China and Japan, which account for 40% each of our overall exports,” explains Mr. Michelat. “The rest is distributed worldwide.”
With the automobile industry as its primary market, Holophane is committed to implementing the latest trends in automotive lighting and supporting its customers in achieving a competitive advantage through differentiation.
“Car lighting systems are becoming more and more intelligent, with new technologies such as LED or laser lighting, adaptive headlights and other value-adding technical features,” Mr. Michelat describes the development in the sector. “At the same time, car lights are a major design element and have a great impact on the vehicle’s entire appearance. This is why they are designed to give the car an individual face in order to differentiate them from competitors’ products. With our Holophane glass processing capabilities, we offer solutions that meet these requirements and accompany our customers in the automotive industry to achieve a sustainable differentiation advantage.”
Holophane offers decades of experience in press moulding glass and has sufficient production capacity to meet its customers’ component demands from Europe to Asia.
“Our plants in France and China are highly automated to ensure high production output at consistently high quality, which is an absolute must as a supplier to the automotive industry,” says Mr. Michelat. Holophane serves its customers wherever they are. In fact, the company’s products can be found across the globe, though not necessarily in car production facilities.
“Most airports have a boutique of the luxury brand Hermes,” explains Mr. Michelat, who spends a lot of time travelling around the world visiting existing and potential customers. “The boutiques are all furnished in the same design, and we supply them with art deco-style dome lights. In this way, Holophane glass can be admired on every continent.”
Holophane also has its own research and development unit to perform technical simulations and product tests. The company wants to use its strengths to continue being a strong development and engineering partner to internationally operating carmakers.
At the same time, the French glass press moulding experts are targeting other promising, non-automotive market segments. “We see great potential for our products beyond the automotive sector, especially in the areas of design and solar optics,” states Mr. Michelat. “Lighting systems are being used more and more as a design feature, such as in public spaces or at events like concerts or exhibitions. The number of applications for Holophane glass is almost unlimited. And we are the ideal partner for bringing these to fruition and providing our customers with a perfectly individual, ‘entirely luminous’ solution.”