GE Engineer Recounts Untold Story of Inspiration and Invention on 10th Anniversary of GE Reveal® Bulb Introduction

Hard-earned path to GE Reveal introduction in October 2001 includes a U.S. patent in 1984 and the discovery of a small colored-glass company near Barcelona, Spain in 1994
 
EAST CLEVELAND, OH (October 20, 2011) — On October 21, 1879, Thomas Alva Edison revolutionized our way of life with a successful test of the first practical commercial light bulb. Now, 132 years later, GE Lighting is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Reveal® light bulb, an icon in home lighting known for its color-popping properties. Like any great invention, the road to success for this first-of-its-kind bulb began long before the first Reveal bulb hit store shelves.

“Like most things, it started by accident,” says Juliana Reisman, an engineer with GE Lighting. Reisman was one of the first engineers to develop and test GE’s first neodymium light bulbs. Incandescent and energy-efficient halogen Reveal bulbs use the element neodymium “baked into” the bulb’s glass to filter out the dull, yellow rays that are produced by standard incandescent bulbs.
 
Originally, Bill James, another GE engineer, had attempted to create a bulb with a neodymium oxide coating, even getting a U.S. patent on Neodymium Oxide Vitreous Coating in 1984. The coating, however, was too thick, preventing a significant amount of light from shining through.  

“He demonstrated the correct filtering properties of the neodymium oxide,” says Reisman, “but the process couldn’t be implemented into a practical product that would still transmit a significant amount of light.”

While the coating wouldn’t work, it was far from the end of the idea. Potential demand was created when a customer requested a colored aquarium bulb that would make his fish look better. Then, while attending a trade show in 1994—10 years after James had secured a patent—Reisman came into contact with a small glass company that made colored-glass bulbs: Cristalerias de Mataró located about 20 miles outside of Barcelona, Spain.

Because the neodymium oxide had to be dispersed into the glass during the melting process, prototypes of the bulbs couldn’t be made in the laboratory. Cristalerias de Mataró’s bulbs were different sizes, and glass molds had to be specially made to ensure the bulbs could be manufactured in GE’s factories. The GE team worked closely with Cristalerias de Mataró to develop the perfect concentration of neodymium oxide in the glass melt.

The process worked. In 1995, just one year after connecting with Cristalerias de Mataró, GE launched Enrich®, its first line of color-popping bulbs.
 
“We saw a unique value proposition for GE in the Enrich line,” said Kathy Sterio, general manager of North American Commercial Services, GE Lighting. Sterio was the commodity manager for glass and chemicals at the time.

“It was a risk for us to put a product out there that was different and more expensive. There wasn’t a product like it on the market and we were asking our customers to take a real interest in lighting,” says Sterio.

Reveal Today
Reisman notes that the Enrich product, a quietly introduced niche offering, did significantly better than expected. Customers liked how the light enhanced their spaces. Based on positive customer feedback, GE devoted itself to further developing and marketing the product. In 2001, it changed the name of the product line from Enrich to Reveal, engaged more retailers to expand distribution of the product and launched Reveal with one of the biggest consumer product ad campaigns in the Lighting unit’s history.

What started as a premium 4-pack of general service incandescent bulbs has blossomed into a brand available at over 25,000 retail outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Over time, GE has expanded its Reveal offering to include incandescent and compact-fluorescent light bulbs, and most recently, a line of clear and soft white energy-efficient halogen bulbs that deliver Reveal incandescent performance such as dimming, while meeting coming federal efficiency standards in the U.S. and Canada.

Reisman, who has been with GE nearly 33 years, is still working with the Reveal line, often benchmarking similar products from competitors. She says there are two key factors that set Reveal apart: the properties of the neodymium oxide material and the fact that it is dispersed or “baked into” the glass of the bulb.

What are the best applications of Reveal bulbs?  

“Everything,” says Reisman.  “It is beautiful for spotlighting. It brings life to wood, brick fireplaces and definitely people. Everything looks crisper when you are reading under a Reveal light.”

For more lighting ideas and a list of where to buy Reveal bulbs, visit www.gelighting.com/reveal.