A Brief Introduction to SUMITA

The term ‘OPTICAL GLASS’ may not sound familiar to some of you but optical glasses are used for many things around us, and support our daily life.

Here are some examples that SUMITA’s products are used in:

  • - Camera lenses for digital still cameras, video cameras, surveillance cameras and microscopies
  • - Endoscopies for medical and industrial uses
  • - Automated optical inspection machineries as optical films and glasses for flat panel displays, semiconductors and agricultural products
  • - Measurement of ultraviolet ray intensity (e.g. water sterilizers, semiconductor machineries)
  • - Optical components and optical glass fibers for optical communications

Although SUMITA OPTICAL GLASS, INC. was established in 1953, SUMITA OPTICAL INDUSTRY, a former company of SUMITA OPTICAL GLASS, was founded in 1924. Lihachi Sumita, the founder, was born in 1883 in Shiga prefecture, Japan. When he was a third-grade student at elementary school, he quarreled with his teacher, so he left school. During the Russo-Japanese War, he won a decoration for a remarkable feat that he broke though the enemy’s line alone apart from their battle positions in a breakthrough mission with the army. He often said “Don’t do the same as others”.

Lihachi Sumita, the founder of SUMITA, and his wife, Shin

He had been taken over his family business, a Japanese wooden clogs shop, before he came up to Tokyo with his family when he was over 30 years old. With acquaintances, he started processing glasses by watching others do. Having said that, the processed glasses were just concave shaped pressed glasses, used for doctor’s head mirrors. Lihachi made them from round plate glasses of gas meters dug up from underground, and pressed them into concave shape.

Thanks to his manual dexterity, Lihachi made his business take off. However, he lost his house in Hongo by the Great Kanto earthquake. Lihachi did not give up and moved to Nishi-Sugamo. He built a toolshed-like factory in the yard, and started manufacturing glass blanks in earnest. This is how Lihachi founded SUMITA OPTICAL INDUSTRY in 1924, the following year of the Great Kanto earthquake.

At the beginning, he had only been processed glass materials that were supplied by customers. Lihachi who dropped out of elementary school had no knowledge of chemistry, but had never given up and continued to study the glass. Lihachi gradually manufactured higher quality glasses. His company dramatically changed around 1932, when Lihachi successfully developed windshields of aircrafts on his own, the windshields at the time, were relied upon imports. When placing orders, he is said to have jumped on the windshields to demonstrate their quality in front of customers of an aircraft company who were skeptical about their quality. In addition, he had developed a method of pressing glass, which was an epoch-making invention at the time. The Japanese Navy decided to buy pressed blanks from SUMITA and Lihachi’s business had grown since then.

At the time when the war finally ended, almost all glass blocks which are glass base materials were imported. Under these circumstances, Susumu Sumita, the son of Lihachi, collected ten million yen which was a large sum of money in those days, founded SUMITA GLASS OPTICAL MFG. CO., LTD. in 1953, to achieve his dream to operate glass business from melting glass and raw glass materials. The company became SUMITA OPTICAL GLASS, INC afterward. Even today, there are still few vertically integrated companies in the world, the companies which can operate from melting raw glass materials to produce finished optical glass products. The Lihachi’s will “Don’t do the same as others” has been carried out until today.

The first patent of SUMITA which Susumu Sumita applied for in 1951 was a machine that automatically forms optical glass.
The number of patents we possess is by far over 100.

“Doing such a thing with optical glass must be interesting!”
“How can we advance our technologies to accomplish a certain purpose?”
SUMITA’s R&D always start from these ideas. Rather than excessive commercialization and corporate profits, SUMITA’s researchers stick to new technologies, resulting creating many unique, revolutionary and world-renowned products. For example, the “Photaron”, realized the long-cherished dream of creating artificial fluorite crystal with optical glass for the first time in the world. Also, a precision molding glass with a refractive index exceeding 2.0. SUMITA’s R&D has been made the impossible possible.

These are only a few examples of SUMITA’s technologies, but we are proud of our breakthrough technologies developed from our strong commitment to R&D. This has shown in the number of patents we hold.

Some examples of patents we hold:

  • - Production method and manufacturing equipment of glass materials
  • - Optical glass with high refractive index for precision molding
  • - Optical glass for precision molding
  • - Glass composition of gradient-index lens
  • - Near infrared absorptive filter
  • - Image bundles
  • - Manufacturing method of LTP or LATP crystal particle

SUMITA applies its scientific and technical expertise in three types of glasses.
“Optical Glass” positions as the foundation for all our products.
“Optical Fiber” is made by drawing a thin strand of glass.
“Optical System” is a combination of optical instruments that make use of light.

Being vertically integrated with optical glasses, which means working from development of glass materials to manufacturing of final products, gives us accumulated expertise, thus this becomes our greatest advantage.

Optical Glass
SUMITA develops glass materials, melts and manufacture optical glasses. Development of glass materials is our core competence.
Products: Optical glass for precision molding, advanced functional glass
Optical Fiber
SUMITA designs, draws and assembles optical fibers which are made of our original high-purity glasses. Optical fibers transmit light and images and are used in sensing and communications equipment.
Products: Light guides, image bundles
Optical System
SUMITA manufactures aspheric lenses and optical devices from optical glass materials. By combining plural lenses and optical devices, SUMITA controls light and solve customers’ tough technology problems.
Products: Aspheric lenses, specialty shaped lenses, optical devices
Medical Imaging
SUMITA manufactures medical components which include lenses and image bundles, by combining expertise in SUMITA’s three pillars (optical glass, optical fiber and optical system).
Products: Components for endoscopes, lens units for medical use

SUMITA started a business overseas in 1979.
Our overseas sales account for 40% of total sales, and the rate of overseas sales keep increasing.

Sold over 30 countries

A lot of our products have been spotlighted many times. We have been awarded the Photonics Circle of Excellence Award Winners for three times, from the U.S. magazine Photonics Spectra, one of the major photonics magazines. Using our expertise and accumulated technology in glass science, SUMITA will keep working with overseas customers to solve challenges with products.

“I wonder why SUMITA’s employees develop new products one after another.” One employee once asked.
“Well, there are a lot of employees like free-range roosters grown up in the yard.” said Susumu Sumita, the founder of SUMITA.
SUMITA’s employees are passionate, unique and full of talents.
They are not the ones who wish to maintain the status quo, or the ones who are content with staying in narrow poultry farm cages.
Nazetaro represents our corporate culture.