In 1982, Rick Fiskum, an entrepreneur with Litchfield Precision Components, started a small company that focused on manufacturing custom, precision glass components. Calling themselves Industrial Research and Development, they set up business in a local commercial garage. Their initial manufacturing efforts centered on Zerodur components for the aerospace industry, and precision optics for a variety of regional customers in the electro-optic sensors arena, including the wafer and circuit board inspection capital equipment industry.
In 1997, a group of MN-based investors purchased the company, and their first order of business was to move the company into a brand new 12,000 sq. ft. facility, built from the ground up with this business in mind. In 1998, Industrial Research and Development, with average annual sales of $1.5M, moved into their current home at 810 E Saint Paul Street in Litchfield, MN.
In addition to the glass business, IRD also expanded into the ceramics and ultra-hard materials markets by opening a satellite facility in Alexandria in 1998.
Growth was brisk, and in 2005, an addition designed to facilitate the growing precision optics segment was built, bringing the total square footage to 22,000 ft². That same year another big change was rolled out as the company changed its name from Industrial Research and Development to IRD Glass, better portraying the company’s core competency: precision glass and optical components. At that same time, IRD Glass also acquired the optics division from APA Enterprises, and brought that business in-house.
Today IRD Glass employs 40+ people and averages over $5M in annual sales. Their manufacturing operations are cell-based, meaning there are dedicated employees, dedicated equipment, and dedicated floor space for a specific customer or product line. Each cell is responsible for the entire process a component will experience, from ordering raw material to final inspection and shipping.