NEW ULM - 3M's New Ulm plant could be manufacturing a new company product, an environmentally friendly LED light bulb that can burn a full 25 years.
KARE-11 TV aired an interview Friday with the bulb's inventor, Ray Johnston, who works in the 3M Display and Graphics Business Laboratory.
The new bulb uses LED (light-emitting diode) technology that burns brightly while using very little electricity. The bulb has the familiar rounded shape of an incandescent light bulb, and creates a glow similar to a regular bulb.
"It's energy efficiency without the compromise. That is our mantra," Johnston told KARE-11.
"We worked very hard to put out a very pleasing design. We worked with designers as well as scientists to put together a product that we feel customers will enjoy," Johnston said, adding that a "light guide" helps to soften the LED glow, giving it a more natural look.
The light bulbs are costly at $25, but company officials say the bulb will more than pay for itself with lower energy costs over its lifetime, company officials said.
New Ulm plant manager John Illikman said the plant has been working with 3M Laboratories for about 18 months, coming up with the design and producing a prototype.
"It is a super energy-efficient bulb that we think will burn for 25 years," said Illikman. "The advantage is its energy efficiency, and the technology that gives it a more traditional appearance and gives off a more traditional light.
"It's 3M's goal to have a light bulb that is made in the USA," he said.
A prototype run was completed this past Monday, said Illikman, to provide the limited number that will be sold in test runs in Walmart stores.
"We're now working on scaling up to produce bulbs on a larger scale," said Illikman.
3M has not made a final decision on where the bulb will be made in the long run, but Illikman said he is hoping his plant's experience with the product would make it a natural choice.
"That's what we're working on, to do this well so we' be first in line," said Illikman. "It will mean some good jobs wherever they decide to make it."