Mister Lean

A high school dropout's inventions help tech firms make DVDs and solar cells more efficiently

Ron Kok was more interested in tinkering in his father's machine shop in Amsterdam than in listening to teachers, so he dropped out of school at age 14 and never went back. Kok eventually landed a job at Dutch electronics giant Philips, but he dropped out of that too when the bosses wouldn't listen to his idea for a cheaper way to make compact discs.

Determined to prove he was right, Kok rented a warehouse in the gray industrial town of Eindhoven and set about making CDs without the customary multimillion-dollar expense for "clean rooms" to keep stray dust motes and...

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