Painted Post, N.Y. – Corning officially revealed Thursday the next iteration of its formulation for Gorilla Glass – a super damage-resistant cover glass for handheld electronic devices and other applications that also allows for ultra-thin (and thus lightweight) characteristics.
The latest formulation – called Gorilla Glass 4 – is said to produce up to two times the damage resistance of the previous Gorilla Glass 3 version introduced a year ago and even greater strength than hardened, aluminosilicate glasses on the market.
In addition, Corning has developed other processes manufacturers can select to add features – like anti-microbial characteristics and bonding with other materials, like stainless steel, to keep surfaces for things like major appliances resistant to scratching and fingerprints.
James R. Steiner, Corning Specialty Materials senior VP and general manager, said for the first time Corning is not going to discontinue availability of the previous generation material (Gorilla Glass 3) as the newer formulation (Gorilla Glass 4) enters the market, giving device makers more cost-value options for their products.
Choice is also an option for Gorilla Glass 4. For example, device makers using Gorilla Glass 4 have the option of offering a product with greater damage resistance than last year, or they can opt for a thinner sheet of Gorilla Glass 4 and still enjoy the same native damage resistant qualities (scratch resistance) of a thicker sheet of Gorilla Glass 3.
“What we’ve seen on average from our customers is they’ve almost always chosen to go thinner,” said Steiner, explaining that device makers have typically sought to deliver products that are thinner and lighter than previous generations, but still offer the same degree of damage resistance. “They’ve taken our product improvements and made their devices thinner … with no tradeoffs in either optical quality or aesthetics.”
The first devices using Gorilla Glass 4 are in production now and will be coming to market before the end of the quarter, executives told invited members of the press during a tour of the company’s research, development and testing laboratories here Wednesday.
Cliff Hund, Corning East Asia president, said Gorilla Glass 4 will initially appear in smartphones, tablets and notebooks.
In addition to using Gorilla Glass 4 for handheld electronics, the company is venturing into new use areas including the automotive industry where the ultra-thin and highly flexible qualities of the glass can be adapted for a variety of applications including touchscreen displays on car instrument panels.
Corning is also introducing new ultra lightweight and strong glass compounds for use in windshields and sunroofs to help reduce overall vehicle weight and contribute to making cars more fuel efficient to meet stricter international regulatory standards.
To date, Gorilla Glass has been adopted by more than 100 different manufacturers including many of the leading mobile electronics names. More than 3 billion devices in use in the market today contain Gorilla cover glass, with a current growth rate of more than 1 billion per year, Corning said.
Top smartphone/tablet brands using Gorilla Glass include Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola, and Microsoft.
The company’s attempt several years ago to have TV manufacturers use Gorilla Glass for LCD TV screens was not as successfully received as set makers sought to reduce materials costs with less durable materials in the competitive marketplace. But for hand-held devices and other applications where impact damage is always a threat, Gorilla Glass 4 is said to offer a strong added-value message.
In developing Gorilla Glass 4, Corning said the goal was to reduce cracked screens from drops on rough surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, where a scratch first created on the surface weakens the glass allowing a stress point from where cracks emerge.
Corning scientists said they examined hundreds of broken devices and conducted a battery of drop tests from 1 meter onto a rough (180-grit sandpaper) surface in determining this real-world condition accounts for more than 70 percent of broken cover screens.
The resulting solution is the new ultra-strong glass compound and manufacturing process that produces cover glass capable of surviving such drops up to 80 percent of the time, and is two times tougher or more than most competitive glasses. Corning said competitive basic cover glass made of soda-lime “breaks nearly 100 percent of the time.”
Corning Gorilla Glass is made using two proprietary processes including a fusion process that is also used to make glass for LCD panels to produce a “perfect glass” that needs no further finishing to improve the surface. The second is to take the perfect glass from the fusion process and put it through a chemical ion exchange process that takes small ions and replaces them with larger ions causing a surface depression in the material, from which the glass gets its strength.
The resulting damage-resistant glass is said to have the ability to significantly limit strength reduction due to flaws (scratches or dings on the surface of the glass).
Hund said Corning will continue promoting the Gorilla Glass brand, and new Gorilla Glass 4 through press outreach, social media, its own web site, and an online promotion/ad campaign that launched this week and will run for “the next several months.”
Hund said Corning is working with several manufacturer brands now on general principles and messages in joint promotional efforts involving Gorilla Glass, “and we’ve done that pretty extensively in the past.”