Science of Glass
How It Works: Precision Forming
How It Works: Precision Forming
To be precise
Corning’s leadership in precision forming is the key to making some of the hottest innovations work
Today’s fastest-growing technologies – and all the components that make them function -- demand absolute precision.
Smart-car windshields, optical fiber connections, or next-generation medicine vials, for example, require mass-produced components of exactly the same size and shape -- often without variance of even a single micron.
Manufacturing to highly precise specifications -- engineers call them “tight tolerances” -- has been one of Corning’s strengths for generations. And as high-technology products have transformed the way we live, the company has helped fuel the change by continually improving its precision-forming capabilities.
Today, precision forming is a key part of Corning’s manufacturing platform portfolio. When interconnected with core technologies like glass science, ceramic science, or optical physics, precision forming results in some powerful, industry-shaping innovations.
How it works
Corning’s platforms like fusion, extrusion, or vapor deposition follow fairly consistent manufacturing steps even when applied to different products. Corning approaches precision forming, on the other hand, in a variety of ways.
For injection-molded products – for instance, optical connectors or multi-well plates used for drug discovery – Corning draws on its deep materials science knowledge.
Working closely with customers and partners, Corning experts design molds that will, in turn, enable production of precisely formed polymer components. The molds must be remarkably stable under heat, pressure, and other punishing manufacturing conditions. Together, the mold and molding machine utilize a range of scientific principles to control the quality and consistency of the final product before it is removed from the mold. And the resins used in the product itself must show the same precise consistency, often with tolerances down to the sub-micron level.
For other products, Corning creates glass and then forms it to exacting specifications.
Take Corning® Gorilla® Glass for Automotive. About a half-millimeter thick, it can bond to an outer layer of soda lime glass to form light, tough, optically advantaged car windshields. To enable the crisp, detailed head-up displays that progressive carmakers are offering, the curvature must conform precisely to engineers’ demanding designs.
Then there’s Corning Valor® Glass – a new product favored by drugmakers for its toughness and suitability for high-speed filling lines. It starts with a specialized glass formula formed into dimensionally precise tubes, which are converted into vials, cartridges, or syringes. Coupled with a highly engineered coating, those exact specifications help reduce potential damage from vial-on-vial contact.
For both these innovations, Corning has applied exhaustive measurement technologies to ensure they conform to the extremely tight tolerances customers require. And computer modeling systems help engineers view exactly how the glass will tolerate bends, heat, or vibrations of manufacturing and everyday use.
Why it matters
Without extreme precision, repeatable on a mass scale, many high-tech systems of today just wouldn’t work.
An optical connector, for example, joins strands of hair-thin fiber without the need for splicing. The slightest variance in connector size or shape would result in light loss, diminishing signal strength in the network. Repeat that flaw at each connection point and the data at the receiving end would be virtually lost.
And the auto windshield we just described? A tight, precise fit is essential for the sleek design drivers want today. The tight tolerances in the design also ensure that the head-up display is sharp and lifelike – much like you’d see on a smart mobile device -- not muddy or distorted.
In the world of medicine, precision components make a profound difference. When Corning is able to deliver precisely formed vessels to drug researchers or manufacturers, these customers are able to improve the research and development process for lifesaving treatments and deliver them safely. Extreme precision also saves significant costs in drug manufacturing, since less breakage means greater efficiency and less waste.
How it's evolved
Since its earliest years, Corning has focused on precision-formed manufacturing innovations that have changed the world. The ribbon machine, for example, enabled the production of 2,000 identical glass bulbs a minute or close to 3 million per day, all of them fitting in standard metal neck casings. Electric light became both affordable and practical for millions.
The evolution of television, too, has demanded evolving precision. Black-and-white TVs needed cathode ray tubes, and Corning supplied the glass bulbs that made them work. As color TVs developed, the systems of capacitors and resistors became more complicated. Corning met the need with even greater precision in glass components.
In the modern era, Corning’s precision-forming expertise accelerated with the invention of low-loss optical fiber in the 1970s. Sending signals of light down a hair-thin strand of glass moved tolerances from thousandths of an inch to microns and sub-microns. Keeping pace with those requirements – and setting new standards for precision -- helped make Corning a world leader in optical communications.
Now, Corning’s precision forming portfolio includes some of the world’s most powerful measurement and computer-modeling capabilities.
Even more important is a worldwide team of scientists and engineers who understand precision attributes and collaborate to create them on a mass scale – perfectly, every time.
Science of Glass
How It Works
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