Corning® Gorilla® Glass Now Found On More Than 1.5 Billion Devices. Continuing innovation to fuel future versions Sapphire not seen as major threat
CORNING, N.Y. – Corning Incorporated’s (NYSE:GLW) novel and successful material, Corning® Gorilla® Glass, can now be found on more than 1.5 billion consumer electronic devices. Gorilla Glass has had a profound influence on electronics manufacturers by dramatically improving screen durability, image clarity, and touch performance with a material that is both thin and tough.
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3 with Native Damage Resistance™ is the third generation of the world’s leading cover glass. This latest version provides improved scratch resistance and durability, enabling new device designs and improving the user experience. To develop Gorilla Glass 3, Corning used its detailed understanding of mobile device requirements and glass processing to develop a new atomic composition for glass.
“There are competitive products on the market, but we haven’t found any other solution that can meet all of the requirements consumers have today for their electronic devices,” commented James R. Steiner, senior vice president and general manager of Corning’s Specialty Materials segment, which includes Gorilla Glass. Steiner continued: “Gorilla Glass is extremely thin, which enhances the touch experience. It is highly durable, so it can better resist the damage that comes with the everyday use of mobile devices. It has a precision surface, making brighter images possible; can be mass manufactured quickly and cost-effectively; and can be recycled using standard recycling programs. Gorilla Glass can also be molded, providing designers with new options.”
Recently, speculation has arisen that manufactured sapphire crystal might become an alternative to Corning’s Gorilla Glass. “Sapphire’s performance as a cover for high-end watches probably leads to the current speculation. But those covers are much smaller than a mobile phone and are two to three times thicker than Gorilla Glass. In one of our commonly accepted strength tests, sapphire breaks more easily than Gorilla Glass after the same simulated use. Additionally, sapphire’s cost and environmental hit are huge issues,” Steiner said.
Jeffrey W. Evenson, senior vice president, remarked, “Discussion seems to center around sapphire as an obvious solution for a cover material. What would people say if someone invented a cover that was about half the weight, used 99 percent less energy to make, provided brighter displays, and cost less than a tenth of sapphire? I think they’d say that sapphire was in real trouble. It so happens that we at Corning already invented that cover – and it’s called Gorilla Glass.” Evenson added that the company’s tests so far indicate Gorilla Glass requires about three times more force to break than sapphire after both materials have received similar wear and tear.
Steiner pointed out that Gorilla Glass continues to improve. “We aren’t standing still. We’ve already introduced three versions of Gorilla Glass since its launch in 2007. We work closely with consumer electronics manufacturers to understand their new designs and additional features for future devices. For example, we’ve begun to produce Gorilla Glass at a thinness level that allows it to be curved and formed into shapes without sacrificing any of its toughness. This will allow manufacturers to offer more distinctive devices in the future.”
Steiner added that future Gorilla Glass generations will address a common consumer complaint – the difficulty of viewing mobile device screens in bright sunlight – with technology to reduce reflections from Gorilla Glass. “And we are working on native antimicrobial technology to attack and eliminate most of the bacteria and germs found on surfaces. Once we are ready to commercialize this version of Gorilla Glass, the application possibilities are enormous, including hospitals, public spaces, schools, and mobile devices and so forth,” Steiner remarked.
The following Q&A provides additional details on Corning’s Gorilla Glass and manufactured sapphire crystals.
What is Gorilla Glass?
Gorilla Glass is the cover material of choice for consumer electronics device manufacturers around the world. Today, it can be found in more than 33 major brands and nearly 1,000 product models spanning more than 1.5 billion devices worldwide. Corning’s newest generation, Gorilla Glass 3 with Native Damage Resistance is chemically strengthened, lightweight, thin, transparent, versatile, highly durable and scratch resistant.
What is Sapphire glass?
Actually, sapphire isn’t a glass. It is a crystalline material that can be manufactured by applying high heat and other demanding conditions to purified aluminum oxide. The physics of sapphire crystal formation make manufacturing expensive and slow.
How does sapphire compare to chemically strengthened Gorilla Glass?
It is unclear if sapphire can compete with Gorilla Glass. Sapphire certainly is hard – harder to scratch than Gorilla Glass – but transmits about six percentage points less light and may introduce optical distortions. Sapphire is also 67 percent heavier than Gorilla Glass per unit volume, difficult to process (especially at the thinness of Gorilla Glass) and costs significantly more to produce. Based on Corning’s own durability tests, we believe that in normal mobile phone use, sapphire would break more easily than Gorilla Glass – especially if sapphire is used at the same thinness as Gorilla Glass.
Many device makers and consumers are concerned about the environmental effects of mobile devices. How “green” are sapphire and Gorilla Glass?
Gorilla Glass uses about one one-hundredth as much energy to form as sapphire. If all the smartphones in the world used sapphire as a cover, we calculate that the incremental energy required would be the same as 2.6 million average U.S. households use annually, or 7.4 times as much energy as the Hoover Dam produces in a year.
Media reports suggest that sapphire is currently more expensive than Gorilla Glass. Can you comment?
Today, we believe that the cost to fabricate a sapphire cover – without any profit – exceeds the all-in price of Gorilla Glass to a customer by more than a factor of ten. While innovation is always possible, the basic physics of sapphire creates a high barrier for cost reduction. Forming sapphire takes over 4000 times longer than glass, and sapphire’s hardness, which provides its scratch resistance, makes it much more expensive and difficult to machine. We estimated that billions of dollars would need to be invested to create sufficient sapphire capacity for even a small percentage of mobile phones.
There are lots of rumors that sapphire will soon be introduced on a smartphone. Is this true?
We have already seen some extremely expensive cell phones that use sapphire. It’s possible that sapphire covers will be used on new models, but given what we know about sapphire’s performance and economics, we do not believe that these models would be aimed at anything other than niche markets.
How is sapphire being used today other than on a few high-end smartphones?
The LED lighting market is the primary growth driver for sapphire today. It is also used for some military and industrial applications, and for high-end watches and jewelry.
Does Corning manufacture sapphire?
Corning is a world leader in materials science and we have a long history of working with sapphire. Today, we sell sapphire for some military applications, and in the past we manufactured sapphire tubing.
What other innovations is Corning pursuing for Gorilla Glass?
We are constantly looking for ways to improve our products and to address the future needs of the industries that we serve. We have already introduced three versions of Gorilla Glass, each improving over the previous generation. Today’s Gorilla Glass 3 offers significantly improved scratch resistance and greater toughness. We achieved these benefits by re-engineering the atomic structure of the glass so if the glass does scratch, it retains its strength. We did this while continuing to offer the thinness and lightweight characteristics necessary for touch-enabled devices. We are now working on new generations of Gorilla Glass that are curved, improve bright sunlight readability, and kill germs and bacteria.
Can sapphire offer product innovation options similar to Gorilla Glass?
We do not see viable paths to offer these innovations in sapphire.
Forward-Looking and Cautionary Statements
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” (within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995), which are based on current expectations and assumptions about Corning’s financial results and business operations, that involve substantial risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially. These risks and uncertainties include: the effect of global political, economic and business conditions; conditions in the financial and credit markets; currency fluctuations; tax rates; product demand and industry capacity; competition; reliance on a concentrated customer base; manufacturing efficiencies; cost reductions; availability of critical components and materials; new product commercialization; pricing fluctuations and changes in the mix of sales between premium and non-premium products; new plant start-up or restructuring costs; possible disruption in commercial activities due to terrorist activity, armed conflict, political or financial instability, natural disasters, adverse weather conditions, or major health concerns; adequacy of insurance; equity company activities; acquisition and divestiture activities; the level of excess or obsolete inventory; the rate of technology change; the ability to enforce patents; product and components performance issues; retention of key personnel; stock price fluctuations; and adverse litigation or regulatory developments. These and other risk factors are detailed in Corning’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Forward-looking statements speak only as of the day that they are made, and Corning undertakes no obligation to update them in light of new information or future events.