Ultra-slim Corning® Willow™ Glass Samples Available Now. Customers explore multiple applications for future devices
CORNING, N.Y. - Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) is supplying customers with samples of Corning® Willow™ Glass, an advanced glass technology that promises to influence the shape and form of next-generation consumer electronic devices, while emerging as the barrier layer material of choice for several market segments; most notably the solar panel industry.
Willow Glass is a thin and flexible glass substrate that will enable low cost manufacturing of ultra-slim, curved and flexible displays, as well as touch sensors. It also has application opportunities outside of display, where its natural hermetic properties combine with its optical transmission qualities to make it appropriate for a host of barrier applications. Willow Glass combines the inherent benefits of glass – optical purity, thermal stability and an exceptionally clean, smooth and flat surface – with a mechanically bendable form factor.
“The early adopters could be in the solar, OLED lighting, display or touch screen industries, due to the outstanding surface characteristics, thermal properties, transmission and hermetic sealing capabilities associated with Willow Glass,” James P. Clappin, Corning Glass Technologies, president, said. “We are confident that we will see ‘conformable’ displays with curved shapes that rely on bendable advanced glass products in the near future. Ultimately, it is our customers and their product application cycles that will drive the commercial timing.”
Corning is investigating solar and other barrier applications, as well as color filter, and touch application market opportunities for Willow Glass in the near term. For the solar industry, Willow Glass can provide a thin hermetic barrier for photovoltaic applications, where its light weight and flexibility could reduce installation costs by 80 percent versus conventional solutions, making it practical for industrial and residential rooftops.
For other barrier applications, Willow Glass’ hermetic properties, combined with its thinness, helps prevent moisture, oxygen, and other environmental elements from damaging appliances. Potential uses range from protecting sensitive electronics within a device to providing a barrier layer for the exterior surfaces of household appliances, such as refrigerators.
The thin and flexible characteristics of Willow Glass can enhance OLED lighting applications by enabling designers to create lighting panels and a wide range of lamp designs that rely on curved or flexible form factors.
In the color filter space, Willow Glass delivers all of the advantages of the display grade glass currently used by color filter makers in a much thinner form factor, enabling thinner displays without the need for expensive etching or polishing steps.
For capacitive touch applications, Willow Glass offers greater optical and electrical performance, and improved registration at a thickness similar to other competing technologies. A single layer design combined with the high throughput of roll-to-roll (R2R) processing could offer lower processing cost without compromising durability.
Future market opportunities for Willow Glass include flexible display stacks and components as well as “smart windows;” electrically switchable glass or glazing which changes light transmission properties when voltage is applied. Allowing users to change light transmission levels can result in significant savings on heating, cooling and lighting costs.
Roll-to-roll glass manufacturing
Corning’s Willow Glass was launched in June 2012 with the capability to enable the industry to pursue high-temperature, continuous R2R processes – similar to how newsprint is produced - that have been impossible until now.
Willow Glass is produced by Corning’s proprietary fusion process. Samples are currently available in spools and discrete sheets.
Corning is prepared to work closely with customers to help them retrofit existing production lines or assist in the build of “greenfield” production lines to accommodate new glass manufacturing requirements. Before that time, Willow will be available in high quality individual sheets, cut from spooled glass allowing manufacturers to use Willow Glass in their current processes.
“We are probably a few years away before the market fully embraces the new roll-to-roll process,” said Clappin. “This allows us to continue to refine and improve manufacturing efficiencies. The roll-to-roll manufacturing process should be much more cost-effective, but the display industry needs to develop new technologies and manufacturing techniques to take full advantage of Willow Glass’ unique properties.”
Corning is actively engaged in transferring its knowledge of flexible glass processing to all segments of the supply chain, including customers, equipment vendors, and research partners. The company is providing support on cutting, handling, patterning, and packing Willow Glass.
“Continuous processing on glass from a roll is still a novelty in our industry. But it won’t be long before roll-to-roll manufacturing is commonplace. We are working closely with our customers and other industry players to develop the necessary capabilities,” Clappin concluded.
The following Q&A provides additional details not only on Corning’s Willow Glass, but other advanced glass solutions the company has brought to market.
What is ultra slim glass?
Traditional display glass is 0.5 – 0.7mm thick. Ultra slim glass is 100-200 microns thick and has the ability to be spooled or rolled, which opens up new manufacturing and product opportunities. Willow Glass will be available in 100um and 200um thicknesses.
What is Corning® Willow™ Glass?
Corning® Willow™ Glass is Corning’s ultra slim, fusion-formed, display-grade glass. Corning intends to provide sheets and rolls of 100 micron and 200 micron thin glass – about the thickness of a sheet of copy paper – up to one meter wide today and wider in the future.
Currently, Willow Glass is available on spools of less than or equal to one meter wide and up to 300 meters in length. Sheets can be fabricated up to Gen 5 size glass (1000mm x 1250mm). Spools and sheets can be coated with ITO.
Willow Glass can be used to in a variety of cost efficient applications, including ultra-slim displays, touch applications, flexible solar cells, lighting, and within the barrier industry, enabling the smart surfaces of the future.
What can Willow Glass be used for?
Willow Glass will enable thinner, lighter, conformable and potentially flexible electronic devices, which deliver high performance at a lower cost.
- Willow Glass can be used in touch panels and displays to make thinner and lighter portable devices such as smartphones and tablets, without sacrificing device performance or reliability.
- We also envision Willow Glass enabling thin, light, and flexible solar cells and lighting products that can be integrated into portable devices or living spaces. Compared to the 3-mm thick glass used today in solar panels, flexible glass will weigh 97 percent less. This weight reduction will allow solar panels to be used on existing commercial and residential roofs.
- Willow Glass will provide the foundation for electronics made by high-speed, cost-effective, roll-to-roll processes, similar to the way paper is processed for newspapers and magazines. Roll-to-roll processing promises display and other manufactures larger volumes at reduced costs. Displays made on roll-to-roll platforms are expected to be large, thin, and low-cost enough to be digital wallpaper in homes, schools, and offices.
How thin can you make this glass?
Corning launched Willow Glass at 100 microns in June of 2012. This represents the best balance of reliability and flexibility for current applications. Corning’s proprietary fusion process is uniquely suited to creating thin glass of exceptional surface quality at very low thicknesses. If thinner glass is required for specific applications we will work with our partners to develop new product concepts.
What’s the difference between Willow Glass and plastic?
Willow Glass provides a very flat, smooth, stable, and optically clear surface for building sensitive electronic components. It does not stretch, scratch, or degrade the way plastic does when subjected to the processes needed to make high-quality devices.
Willow Glass also provides an outstanding hermetic barrier with higher optical clarity, making it particularly attractive as an encapsulation barrier in OLED displays and other applications.
These attributes are highly valued and will be critical as the need for higher quality, performance, and functionality increase. Numerous efforts aim to mitigate the inherent limitations of polymer substrates for high-quality devices. However, the result is compromised performance and added cost. Willow Glass combines the thin, light and bendable qualities of polymers with the inherent benefits of glass as a substrate.
How does Willow Glass relate to the other glass solutions that Corning is touting, especially Corning® Gorilla® Glass?
While Corning® Gorilla® Glass is used as a protective covering on the outside of a device; Willow Glass is intended to be used inside a device as a substrate material, on which electronics are applied. Willow Glass also has application opportunities outside of consumer electronics, such as solar, where it would be used as a hermetic barrier to protect sensitive electronics within a solar cell.
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.