There’s a whole world of hazards out there for auto windshields. But today’s drivers can face the road with more confidence than ever before. That’s because the thinnest, lightest-weight windshield in automotive history is also the toughest glass barrier ever created. At the same time, it offers a brilliant, distortion-free window to the world. At the heart of this revolutionary windshield is Corning® Gorilla® Glass – the chemically strengthened cover glass on more than 4.5 billion electronic devices worldwide. To better understand how Gorilla Glass is transforming the driving experience, let’s take a look at how windshields have traditionally been made.
Back in the day
In the 1920s, automakers began creating windshields by sandwiching a thin polyvinyl butyral film between two layers of annealed soda lime glass. This three-layer laminate – typically up to 6 millimeters thick and weighing as much as 40 pounds – has remained largely unchanged for nearly a century.
Meanwhile, consumer demands and environmental regulations have pushed the industry to innovate for better fuel efficiency, safety, and performance. Could a new kind of glass make a difference? Corning determined it could.
Windshields for a new age
Working closely with automotive leaders like Ford, Corning engineers used a standard thermoplastic to bond an outer layer of soda lime glass to an inner layer of Corning Gorilla Glass for Automotive. The result: an innovative, three-layer laminate uniquely suited to the demands of today’s drivers.
Since the Gorilla Glass inner layer measures about a half-millimeter, it weighs as much as 76% less than conventional inner layers. Consequently, the weight of the overall laminate can drop as much as 40% – a significant factor in boosting fuel economy and lowering harmful emissions. What’s more, windshields made with Gorilla Glass for Automotive have proved themselves tough enough to survive a wide variety of everyday road hazards.
How tough is it?
As any windshield-replacement technician will tell you, the overwhelming majority of windshield damage comes from an object hitting the surface. And different objects wreak different sorts of havoc.
- When a large, blunt object like a hailstone hits a conventional laminate windshield, the outer soda-lime glass will almost always break. Gorilla Glass for Automotive, though, has a natural ability to flex without breaking, helping to preserve the integrity of the entire windshield. Corning’s tests with ice cannons prove over and over that a laminate including Gorilla Glass for Automotive can survive the punishment of hailstones at speeds up to 72 mph.
- Other common offenders are small, blunt stones. Unlike a larger hailstone, these small objects concentrate their impact in a very small spot. With conventional windshields, the resulting damage often takes shape as a small cone in the outer layer. And when the speed is high enough, the inner layer can break and release sharp glass particles – known as “spall” – inside the vehicle. It’s an even-greater risk in very cold climates. Corning recreated these situations with 1-gram ball bearings hitting the Gorilla Glass for Automotive laminates at 65 mph. In repeated testing, there was no inner-layer damage, even in cases where the outer soda lime glass layer cracked.
- The most common windshield damage of all comes from small, sharp stones. When they hit a windshield they often leave a star-like crack in the outer layer of the glass laminate. These types of cracks are very unstable. Just a small amount of additional stress – such as a minor impact or temperature change – can cause the small star to quickly propagate, spreading cracks across the entire surface. Usually, the windshield is ruined. Under the same impact, a laminate made with an inner layer of Gorilla Glass shows different results. The outer soda lime glass layer is likely to sustain only a small chip, which does not propagate. This makes for a windshield that’s twice as tough as its conventional counterparts. And accordingly, the need for costly replacements can drop by 50%.
The driving experience
Along with better protection from glass damage, drivers can also enjoy other benefits of taking Gorilla Glass on the road. With significant weight reduction in the windshield, the car’s center of gravity drops – a factor that many drivers say makes for better cornering and faster acceleration. Gorilla Glass for Automotive also offers better windshield optics. That’s a clear advantage in the growing trend of Head Up Displays (HUDs). An HUD lets drivers monitor speed, fuel levels, and other critical driving information, all while keeping their eyes on the road. The thin, pristine Gorilla Glass for Automotive surface enables crisp, distinct HUD images up to three times larger than those on a conventional windshield.
Super toughness for a supercar
The 2016 Ford GT supercar became the first commercially produced vehicle to incorporate Gorilla Glass for Automotive in its windshield. (The car also used Gorilla Glass technology in its bulkhead and engine cover.) By using Gorilla Glass, the automaker trimmed 12 pounds from the iconic vehicle. The windshield also proved its toughness in round after round of simulated hailstone testing at major industry shows, including the North American International Auto Show, the Toronto Auto Show and the New York Auto Show.
The choice: As easy as 1-2-3
With positive performance already on the road, Corning continues to bring the advantage of Gorilla Glass for Automotive to other new car designs. “Gorilla Glass for Automotive can make windshields – and other auto glazing products, like sunroofs, backlights, and side windows – one-third lighter, two times tougher, and with three times better optics than conventional laminates,” said Doug Harshbarger, division vice president and business director, Automotive Technologies, Corning Emerging Innovations Group. “This Gorilla hybrid window has remarkable properties not found in any existing window – and it’s a winning combination for the way we want to drive today.”
How it's made
At the heart of this revolutionary windshield is Corning Gorilla Glass – the chemically strengthened cover glass that has been used on more than 4.5 billion electronic devices worldwide. Gorilla Glass is made using Corning’s proprietary fusion draw and ion exchange processes that are key to keeping Gorilla Glass thin, tough and optically clear. Check out this informative video and see for yourself how Gorilla Glass is made.