Q&A with Dave Velasquez | Precision Glass Solutions | Advanced Optics | Corning

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Division Vice President Dave Velasquez Introduces Corning® Precision Glass Solutions

Introducing Corning® Precision Glass Solutions

Glass beats silicon, plastic to meet key consumer trends

How do you maintain long-term growth after your company’s disruptive innovations have helped build new industries?

First, you win leadership positions within the market-access platforms you created, as Corning maintains in both mobile consumer electronics and display. Then, as those markets mature, you continue to innovate and build on the relationships, expertise, and track record of delivering value – generating new opportunities for innovation within those platforms, while unlocking other opportunities in applications that are new to glass.

For Corning, a new business called Precision Glass Solutions is working on both fronts. Dave Velasquez, division vice president, shared Corning’s vision in this Q&A.

Can you start with a high-level summary of the business?

Precision Glass Solutions (PGS) is a newly formed business within Corning. There are significant, big-picture, trends that are driving increased adoption of glass in applications like semiconductor manufacturing, the Internet of Things, and consumer electronics. We’ve been selling into these categories for years through different Corning businesses. Now, we’ve combined forces to maximize the value capture, establish domain expertise to support better research and development prioritization, and build a platform to commercialize new products and services.

Consumers continue to demand thinner and faster devices with more immersive user experiences.  These trends are driving our customers to innovate in the areas of sensors, communications, semiconductors, and displays. Corning’s ability to deliver unique compositions and form factors with a variety of surface treatments and coatings enable these innovations and position glass as an innovative substitute for ceramics, organics, and silicon.

We’re a global team that draws from Corning’s vast catalogue of subject-matter experts in multiple capabilities, from locations in Bagneaux and Wiesbaden to Shanghai and Taipei to New York and Silicon Valley, and brings them under single leadership for the first time.

Tell us more about the primary focus of PGS.

PGS offers industry-leading wafers and panel glass-based solutions. These include high-purity fused silica (HPFS®), carrier substrates, through glass via (TGV) solutions, wafer-level capping solutions, and augmented reality solutions using high-index glass.

As more OEMs and their partners consider glass for new applications, Precision Glass Solutions is prepared to support them with a “one-stop shop” philosophy.  Because we have capabilities spanning composition, product reliability, form factors, optics design, characterization, laser cutting, and surface treatments, we can rapidly customize solutions that help solve our customers’ toughest technology challenges. For example, we can tailor our glass’ coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) as needed, offer a variety of thicknesses, create extremely precise holes in any pattern, measure multiple dimensions of the glass and the holes, and scale that combination of requirements to panel format to minimize material loss and maximize cost efficiency.

We’re now sharing the message with new and existing Corning customers that PGS is open for business. For example, we shared space with the Display and Gorilla® Glass for Automotive teams at Display Week in Los Angeles in May and saw an encouraging level of interest in this new business from attendees. Looking ahead, we will also have a presence at CIOE in Shenzhen, Semicon Taiwan in Taipei in September, and at IMAPS in Raleigh, North Carolina, in October. 

What applications do your products support?

We not only offer customers specific compositions of glass, but also valuable processing expertise needed to integrate our materials in the end-product manufacturing process.

Here are some details:

  1. Corning® HPFS® Fused Silica Wafers are ultra-pure fused silica wafers with leading optical performance for micro-optics and optical substrates. An ultra-low coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) and compositional purity make it an excellent material for applications that demand device mobility, image precision, and wide operating-temperature ranges.
  2. Corning® Carrier Solutions custom matches the CTE of our customers’ semiconductor products, enabling thinning operations that minimize warp, for example.
  3. Corning® Through Glass Via Solutions creates extremely precise holes in glass. This product is especially important to companies seeking slimmer form factors and lower power consumption in mobile devices.
  4. Corning® Wafer-Level Capping Solutions draws upon our glass-cutting capabilities and involves glass-bonding processes, allowing us to create optical interfaces in micro-electro-mechanical systems, or MEMS.
  5. Corning® Augmented Reality Solutions is another exciting area of focus for PGS. We provide precision wafers made from high-index glass. The combination of tight mechanical and optical characteristics, and high-index glass help deliver the image quality and field of view required for customers’ augmented and mixed reality applications. AR was mentioned in Corning’s 2017 Investor Meeting as an exciting new innovation opportunity we’re exploring. PGS is the team working on that technology.

How does this business fit into Corning’s Strategy and Capital Allocation Framework?

PGS leverages all three of our core technologies – glass science, ceramic science, and optical physics. And we utilize three of the four manufacturing and engineering platforms – vapor deposition, fusion and precision forming. Our products are applicable in four of our five market-access platforms: mobile consumer electronics, display, automotive and life sciences.  

We’re helping the company gain ground in the platforms I mentioned by proving that glass is a superior solution in many places where plastic or silicon has been prevalent. Mobile devices, for instance, have traditionally relied on silicon-based chips. We’re showing that there are actually multiple advantages to using glass in many of those devices. This opens up a whole new way for Corning to sell more glass per device.

It also takes a lot of work and skill. To convince OEMs to make this switch requires tremendous expertise from a team of very talented people. Because of our manufacturing abilities, we’re able to match our glass into their existing manufacturing process that was based around silicon. This makes it a much easier sell for an OEM considering making the switch. And once they do, we’re proving that using glass is actually lower cost, as we enable them to eliminate other components.

So our expertise is continuing to innovate in the realm we helped create. We’re enabling thinner, lighter, faster, more immersive devices while selling more glass.

Additionally, in display, our wafer-level capping solutions get us into a variety of applications with light projectors, from things like digital signage and personal electronics to the head-up display concepts that make upcoming automotive innovations so exciting. 

Can you speak to the PGS approach of selling services along with glass?

Doing more than just selling glass creates real value for our customers and increases our technical linkage to the markets we serve.

When we treat the surface, measure it, and coat it, we’re gaining customer intimacy to truly understand their problems and the ‘design box’ to innovate and deliver solutions. We’re getting closer to the technical decisions being debated within the customers’ engineering and development teams. Part of our value in being a one-stop-shop for glass services is to rapidly create and test solutions, and then quickly industrialize them, leveraging our global operations footprint created over decades of manufacturing millions of glass parts and wafers.  Many customers prefer having our design, reliability, and fundamental understanding closer as they start working with glass.

The brand we’ve built over 160 years means customers have faith in our technical and operations capabilities as we partner with them to design and handle glass in their products. They prefer to have us handle some of the complexity of introducing glass through their supply chains.

So, we’ll continue finding ways to add value for our customers. This keeps us tied to the key growth areas we’re targeting through our new business. It also keeps us at the center of things as excited consumers push for the technology advancements that we enable.