Gorilla Glass Targets Automotive and Alternative Applications and Technologies

By Helen Vince
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Display Materials & Manufacturing – While Corning’s Gorilla Glass is aimed primarily at mobile devices, the company has set up a separate group to look at alternative uses for the product.

In our exclusive tour at the Sullivan Park Corning facility, we had a chance to learn more about how it is being used in automotive, architectural and other applications. We also learned about similar activities for its Willow glass and antimicrobial technology.

Architectural and Appliance Applications

Let’s start with Willow glass, Corning’s ultra-thin glass that is 100-200 microns thick. The glass comes on spools that are 1.3 m wide and 300 m long. This glass is being used today on a carrier glass substrate to make very thin LCD panels, but the status of this activity was not disclosed in the tour. Eventually, Corning hopes to see a true roll-to-roll LCD fabrication process, but this will take time.

Meanwhile, Corning is looking for additional applications. For example, the thin Willow glass can also be laminated to non-glass substrates like ceramic or PMMA (acrylic). In one application, the customer inkjet prints a pattern on the willow glass then laminates this to the PMMA. This is currently being marketed in Australia as a backsplash option with a wide variety of patterns available. This gives a nice clean looks with glass than can be easily cleaned. And just as importantly, this material can be cut with normal construction tools and fitted in place in the field. That’s a pretty cool application.

The company also showed how this might be used on an appliance like a refrigerator. Here, the Willow glass is laminated right to the stainless steel to provide a sleek and easily cleaned surface. Worried that a bang will break the glass? Not likely, says Corning. Since the glass is so thin, it actually deforms with the impacting object. This was proved by dropping a 525 gram steel ball onto such a material from one meter. The stainless steel was dented, but the glass didn’t break. (Corning doesn’t have a customer for this yet, but stay tuned.)

In a similar vein, the group is looking to use Gorilla Glass in applications like this as well. For example, the company showed how it can be laminated to steel with patterns printed on the laminated side of the glass. This was showcased in the company elevator where the walls were covered with such panels. These can also take the impact and lots of patterns replicating almost any material are possible.

The company says it is focused on the application of vertical, not horizontal surfaces for this, but this material cannot be cut or shaped in the field.

Antimicrobial Glass

Corning is also commercializing an antimicrobial glass which we discussed when it debuted at DisplayWeek 14 (Corning Next Gen Display Glass Kills Germs). As you probably don’t want to know, there are lots of germs on devices like smartphones, ATMs machines, tabletop displays, signage and lots of other public displays. It has been known for thousands of years that silver is very good at killing germs (although the ancients didn’t understand the biology). As a result, Corning has developed a silver implantation technique that is very good at killing germs.

How good is it? According to the company, it will kill 99.9% of the germs and it will do this for the life of the glass. How? By creating a gradient of silver ions in the glass. As silver reacts with the germs at the surface and is depleted, new ions migrate there to keep the silver filling with germ fighting silver ions.

On display during the tour was an 8” monitor from Advantech, a SteelCase display and a POS terminal. Corning thinks the technology could also find use on the back of the cell phone too.

Apparently, you need EPA registration to be able to sell antimicrobial glass, so Corning has now secured this, opening the door for sales to begin.

Automotive

Corning also announced its first design win in the automotive space using Gorilla Glass. BMW will use a new laminate structure for the back window of the new i8 car. The BMW i8 is a high end sports car with an MSRP of $135,700.

i8_modelOverview_desktop_758x320

The i8 is a rear-engine car and one of the issues BMW had was to reduce noise from the engine to the passenger compartment. The new window is used as an acoustic partition as well as a functional window, but BMW also chose it for its strength and weight reduction.

The actual construction of the window is a lamination of 0.7mm Gorilla Glass-plastic (PVB)-0.7mm Gorilla Glass. Corning says it developed this design very quickly and moved into production in a very rapid 18 months. BMW was so impressed, the company gave Corning a Supplier Innovation Award for the effort.

It turns out that a lot of windshield glass is not all glass, but a lamination of glass-plastic-glass – usually soda lime glass. The side windows are tempered glass, however.

But glass is heavy and new U.S. mandates are calling for the average fleet miles per gallon (mpg) to rise from 25 to 50 mpg in 2020. That has car makers nervous so they are looking for ways to take a lot of weight out of their vehicles. You may have read about Ford’s new plan to make its most popular and profitable vehicle, the F150 pickup, and go to an all aluminum body to save weight. That’s a big gamble that if it pays off, will entice others to follow.

China is also said to be getting more serious and aggressive on its emission problems. China is already Corning’s biggest market, so here comes another opportunity for them.

Corning also showed a center console display glass made with Gorilla Glass that was cut and contoured to fit in the 918 Porsche. Control indicators are printed on the glass, which facilitate a touch interaction with the control.

Also on display was a standard sunroof made with a soda lime-plastic-soda lime composite next to a Gorilla Glass composite. Just that innovation alone was enough to reduce the weight from 18 to 12.8 pounds. This also featured a new electrochomic film to dim the light as needed. – Chris Chinnock