Protecting the Fold

Bendy Gorilla Glass will enable better foldables

Corning describes itself as being in the “science of glass” business. It’s an apt description for the company. If there’s a glass surface, be that in kitchens or cars, Corning wants to be there with its tough glass display products.

Spotting a major trend in 2018, Corning introduced Gorilla Glass for use in smartphones and other consumer electronics. Gorilla Glass and rival screen solutions like Dragontrail, manufactured by Asahi Glass, make for more rugged devices by providing a layer of protection between the environment and the actual screen. Corning has become a market-leading supplier to smartphone makers, and billions of phones have been made using its protective glass.

As phones with folding screens hit the market, Corning is keen to offer Gorilla Glass to smartphone makers looking at this new device design to bring some excitement once again to an industry that’s become somewhat stale. And there’s definitely interest, thanks to the introduction of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X, among other handsets. It’s worth noting that many of the new foldables shown at MWC 2019 were “touch me nots”, that is, they were being shown in museum-like protective cases or beyond the reach of eager hands, which raised some questions about their robustness.

It’s now being widely reported that Corning is hoping to solve this problem by developing bendable glass to protect flexible displays. Gorilla Glass for foldables could be ready in a couple of years.

The new Gorilla Glass being made is ultrathin, with a thickness of just 0.1 mm, and can bend to a 5 mm radius. In 2018, Corning introduced its flexible Willow Glass, a protective layer intended for curved but not foldable applications. Willow Glass can wrap around curved displays.

With smartphone makers having to tackle consumer fatigue, slowing sales and a lack of attention-grabbing hardware innovation, foldables hold the promise of something new. So it’s little surprise the component landscape is ramping up to support this new trend, and we expect to see many new innovations as we embark on this new era of device diversity.