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60-Year-Old Glass Technology Finds Its Market 197

Posted by kdawson
from the nine-hundred-pounds dept.
In the 1950s, Corning developed a glass product for which it has been trying to find a market ever since. What is now being called "Gorilla Glass" is currently worth $170M/yr. and is poised to quadruple (potentially) in the next year or two. Gorilla Glass is used on many smartphones including Motorola's Droid. ("Whether Apple Inc. uses the glass in its iPod is a much-discussed mystery since 'not all our customers allow us to say,' said [the] general manager of Corning's specialty materials division.") "Because Gorilla is very hard to break, dent or scratch, Corning is betting it will be the glass of choice as TV-set manufacturers dispense with protective rims or bezels for their sets, in search of an elegant look. Gorilla is two to three times stronger than chemically strengthened versions of ordinary soda-lime glass, even when just half as thick, company scientists say. Its strength also means Gorilla can be thinner than a dime, saving on weight and shipping costs. Corning is in talks with Asian manufacturers to bring Gorilla to the TV market in early 2011..." The Christian Science Monitor elaborates on the theme of job growth outside the US, as Corning plans to invest several hundred million dollars to retrofit an LCD plant in Shizuoka, Japan to manufacture the glass. The company will also expand the workforce in the Kentucky plant that now manufactures Gorilla Glass.
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60-Year-Old Glass Technology Finds Its Market

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  • by arth1 (260657) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @08:56AM (#33122084) Homepage Journal

    But if this technology is now 60 years old, one would assume it is out of patent. How long before (if not already) every manufacturer is capable of making it? If it becomes profitable, then Pyrex and Co will be shipping it out at lower cost than Corning.

    Er, Pyrex is a Corning brand...

  • Re:Scotty, Anyone? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Speare (84249) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @08:59AM (#33122128) Homepage Journal

    How has nobody commented on the transparent-aluminum-like properties of this so-called "glass"?

    If you really wanted to polish your geek cred, you'd know that transparent aluminum exists, not just on Star Trek. Read the 2009 Science Daily article. [sciencedaily.com] But when I saw this, I thought of the Harrison Ford version of the movie, "Sabrina." As a CEO, in one scene he demonstrates a tough new material to some Japanese investors by taking a crowbar to the front of a large flat panel television.

  • Re:60 years? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jarik C-Bol (894741) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @09:00AM (#33122134)
    BED of molten glass, not bead. not properly proofreading for the lose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @09:04AM (#33122184)

    It is rare these days to see companies devote 10% of their budget to R&D. Most tend to just not bother with R&D because it doesn't give ROI this quarter, and when they do, they gain the technology by buying a startup, or just copying someone else's work and improving on it.

    Isn't that an argument for patents, though? I mean, you're saying that R&D isn't profitable in the eyes of most companies and why is that?

    Well in theory. However in practice it's still more profitable to wait for a startup to come up with something worthwhile and then buy them out (thus accuriring their pattents). Major companies still have little inscentive to do their own in house R&D except on the select low risk projects that are unlikely to dead end.

    What patents really do is encourage companies away from the concept of a 'trade seceret'. This works because there is no protection if someone else reverse engineers your trade seceret, but on the other hand if you file a pattent (which requires disclosing your methods) you can get legal protection against copycats for a time. Without patents every new invention would be a trade seceret, corporate espionage would be more profitable than R&D, and it'd be almost imposible to build on existing ideas of others (because there's no inscentive for someone to give you accurate information regarding their trade secerets).

  • Re:wait... what? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Abstrackt (609015) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @09:20AM (#33122366)

    since when is 1962 in the 50s? rounding error?

    Drugs. Everything from 1959 to to 1970 was lost in a purple haze.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @09:55AM (#33122802)
    That bit is bullshit and should be removed - here's where the misconception comes from:

    Lead pipe organ pipes flow over time and get thicker at the bottom, the reason being the weight providing stress and the temperature being close enough to the melting point that the stuff can flow - just like hot glass bends only a lot slower. It's called creep and it only really happens in simple pure materials when you are at least 2/3 of the way to the melting point of the material from absolute zero. Mix other stuff in and that pushes it to higher temperatures.
    People heard about the lead pipes without understanding, saw that old windows were thicker and the bottom and thought that the glass must flow as well. The real answer is that until modern times it was very hard to make flat glass and that it was a common glaziers practice to put the thicker and stronger side of the glass at the bottom.
    The melting point of glass is too high for there to be much movement over a mere thousand years at room temperature let alone two hundred years.
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @10:16AM (#33123032) Homepage

    That age-old technology known as "trade secrets", which protected artisans for thousands of years before IP came into existence.

    Of course, there is a downside: it means no one but Corning knows the process for creating this stuff, and so no one can improve upon it, apply the same techniques to related fields, etc.

  • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <[Satanicpuppy] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @11:11AM (#33123936) Journal

    Corning is a good company. And they're known for their long view: they came up with the first commercial 20 dB/km fibre optics too, back in the '70s.

  • Tough glass (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:17PM (#33125030) Homepage

    There are several tougher variations on glass. Borosilicate glass (once called "Pyrex", but the name has been sold and "Pyrex" today is not necessarily borosilicate) is tough and very tolerant of temperature stresses. There are various laminates of plastics and glass. A common combination is a thin layer of glass, for scratch resistance, on top of polycarbonate. That won't shatter; it dents or punctures if hit hard enough.

    Cell phones should be using sapphire coated glass. Then you can put the thing in your pocket without a cover and not worry about it being scratched. The scanner glass at supermarkets [seamarkinternational.com] is often sapphire coated, so it can handle years of canned goods being dragged across the scanner. Versace has shipped a "luxury cell phone" [engadget.com] with this feature.

    There's also a diamond-coated glass [diamonex.com] for that application. Diamond coating is much cheaper than sapphire, but not quite as scratch-resistant.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @04:01PM (#33129240)

    CSM is really weird. It's actually a very good source of journalism, but it comes from a religion that basically ignores modern medicine and believes in healing through prayer alone.

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell. -- Confucius

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