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Apple Supplier Corning Introduces Tougher Glass

Corning introduces a new version of its Gorilla Glass, which it claims is more shatter-resistant and tougher than rival products.

Corning Inc.

Anyone with a smartphone and a moment of clumsiness knows that the biggest frustration with Corning’s best-known product, Gorilla Glass, is a shattered screen.

The glass maker says its new Gorilla Glass 4, which it plans to unveil today at its lab in Corning, New York, affords greater protection against the damage caused by dropping a smartphone. The company supplies glass to both Samsung and Apple for their tablets and smartphones.

Corning’s innovation represents the culmination of thousands of hours of study by fractologists who studied hundreds of broken phone screens to determine why the glass covers shatter — most of the time, it’s from being dropped onto surfaces such as concrete or asphalt — and how to simulate those conditions in lab tests.

“They bought a bunch of phones, and started dropping them in our labs with a scientifically defined test mechanism,” Cliff Hund, president of Corning East Asia, said.

Corning’s scientists concluded the best way to test its Gorilla Glass was to drop a device face-down from a height of one meter onto a rough surface of 180-grit sandpaper.

In such lab tests, its new glass survived 80 percent of such face drops, according to Hund. The cover glass also retains more of its initial strength in damage tests than rival products.

The advance in Gorilla Glass comes at a time of heightened competitive challenges for the upstate New York company that takes its name from the rural community where it’s headquartered.

The company’s Gorilla Glass sales fell in its second quarter, due to lower demand for smartphones and tablets. Corning also cut its full-year growth forecast for cover glass shipments.

Corning faces competition from low-end glass makers whose products (such as soda-lime glass) are used to cover the displays of inexpensive phones.

“Generally those cheaper solutions are not as good, in physical durability,” said long-time display industry analyst Paul Semeza. “But for low-end products they could be good enough.”

The company also must contend with sapphire glass made from a substance that’s the second-hardest material in the world, after diamond. The new material already covers some smartphone camera lenses and is used on Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

However, last month’s bankruptcy of Apple supplier GT Advanced Technologies demonstrates the challenges of producing sapphire glass in volume.

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