Corning's High-Tech Gorilla Glass Could Remake the Face of Television

a model poses while flexing a piece of Corning's ultra-strong Gorilla glassHere's a cliché come to life: an idea whose time has finally come. The idea is Corning's (GLW) Gorilla glass: a thin, flexible and very strong product that was invented in 1962 and then, surprisingly, shelved for four decades.

According to Corning's Kelli Hopp-Michlosky, the glass -- first known as Chemcor -- was shopped around to a variety of likely users without success. "We tried the automobile windshield market, but the glass was too strong for windshields," she says. "And we couldn't find any other application at the time, not even the military. I think there were a lot of ideas, but nothing took hold, no market really developed for it."

A New Opportunity Arises

Up until about a decade ago, Corning's bread-and-butter product was the optical fiber used in telecommunications -- but that industry shrank dramatically after the tech bubble burst in 2001-2002. Soon afterward, with the growing popularity of home computers and cell phones, Corning's liquid crystal display (LCD) business began to soar. It was when those electronic devices became lighter and more portable that a new opportunity presented itself to Corning: to use Chemcor in smartphones and other hand-held devices.

"We had a customer at the time who was looking for a solution other than plastic, because plastic is not scratch-resistant at all," Hopp-Michlosky says. "And they were thinking glass might be a nice, elegant solution. And we went to our vault and pulled Chemcor off the shelf."

Chemcor's evolution into Gorilla glass involved some slight tweaks. Corning says the production process remains environmentally friendly and the glass itself is recyclable. But the product's clarity, light weight and toughness have positioned it to become an important component in modern television design -- as manufacturers make TVs even slimmer and remove the borders that previously held flat-screen sets together. Hopp-Michlosky says the optical properties of Gorilla glass also work well with high-definition and 3-D TVs.

Scaling Up Production

Corning has ramped up production of Gorilla glass at its plant in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and the company just approved about $180 million in capital expenditures to expand the plant.

"Growing demand for Gorilla glass is quickly consuming our available capacity," said Corning President James P. Clappin in a recent press release. "We are on track to reach sales in excess of $250 million this year, and sales could approach the $1 billion mark in 2011."

The company is also retooling an LCD plant in Shizuoka, Japan, to add Gorilla glass production in Asia, giving rise to concern that most of the jobs associated with Gorilla glass could end up in Asia.

"We're also investing in our Japanese plant, and quite honestly, it's because the device makers are there," says Hopp-Michlosky, who notes that developing the product and getting to the manufacturers "as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible" helps keep the bottom line lower for U.S. consumers.

More U.S. Jobs?

But she says Gorilla glass has the potential to create more domestic jobs. While it's a strong and lightweight product, it's still -- after all -- glass. Compared with electronics, which seem to get more and more compact, shipping the large pieces of glass needed for mass production of television screens, even with minimal breakage, is cost-prohibitive. That could create cost incentives for domestic production of TV sets that use Gorilla glass.

"If Gorilla glass moves into televisions, which we strongly believe that it will, that glass is very difficult to ship overseas," Hopp-Michlosky says. "You have to make it close to the customer -- you just can't ship a hair-thin piece of glass that big and have it get there in one piece."

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If it's true that it should be equipped with gorilla glass than I think all videos about this magic thing are fakes and trying to push sales. Because a few days ago mine fell on the ground and the glass broke - display is still working but a crack is running across the whole display :(

March 21 2011 at 12:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Corning should be ashamed that they are going to produce this new glass out of the US when we are in such need of jobs. How about rethinking that and make one step towards remaking the face of America and make that glass here. Be an example to other industries to keep the work here where we need it.

August 08 2010 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Bush network affiliates who underwrote NAFTA had made connections (sic) serving in military and Foreign Service units throughout Latin America and saw immediate business they thought could become long term with treaty backing, arguing that it would increase the size of the North American economy. It also made smuggling drugs easier, not coincidentally.
The problem with "business" is that you can only think about the next deal: the nature of business is short term. If business dominates government then long term planning becomes unfeasible and stability is disrupted -- because the nature of governance is long term.
The Bush people who underwrote NAFTA didn't know that. They were hardly geniuses...but their egos were certain they had joined the league of the founding fathers while they got rich at the expense of America's future.

August 07 2010 at 9:08 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This product creates more jobs in ASIA?
Good companies and people should BUY AMERICAN PRODUCTS AND SERVICES.
GUERRILLA glass is more appropriate -- subversive technology that secretly attacks U.S. economic security.

August 07 2010 at 8:54 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

another example of why the economy is tanking here in the US, and no jobs. Outsourcing to Japan is not the answer.. keep the jobs in the USA, stop the greed

August 07 2010 at 7:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

"What lies in the hearts of evil men?" "The shadow knows!" profound is that "Odumbo", really? The very basic's of economics would teach you that it takes time for the effects of policies to trickle to the local level. Yes, the results are in, this buttom line belongs to the REPUBLICANS. YOU get this one. YEAH...GOOD WORK. You continue to guard your generational wealth, and lock out the working tax paying citizens from their persuit of happiness...a damn job. That is all Americans want, a way to make a living and feed & shelter themselves and the family. Bring the glass making home.

August 07 2010 at 6:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Suzie & Dickie

Does anyone see something wrong with this Corning statement?
"If Gorilla glass moves into televisions, which we strongly believe that it will, that glass is very difficult to ship overseas," Hopp-Michlosky says. "You have to make it close to the customer -- you just can't ship a hair-thin piece of glass that big and have it get there in one piece."
Hint: Gorilla glass ain't so strong maybe?

August 07 2010 at 6:11 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Lol, of course they will make it there. Unlike the USA (land of suckers and a bought off government) Japan has import barriers. They import almost nothing and even if there is no tariff attached their regulations make it impossible for anything from the states to get there. They will hold it on the docks with $2000.00 a day "wharfage" fees, They will hold it for a month in agricultural inspection. Cost $1500.00 a day. By the time it gets to the customer, they can't afford to pay for it. Hence the glass will be made in shizuoka. Meanwhile washington will pass another free trade bill designed to destroy the middle class and let every country on earth sell their stuff in the USA tariff free. Good luck america. I have moved to thailand. Here there is a 100% tariff on all imported goods and a .5% unemployment rate. Do the math.

August 07 2010 at 5:59 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

No one wants to tell the real truth.............companies are moving offshore, to Asia, etc., because of the UNIONS here. And, the unions are bring promulgated by B.O. and the administration.

The unions are killing industry in the U.S. The auto industry..........who the hell ever heard of a "guaranteed annual wage?" They had their place years and years ago.............but have gone way overbord in their demands.........both money-wise and in the insane work rules.

August 07 2010 at 5:55 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to youall315's comment

Moron, if unions were forcing US manufacturing overseas there would be no US automotive manufacturing. Hell the non-union Nissan, Honda, and Toyota plants here in the US pay better than the union plants of the big three here. US CEOs CHOOSE where to close and open manufacturing facilities not the unions. They CHOOSE countries that allow slave wages like China with a minimum wage of .32/hour. Despite NAFTA, US corps are pulling out of Mexico where they have to pay higher wages, adding to the pressure to immigrate to the US.

August 07 2010 at 8:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would for a company that started operations in China. We made item for other industries. Here is the problem as companies move off shore, they demand their suppliers move also. You can make your product here but the will not pay for you to ship it and they expect the lowest price also.
A pair of Nike sneakers cost $5 to make in China and the $1 to ship here and sell for $75. So where does all that extra money go. Well to the people that decided to make them in China.

August 07 2010 at 5:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply