The Evolution of Gorilla Glass
Corning’s Gorilla Glass has stood the test of time (and numerous UBIF tests) as the premier choice for smartphone screen glass. They have achieved this success through frequent and appropriate innovations and adapting to the needs of the users. If you have any of the most popular cell phone brands, chances are that you’ve seen what Gorilla Glass can do and its limits. The evolution of Corning and Gorilla Glass is a storied one, actually dating way back before Apple or Samsung or even the internet.
A Brief History
1960: Corning has been perfecting their chemically strengthened glass since the 1960s. Back then it was called “muscle glass” and it was used for commercial and industrial applications such as cars and planes.
2005: The tough glass found new purpose when Apple asked if Corning would help them out with the iPhone.
2007: The first version of Gorilla Glass came out on the first iPhone.
2012: Gorilla Glass 2 was 20% thinner and was announced at CES.
On October 24, 2012, Corning announced that over one billion mobile devices used Gorilla Glass.
2013: Gorilla Glass 3 is announced at CES. It used a new, stronger formula promising to be 3x more scratch resistant. It was also more flexible, reduced scratch visibility, and retained its strength even after a scratch.
2014: Gorilla Glass 4 was thinner and 2x more damage resistant than its predecessor.
2015: The ZTE Axon was the first device to use Antimicrobial Gorilla Glass. It was the first EPA-registered antimicrobial cover glass, using ionic silver to protect from stain and odor causing bacteria.
2016: Gorilla Glass 5 premiered on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7. It can survive 80 percent of drops at levels up to 1.6 meters and maintains its strength after frequent use.
Strength From Within
Corning chemically increases the amount of tension their glass can take by prestressing the surface through a process called ion exchange. Thin sheets of glass are soaked in a very hot–752 degree–potassium ion bath which forces an exchange of small sodium ions in the glass with larger potassium ions. This puts compressive force on the surface of the glass meaning that any force that is applied to the glass now needs to overcome that compressive force before it can put tension on the glass and break it.
This makes the glass much stronger than untreated alternatives, but it’s also not really Corning’s secret. Many other glass companies chemically strengthen their glass but Corning puts a big emphasis on damage resistance. When glass is scratched, stress concentrators form and make it much easier for it to break. Damage resistance makes Gorilla Glass resilient even when it has been damaged. Want proof? We made a video illustrating just how Gorilla Glass holds up under pressure. We used slow motion cameras and everything.
We also visited Corning’s test facility 2 years ago and learned more about these processes.
In 2014, after 11 years of essentially no competition in the smartphone glass industry, Apple decided that it wanted to create their own glass material called Sapphire. Sapphire has come out stronger than Gorilla in some tests though more expensive and a heavier material. Apple planned to use Sapphire on the iPhone 6, but were not able to create enough Sapphire glass to satisfy the demand for the phone. Apple plans to repurpose the $250 million Sapphire facility to a server farm and data center. It is still uncertain if Apple is currently using Gorilla Glass on their new products, and even after a thorough teardown we cannot determine if the glass is Gorilla or not.
Future of Gorilla Glass
Gorilla Glass is already finding a new place in wearable tech. Corning just announced Gorilla Glass SR+ in August and promises that it will “significantly reduce visible scratches while delivering the toughness, optical clarity, and touch sensitivity that make Gorilla Glass famous”. This new type of glass is designed to protect against the wear and tear that smartwatches are put through plus make it easier to see your smartwatch in different lights. Corning believes that Gorilla Glass SR+ will deliver 70% better damage resistance against impacts than its competitors.
Gorilla Glass has set its place in the industry for the time being as the strongest option for tech glass. Tech is an investment and it’s comforting to know that the companies who help create those products feel as passionately as we do about protecting that.