On the heels of Plastic Logic's announcement of a flexible color display for e-readers (which we covered last week), Corning has released Willow Glass, a display material that is 100 microns thin and flexible enough to be rolled.
Willow Glass is said to be the first display material that can be adapted to high-volume, low-cost, continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing processes. (You can watch a video from Corning at the bottom of this post.) These processes, similar to the methods used for printing newspapers, involve temperatures of up to 500 degrees Centigrade, which the polymer films used in plastic display technology can't tolerate.
At 100 microns thin, Corning's new Willow Glass is flexible enough to be processed in high-volume roll-to-roll manufacturing processes for consumer electronics displays, which will help bring down costs. (Source: Corning)
The glass is being produced in a sheet-to-sheet manufacturing process. Switching to roll processing will be "a long-awaited industry milestone," Dipak Chowdhury, division vice president and Willow Glass program director, said in a press release. Corning is collaborating with customers, research institutions, and equipment makers to develop an optimized process design and compatible process equipment.
Corning plans initially to target Willow Glass for OEMs developing display and touch applications. Its thinness, strength, and flexibility would let displays be wrapped around devices such as medical equipment or around structures such as signage. The company is working on other applications, such as lighting and solar cells.
Willow Glass can be used to support color filters and thinner backplanes for organic LEDs and LCDs in high-performance portable electronics such as notebook computers, tablets, and smartphones. It can also help engineers developing conformable displays designed for nonflat surfaces or for immersive viewing.
Corning says the material is formulated to perform well for electronic components such as touch sensors, and it leverages the natural hermetic properties of glass to serve as a seal for OLED displays and other moisture- and oxygen-sensitive technologies. Even at 100 microns, it can hermetically seal components while providing excellent surface, thermal and optical properties, the company says.
Like its predecessors, Gorilla Glass, EAGLE XG Slim, and Corning Lotus Glass, the new material is produced with Corning's proprietary fusion process.
Jack, there was no discussion about application methods, only the fact that this material can be produced in quantities for high-volume manufacturing (roll-to-roll). Applications seem to be for backplane, not frontplane, glass.
Maybe I missed it, Ann, but did you say anyplace what the process is for applying this material to its applications? There was some talk in the comments about heat, but I wasn't sure if that was for application or if there is some other means.
Thanks, that's the detail I was hoping you could tell us. Aside from the extra visibility of scratches due to the backlight/LEDs, I think your point about not being able to place the keypad flat against the glass and the ensuing air bubbles is especially important. That's not just looks, it's function that is affected.
Great question and I did not answer it with my reply.My fault.The total installation involves a clock with various functions; i.e. bake, broil, self-clean, time settings, etc.These are all indicated by LEDs when the function is activated AND there is a back light.Any scratch in the key pad overlay would be highlighted by the backlight and / or the LEDs. Another problem we have is placing the keypad completely flat to the glass, consequently not removing all air bubbles.Those can reduce the capacitive qualities and lessen the performance and certainly the timing of the function.We use a device called a laminator.It looks like a big credit card machine, the old ones anyway, in which an imprint of the card is made by moving a spring-loaded roller over the face of the card.This smoothes out the bubbles.It's also important to note that these assemblies are made in a clean room with all of the employees wearing the necessary clean room clothing.
Ann, absolutely—you are correct. There is a specific "overlay" we use on the front side but it must be protected due to scratching.One of the issues also (and it's a big one) is heat generated from the elements or burners on the maintop.Most of my clients use a 105 degree C clock but in some cases we are skirting the upper limits of acceptability relative to temperature. This is certainly true when you have a very high input burner on the right rear or left rear.We call these "master blasters".Combine that with a range hood and you can have a delicate situation.By the way, I contacted the company and they are sending me literature and design specifications.Great work on your part.You made me look like a genius.
bobjengr, thanks for the feedback, especially details about what you'd do with this material. It sounds like you would also use this for the backplane, not the frontplane, material--did I interpret your comment correctly?
Ann, great post and good information. I have two applications that might be acceptable for this type of materia. Both are glass-backed control panels that use capacitive touch to activate various controlled manufacturing sequences. The "keypads" are extremely touchy with an in-house failure rate approaching 50%. Beth brings up a very good question relative to the durability and scratch resistance of the material. Any improvement over what we are using would be marvelous. The temperature characteristics are outstanding and well within what we experience with our 105 degree C application. Many thanks for this information.
Warren, as I said to Beth, it sounds like these products may be targeted for the backplane, not the frontplane. In any case, scratches and impacts from dropping are always a problem with plastics. My RayBans do a good job of resisting both, but their light weight seems to keep them relatively undamaged.
Most of the new 3D printers and 3D printing technologies in this crop are breaking some boundaries, whether it's build volume-per-dollar ratios, multimaterials printing techniques, or new materials types.
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