Corning takes shot at sapphire with 'Project Phire' ultra scratch-resistant glass

Posted:
in iPhone edited February 2015
Glassmaker Corning on Friday unveiled "Project Phire," a glass composite that the company says is just as strong and drop-resistant as its latest Gorilla Glass but nearly as scratch-resistant as sapphire.

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"We told you last year that sapphire was great for scratch performance but didn't fare well when dropped," Corning executive James Clappin said during Project Phire's unveiling at an investor event, according to CNET. "So, we created a product that offers the same superior damage resistance and drop performance of Gorilla Glass 4 with scratch resistance that approaches sapphire."

Clappin added that Corning expects Project Phire to go on sale later this year, but did not elaborate further.

Corning's Gorilla Glass business, which the company restarted in 2007 at the request of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has been under assault in recent months from sapphire activists who want to see the mercurial material replace hardened glass in smartphones. Apple struck a $578 million deal with sapphire equipment manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies in late 2013, a sign that many took to mean Corning would find itself on the outside looking in for the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus did not ship with sapphire-covered displays, however, and the GTAT deal famously went bust less than a year later. Apple's interest in the material was seemingly explained with the unveiling of the Apple Watch --?which does use sapphire in some models --?and the record-breaking number of iPhones that ship with sapphire in their camera lens covers and Touch ID sensors, but that has not tamped down sapphire proponents' enthusiasm.

Sapphire is indeed extremely hard and scratch-resistant, but also quite brittle and shatters relatively easily. The material is notoriously difficult to work with as well, as Vertu executive Hutch Hutchison told AppleInsider last year.

"As with any high-tech material, sapphire crystal has its own unique set of problems," Hutchison said. "It is slow, expensive and energy intensive to produce. It can take two weeks to grow each boules and the yield from each is low. It is also very difficult to cut, grind and polish; diamond tools have to be used for all of these processes."

Corning's announcement of the new composite material comes nearly three months after the company unveiled Gorilla Glass 4, a new generation of the strengthened glass that Corning says will survive drops onto rough surfaces up to 80 percent of the time. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are thought to use the previous-generation Gorilla Glass 3.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 94

    I look forward to seeing this glass composite on a 4.2" iPhone this year or next.

  • Reply 2 of 94

    This just in: Corning continues to deride a product that's a threat to its business.

     

    Quote:


     "As with any high-tech material, sapphire crystal has its own unique set of problems," Hutchison said. "It is slow, expensive and energy intensive to produce. It can take two weeks to grow each boules and the yield from each is low. It is also very difficult to cut, grind and polish; diamond tools have to be used for all of these processes."


    If Jony wants it, Jony gets it. As for the diamond tools, Apple already solved that problem when they developed new tools for cutting the chamfered edges on the previous generation Apple products.

  • Reply 3 of 94
    I think this will be the company to make a go of it, if sapphire were to ever happen as promised. One of the truly great companies of the world.

    Glad I own some GLW! :-)

    (As an aside, and fwiw, someone in the know mentioned almost two years ago that they had worked on it, and that Apple was barking up the wrong tree with GTAT and sapphire, since it was not ready for prime time yet. I was not sure how to evaluate that info then, but I guess, by hindsight, that person was right!)
  • Reply 4 of 94
    bugsnwbugsnw Posts: 717member
    Competition is good. Let the best man win.
  • Reply 5 of 94
    This just in: Corning continues to deride a product that's a threat to its business.

    You are certainly welcome to think what you will, but they haven't been around, and innovated, for 150 years for nothing.

    Apple is not the only great company in the world.
  • Reply 6 of 94
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     

    This just in: Corning continues to deride a product that's a threat to its business.


     

    Looks like GT Technologies wasn't much of a threat.

  • Reply 7 of 94
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member
    bugsnw wrote: »
    Competition is good. Let the best man win.

    That would be Corning?

    You are certainly welcome to think what you will, but they haven't been around, and innovated, for 150 years for nothing.

    Apple is not the only great company in the world.

    True dat.
    salmanpak wrote: »
    Looks like GT Technologies wasn't much of a threat.

    No. Sapphire is dead.
  • Reply 8 of 94
    red oakred oak Posts: 1,099member
    Jobs should have locked Corning into a 10 year exclusive deal in return for saving their company

    Corning immediately went and sold the Apple inspired product (aka Gorilla Glass) to the Android crowd

    So pathetic
  • Reply 9 of 94
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member
    red oak wrote: »
    Jobs should have locked Corning into a 10 year exclusive deal in return for saving their company

    Corning immediately went and sold the Apple inspired product (aka Gorilla Glass) to the Android crowd

    So pathetic

    Yeah. Or buy them out. Jobs didn't believe in acquisitions much, though.
  • Reply 10 of 94
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,056member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Benjamin Frost View Post

     

    I look forward to seeing this glass composite on a 4.2" iPhone this year or next.


    4.2" screen, lol. Does it come from Ming Chi Kuo?

    I wish Apple would have gone for 3 screen sizes: 4.5", 5.0" and 5.5". 4.7" is a little small for me while 5.5" is a little too big for one hand use comfortably.

  • Reply 11 of 94
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    red oak wrote: »
    Jobs should have locked Corning into a 10 year exclusive deal in return for saving their company

    Corning immediately went and sold the Apple inspired product (aka Gorilla Glass) to the Android crowd

    So pathetic

    I think you should look into Corning a bit, and then edit that comment about getting saved by Apple.
  • Reply 12 of 94
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    This just in: Corning continues to deride a product that's a threat to its business.

    If Jony wants it, Jony gets it. As for the diamond tools, Apple already solved that problem when they developed new tools for cutting the chamfered edges on the previous generation Apple products.

    There's a long history of slicing and polishing wafers of crystal with diamond tools that you might look into. Chamfering aluminum is child's play.

    Like Jony says, you guys gotta get out and move some metal around.
  • Reply 13 of 94
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,784member
    You are certainly welcome to think what you will, but they haven't been around, and innovated, for 150 years for nothing.

    Apple is not the only great company in the world.

    It's worth remembering the innovation for Gorilla Glass came about because Steve kicked ass to make it happen.
  • Reply 14 of 94
    red oakred oak Posts: 1,099member
    flaneur wrote: »
    I think you should look into Corning a bit, and then edit that comment about getting saved by Apple.

    I did - on-going over the the last few years. What is your specific point?
  • Reply 15 of 94
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    I look forward to seeing this glass composite on a 4.2" iPhone this year or next.

    No 4.0" iPhone and I'm going to throw a hissy fit¡

    This just in: Corning continues to deride a product that's a threat to its business.

    It is interesting that this non-threat keeps getting pooh-poohed by Corning. If it was really a non-threat, like crystalline poo-poo, you would never hear anything about it from a competitor. And giving it have the name of sapphire seems like they are trying to compete with the material, to me.
    I think this will be the company to make a go of it, if sapphire were to ever happen as promised.

    What was promised and by whom?
    ...Apple was barking up the wrong tree with GTAT and sapphire, since it was not ready for prime time yet.

    What?! You do know sapphire has been on iPhones and iPads for years, and the soon to be released ?Watch? I don't know how you can it's a material not ready for prime time.

    asdasd wrote: »
    No. Sapphire is dead.

    GTAT is dead, not sapphire.
  • Reply 16 of 94
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    It's worth remembering the innovation for Gorilla Glass came about because Steve kicked ass to make it happen.

    Corning had created it decades earlier. Jobs is responsible for the motivation to have it produced, not the innovation to have it created.
  • Reply 17 of 94
    red oak wrote: »
    Jobs should have locked Corning into a 10 year exclusive deal in return for saving their company

    Corning immediately went and sold the Apple inspired product (aka Gorilla Glass) to the Android crowd

    So pathetic

    The flipside of that is that supply chain companies who are in the business of selling a part to multiple customers can scale up for mass production and thus build that part more cost effectively.
  • Reply 18 of 94
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,073member

    Apple was never going to use artificial sapphire as a standard part of the iPhone. Why? Because it makes not one iota of sense, the incredible extra difficulty of manufacture and usage and for what, a handful of people who demand completely over the top scratch resistance. Perhaps it was contemplated as special limited version that would charge extra, but even then I can't see Apple wanting or needing to bother with that level of pandering. Not when they are already selling 70 million phones a quarter.

  • Reply 19 of 94
    solipsismysolipsismy Posts: 5,099member
    analogjack wrote: »
    Apple was never going to use artificial sapphire as a standard part of the iPhone. Why? Because it makes not one iota of sense, the incredible extra difficulty of manufacture and usage and for what, a handful of people who demand completely over the top scratch resistance. Perhaps it was contemplated as special limited version that would charge extra, but even then I can't see Apple wanting or needing to bother with that level of pandering. Not when they are already selling 70 million phones a quarter.

    They use naturally occurring sapphire now? I've never heard that.
  • Reply 20 of 94
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismY View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AnalogJack View Post



    Apple was never going to use artificial sapphire as a standard part of the iPhone. Why? Because it makes not one iota of sense, the incredible extra difficulty of manufacture and usage and for what, a handful of people who demand completely over the top scratch resistance. Perhaps it was contemplated as special limited version that would charge extra, but even then I can't see Apple wanting or needing to bother with that level of pandering. Not when they are already selling 70 million phones a quarter.




    They use naturally occurring sapphire now? I've never heard that.

     

     

    He meant a sapphire composite. Pure sapphire would be too brittle.

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