Scientists unveiled “willow glass” the first flexible glass to reach the mass market. The oxymoronic material is made by Corning Glass, the same company that made “gorilla glass”
the indestructible glass used on the iPhone, that heralded the beginning of mass use of touch screen mobile devices. The company says that the glass could be used for products that aren’t flat and on devices that are becoming increasingly slim. Imagine consumer electronics that aren’t flat or that can bend and move!
Also astonishing is the technology that makes the glass more sustainably. In essence, the glass can be produced at a stable temperature using a roll to roll process that looks like a newspaper printing machine.
Corning Glass is written about in Steve Job’s biography. The story stands as an example of material innovation, as well as a classic example of Jobs pushing people to go beyond what they initially thought was possible. Corning had invented gorilla glass in the 1960s but no one had a use for it, so they stopped making it. Jobs had finished the design of the iPhone, but needed a surface that could endure every day handling, bumps and drops.
A board member put Jobs in touch with Wendell P. Weeks, the CEO of Corning. After meeting, Jobs soon saw the potential for the material and ordered as much as possible within 6 months. Weeks said that it was impossible, they didn’t have the capacity, none of their factories were making that kind of glass. Jobs said, “Don’t be afraid.” In six months, Weeks produced the glass. Jobs sent him a message the day the iPhone launched that said, “We couldn’t have done it without you.”