You may have heard of the term “Gorilla glass,” and wondered what it is. In a nutshell, Gorilla glass is a brand name for a specialized glass product made by Corning. It is designed to be lightweight, resistant to damage and thin. It’s not the kind of glass you’d want to use around the house, and it’s not something you’d want to apply glass paint to, but you probably carry some of it around with you in a pocket or purse every time you carry your smartphone.
What Gorilla glass can do
Gorilla glass – in one form or another – has been around much longer than you think. Corning first started experimenting with different formulations of glass, looking for ways to strengthen it. What they developed was a product they sold under the Chemcor brand, called “muscled glass.” It was a specialty product that was used in automobiles and airplanes, industrial applications and in the pharmaceutical industry until the 1990’s, when it was replaced by other glass formulations.
But while “Gorilla glass” may have fallen out of vogue, it wasn’t forgotten. Ten years later, electronics manufacturers –most noticeably Apple – began to develop iPads and iPods- all with glass covers that were prone to breakage. So, Corning introduced Apple to Chemcor glass. The old Chemcor formulation produced glass that was too thick for the handheld devices we all know and love, but Corning began tinkering with the old Chemcor formula, and the rest is history. By 2008, the new, thin and almost scratchless “Gorilla glass” formulation was in production, and now sells at a rate of more than $1B per year.
But Corning hasn’t forgotten about Gorilla glass’s Chemcor roots. And apparently neither has the Ford Motor Company. Ford is using the Gorilla glass formulation for the front and rear windshields in the 2016 Ford GT. The glass reduces the weight of the car by 12 pounds without compromising the strength of the windshield. (A windshield can weigh 40 pounds or more.)
According to the Ford Motor Company, the new windshield formulation is actually a hybrid of three different layers – one layer of Corning automotive Gorilla glass, a thermoplastic layer and an annealed glass layer. A traditional windshield consists of just two layers – a thermoplastic layer and a layer of annealed glass. This approach to making automotive glass was developed by Henry Ford, and has been in use for more than 100 years.
While Gorilla glass isn’t something you’d use for decorating (yet, anyway), it does underscore the versatility of glass, and how changes in the basic formulation can really change what glass can do!
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Photo Credit: Ford Motor Company