Foldable phones are here, but with a few caveats. Not only are these phones insanely expensive, they use plastic polymer screens instead of the glass screens that everyone has come to expect from the smartphones these days. While the plastic screens seem to do the trick, they are worse than glass in almost every aspect. Glass is strong, durable, hard to scratch, and better to look at than its plastic polymer counterpart. However, the currently available glass can’t fold enough to make it suitable for folding phones. To make sure that the consumers can buy a truly foldable smartphones with a glass screen over the coming years, Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass, has confirmed it is working on an ultra-thin, bendable glass that is able to bend to a 5-millimeter radius.
According to a report in Wired, the main issue with building a bendable glass is making sure that bending it doesn’t impact its toughness.
“The back of the problem we’re trying to break, the technical challenge, is, can you keep those tight 3- to 5-millimeter bend radii and also increase the damage resistance of the glass,” Corning’s John Bayne told Wired. “That’s the trajectory we’re on.”
The report adds that Corning is using the learnings from its Willow Glass and Gorilla Glass to build the bendable glass. The Willow Glass can roll up like a sheet of paper and Gorilla Glass is known of its durability. The company’s current bendable glass prototypes that have been sampled with smartphone makers don’t seem hit the right mark. They either fall short of durability requirements or they are not bending enough.
“We have glasses we’ve sampled to customers, and they’re functional, but they’re not quite meeting all the requirements,” Bayne noted. “People either want better performance against a drop event or a tighter bend radius. We can give them one or the other; the key is to give them both.”
Corning expect that its bendable glass, which can fulfill all of the smartphone manufacturers’ requirements, will be ready by the time the foldable phones go mainstream.