Bloomberg News

Apple Supplier Corning Sees 3-Year Wait on Flexible Glass

February 28, 2013

Apple Supplier Corning Sees Three-Year Wait for Flexible Display

Surging global sales of smartphones have helped boost earnings for 161-year-old Corning. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

Corning Inc. (GLW:US), the maker of glass for Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) iPhones, said it will probably take at least three years before companies start making flexible displays using its new Willow material.

Companies have yet to come up with products that can take full advantage of Willow glass, which can be made in a roll similar to newsprint, James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, said in an interview in Beijing yesterday. The product will let companies make curved or flexible displays.

“People are not accustomed to glass you roll up,” Clappin said after an event marking the opening an $800 million factory for liquid-crystal-display glass. “The ability of people to take it and use it to make a product is limited.”

The Corning, New York-based company (APPL:US) is producing the glass and making “a lot of effort” to teach “very big name” customers how to handle the spools, Clappin said, declining to elaborate. The introduction of the glass comes as companies including Google Inc. (GOOG:US) consider wearable computing devices.

The Willow glass should be used in some simple products this year, Clappin said. Examples may include a flexible barrier for solar panels or as a thin film behind some touch panels, he said.

Corning sent out samples of the flexible glass to makers of phones, tablets and TVs in June. Chief Financial Officer James Flaws said at the time the company hoped it would be available in consumer products this year.

Computer Eyeglasses

Corning climbed as much as 1.3 percent to $12.75 before closing at $12.61 in New York trading yesterday. The shares (GLW:US) are little changed this year, compared (GLW:US) with a 6.2 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Google has been working on eyeglass-embedded computers and plans to introduce them in 2014. Apple has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad, two people familiar with the company’s plans said last month. Clappin declined to comment when asked whether Corning had any contact with Apple on this project.

Surging global sales of smartphones have helped boost earnings for 161-year-old Corning, which made the glass for Thomas Edison’s light bulb, according to its website. Gorilla Glass, which was introduced in 2007, is used in more than 1 billion devices worldwide, according to the company. Corning has sold the glass to 33 electronics makers, including Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) and Sony Corp. (6758), for use in more than 900 models.

Sales of Gorilla Glass surged 44 percent to $1 billion last year. The product is the second-most profitable and the fastest growing in Corning’s history, Chief Executive Officer Wendell Weeks said last month.

Gorilla Glass sales may also grow “dramatically” alongside a projected increase in demand for new touchscreen notebooks, Clappin said.

“We sell a lot of Gorilla Glass in cell phones, but a notebook is 10 times the size, 10 times the area,” he said. “Glassmakers sell in square feet. We like area -- the bigger the area, the better.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net


Tim Cook's Reboot
LIMITED-TIME OFFER SUBSCRIBE NOW

Companies Mentioned

  • GLW
    (Corning Inc)
    • $20.19 USD
    • -0.21
    • -1.04%
  • AAPL
    (Apple Inc)
    • $100.81 USD
    • -0.15
    • -0.15%
Market data is delayed at least 15 minutes.
 
blog comments powered by Disqus