The touchscreen mobile device business is getting tougher—in more ways than one. Japan's Asahi glass has a new super-tough material called Dragontrail that's aiming to steal some of Corning Gorilla's market.
Ashai is Japan's biggest glassmaker, and it just launched the new Dragontrail material with a fair amount of pomp and circumstance in Japan. The glass is said to be six times stronger than conventional glass, stronger than typical window soda-lime glass and has a "beautiful, pristine finish," according to press materials. It can directly resist scratches (reporters at the event invited to try to damage a sample with a key) and a small, millimeter-thin sample can stand up to 60 kilos of weight by bending before breaking. Check out the demonstration video below:
Asahi is really confident in its product, and expects it to earn well over $350 million of revenue when it's settled into the market in 2012. Ultimately, it hopes to capture up to 30% of its market.
This is no small sum, but it's dwarfed by some expectations for Asahi's big competitor, Corning, with its similar Gorilla glass material, a stressed alkali-aluminosilicate glass that's used on the iPhone and other high-profile devices. Gorilla's 2011 revenues may reach $1 billion.
One big factor driving this new market are the ever-increasing number of portable gadgets we own. Not only do we now carry more digital electronics around with us, but thanks to innovations like the iPhone these gizmos are sporting larger and larger screens—making them more vulnerable to damage by accidental drops or the display-wrecking effects of a scratch caused by sliding a phone into a pocket full of urban detritus. Toughened safety glass that also possesses high optical quality (needed for today's tablet PCs and smartphones) can prevent a lot of this damage.
It also allows bold design decisions to be tried out: like Apple's iPhone 4, which relies on glass for some of its structural rigidity, and the thinness of the tough glass to bring the LCD closer to the user's finger for a more satisfying touchscreen experience. We also suspect that new super-strong, glass-like materials may one day be used to make devices in their entirety.
Two interesting side effects to all this: the glass industry gets a jolt and our future gadgets will be more damage-proof and come in increasingly innovative shapes.
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