willow glass

Corning – the "glass company" that came up with the telescope mirror for the Palomar Observatory, lighter and tougher windshields, and with Gorilla Glass for the first iPhone (GG now in its 3rd generation) – has showcased their new, ultra-thin, 100-micron thick, flexible glass.

Let’s be clear, we’re talking about glass, not plastic. It’s called “Willow Glass” and it bends. By “it bends,” we mean it’s supple and bendable like plastic. But it’s glass. And it could change the shape and form of how next-generation electronics are ultimately designed.

First, it’s reported to be really, really light. About as thin as a single sheet of paper, so consumers will end up with lighter electronics. Or they’ll end up with bigger AND lighter electronics. And who doesn’t like lighter sleeker electronics? I mean, my laptop weighs a ton. Or seems to these days.

Oh, and did we mention it bends? No, really. It bends. So second, that means that it can be shaped to, well, pretty much anything engineers and designers can imagine. Like curved displays. Or a tablet you can roll up and stick in your pocket or pocketbook. Or wearable computing devices.

James Clappin, the president of Corning Glass Technologies has observed, “People are not accustomed to glass you roll up.” Gee, you think? But given the increased consumer engagement expectations regarding organic design and style and heft (up 23% over last year, according to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index for all electronic categories), we can’t help but predict that consumers will get accustomed to it real fast. We’re thinking a really steep adoption curve.

Forecasts are that it will take at least three years before flexible Willow Glass becomes a fundamental ingredient in consumer electronics. But that’s OK. A longer-standing reality is that the least flexible component of any system is usually the user.