New super-tough glass strengthens gadget screens

One of Japan’s largest glass manufacturers debuted on Thursday a new glass designed for smartphones and tablet PCs that is considerably tougher than conventional glass.

Asahi Glass said its Dragontrail glass is about six times as tough as typical chemically-treated soda lime glass and should be better suited to the rough-and-tumble life to which portable gadgets are subjected.

At a Tokyo news conference, reporters were invited to attempt scratching a sheet of the glass with a key. Despite exerting considerable pressure, the glass didn’t appear to suffer any damage. It was also dropped without breaking. (Watch the video on YouTube.)

The company also showed videos of tests it had done on the glass. It bent but didn’t break under 60kgs of weight and resisted the shock of a hammer strike in the videos.

Tough glass doesn’t just mean gadgets are less likely to suffer broken screens. Because the glass is tougher, manufacturers can get away with using thinner sheets and that helps products slim down and get lighter.

The glass will go up against Corning’s Gorilla glass, which boasts similar properties and has proved a hit with portable gadget makers. It’s already used in more than 225 mobile devices including cell phones, laptop and tablet PCs, and was recently selected by Sony for the front glass for its flat-panel LCD TVs, said Corning.

Asahi Glass has been developing Dragontrail for the last two years and the company has already begun supplying it to some electronics makers, but delayed its disclosure until Thursday. It declined to identify its customers.

The company expects sales of Dragontrail glass will surpass ¥30 billion (US$365 million) in 2012 and continue to grow with the fast-expanding gadget market. It’s hoping for an eventual 30 percent share of the glass market for consumer electronics.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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