Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip is the first folding phone with a glass screen. Previous devices such as Samsung & # 39; s notorious Galaxy Fold had plastic screens. Flexible glass technology is essential for making more foldable phones and tablets.
Foldable glass cannot be folded; It Only Bends
"Foldable glass" is a bit of a wrong name. Foldable glass displays do not fold completely ̵
When a device such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip closes, there is an opening between the two halves of the glass. There are also raised edges around the screen that prevent both sides of the glass from touching each other directly when it is closed.
In other words, foldable glass is a type of ultra-thin glass that can bend hundreds of thousands of times without breaking. It cannot be folded so that both sides touch.
Bendable glass is not entirely new
Several types of companies are working on this technology. Samsung looks like it gets its ultra-thin folding glass from the Korean manufacturer Doowoo Insys, but it hasn't talked much about the technology.
Corning, which makes the strong, damage-resistant Gorilla Glass used on iPhones and many other smartphones, is also working hard on bendable glass for electronic devices. Corning already makes a bendable type of glass called "Willow Glass".
Bendable glass is not entirely new. As Corning's senior VP for optical communication technology, Claudio Mazzali told Fast Company that Corning has been bending glass for nearly 50 years. Corning created flexible glass fibers for fiber optic cables, which he said can bend at 90 degrees and continue to function perfectly.
Although flexible glass is not new, one of the challenges is to make it ultra-thin. Corning & # 39; s technology Polly Chu told CNET that "to go to a tight bend radius, you must go to a glass that is much, much thinner than what you have today." The thinner it gets, the more you can bend it.
Making flexible glass work on telephones
Making ultra-thin bendable glass is a big enough challenge, but how do you handle that thinner and thinner glass and make it as tough and resistant to damage as Gorilla Glass is on today's smartphones?
It is easy to forget how impressive Gorilla Glass and similar technologies are: The glass on the screen of a modern smartphone can take a beating without breaking or even scratching. Gorilla Glass is harder than normal metals. We take that for granted.
John Bayne, who runs Corning & # 39; s Gorilla Glass company, explained the challenge to Wired:
“In a glass solution you really challenge the laws of nature, to keep a very tight bend radius you want become thinner and thinner, but you must also be able to survive a fall event and resist damage.
Bayne said that Corning works to maintain the flexibility of the glass and at the same time improves the resistance to damage. He told Wired that Corning & # 39; s existing Willow Glass would make the Willow Glass less bendable through the ion exchange process that strongly creates Gorilla Glass.
Corning still expects that flexible glass for electronics will be mainstream in the coming years. How do Corning and other companies solve the production challenges? These kinds of things will not be made public by these companies. After all, they have many competitors, and the race has begun.
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Why foldable glass is so important
Samsung says in its Galaxy Z Flip video that "made a leap" from polymeric (plastic) screens to ultra-thin folding glass. It is not just an impressive technological leap. Glass is a better material for a smartphone screen.
To bypass flexible glass, foldable devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold, Motorola Razr and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold have plastic screens that feel like a plastic screen protector. It probably won't feel as nice as a glass screen, but that's the least of your worries. These soft plastic screens are much easier to scratch and do than glass. Motorola actually says that "bumps and bumps are normal" on its folding Razr smartphone with a plastic screen.
With a glass screen you have no "bumps and bumps" on your screen. They do not scratch and are damaged just as easily as plastic. That is why the current smartphones – from iPhones to Android phones – have glass touch screens. Glass is a much more durable material that is more resistant to use in the real world. Your fingernail will not damage a glass screen, but it can easily leave a notch on a plastic screen.
Are folding devices the future? Our colleagues from Review Geek think so. Either way, flexible glass is the future of folding devices.
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