Inside Corning’s Gorilla Glass Factory

Inside Corning’s Gorilla Glass Factory

In the middle of
bluegrass and bourbon country in Harrodsburg, Kentucky is
Corning’s oldest glass factory. This facility
was built for ophthalmic glass pressing in
the early 1950s. And then in the
1980s, we transitioned into the fusion forming process to
make LCD glass. That grew into an enormous
business for us within Corning. But about six months
before the first iPhone was released in 2007, Steve Jobs
made a call to the CEO of Corning and
asked the company to create glass that could
withstand scratches and breakage for a new Apple
product. Before that phones were typically covered
in plastic. Corning quickly developed
Gorilla Glass and this factory went through
a complete transformation. We leverage the fusion
forming technology to make Gorilla Glass and to
make the first composition of Gorilla Glass here
in Harrodsburg. Since 2007, I could say that
the Harrodsburg plant has undergone a number of
innovations to support all of the new Gorilla
Glasses as they transition to stronger and more
scratch resistant and more durable glass. The same company that
developed the glass for the Edison bulb in 1879 is
now making the glass that covers 6 billion
smartphones, tablets, screens and wearables worldwide. We
got a rare look inside Corning’s flagship
Gorilla Glass factory to find out
how it’s made. Robots and massive
machines are continuously making glass 24/7 here.
It starts with a mix materials that are sourced
from all over the world. Here we are in the
mix house. This is really where the heart and the
start of the Gorilla Glass composition begins. Some people may think the
glass is just sand but it really isn’t. There’s
a lot of complex science that goes into
Gorilla Glass specifically. It is extremely important
that we have a strong and robust recipe. So as
you think about how you make your cake at home
similar to that we have fine tuned and evolved
the process for making glass over decades. What
you can see in the facility are screw
feeders and feeding systems that will take that
material and transition it into a large bowl where
it will be mixed so that we ensure that the
mixture is homogeneous and can create the
best glass possible. One bag, as you see
here, once it’s filled will actually turn into thousands
of sheets of Gorilla Glass. The raw material
then travels up seven stories to the top
of the factory. Where it enters a giant oven turned
up to more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Corning did
not allow us to film the oven for
fear that competitors would figure out its secret sauce
and take a chunk of its $11.4 billion in sales
in 2018. But it was an impressive giant machine
that melts the raw material to hot molten
glass over the course of days. The lava-like glass
then flows down several stories while it cools
and strengthens in a process called fusion forming.
So to describe our fusion forming process, if
you imagine a trough and the glass comes into
the top of that trough and then flows over the
edges of the trough down to the point
where it fuses together. It’s really fusing together
in air and nothing touches that pristine surface
so both sides of the glass are pristine
as it transitions down multiple stories to the
bottom of our process where it’s then
scored and separated into discrete sheets. Fusion
forming process is capable of making thicknesses
of glass over two millimeters down to 100
microns or dot one millimeter, which is just
larger than the size of a strand of hair. The glass comes out
of the fusion process in sheets that are cut as big
as 9 feet by 10 feet. Only robots touch
the glass throughout the process. And sometimes
the robots make mistakes. So as the glass
transitions to this final step before it gets shipped
and packed realize that the glass has never
been touched by human hands. When it gets to this
final step, we laminate the glass to protect it
both for shipping and to allow our customers to
handle the glass as they pull the sheets out of
the crates. The sheets are then transitioned into
crates where they’re further packed and
ensured that they’re in pristine condition
as they ship. Early on in fusion
glass development there were some manual steps but
we found that those manual steps could impose safety
concerns. And so the robots were really
developed to enhance our manufacturing process and
to eliminate the safety involved in
handling glass. We can create glass
from extremely thin to 100 microns to
two millimeters thick. Depending on the thickness
of glass, it really determines how many sheets of
glass we pack in a crate. But crates in general
can have hundreds of sheets within one crate.
We really have limited breakage. Once it’s loaded into
crates the glass is then shipped off for finishing,
which is done all over the world depending on
the preference of the device manufacturer. Gorilla Glass
is one of the toughest glasses out there.
And what makes it tough is not only what
you see here because it actually hasn’t obtained all
of its strength at this point. After it’s
packed and shipped it goes through a chemical
strengthening process called an ion exchange
process. The composition that we’ve set up allows us
to then take a finished sheet of glass put it into
a bath of hot salt and in that bath of
hot salt sodium ions are exchanged for a larger
potassium ions in the glass. And if you imagine
those larger potassium ions pack into that glass
causing a much tighter and stronger compressive area
on the glass. And that’s really what gives
the glass its strength. Corning employs 400 people
at this factory, many of whom are focused
on quality control and research as device
manufacturers demand thinner and sleeker phones. Corning is constantly having
to update and improve Gorilla Glass to try
to keep this from happening. What makes Gorilla Glass
so strong is the unique composition and glass
science behind the glass. That allows us to
create this compressive layer that, when it is
ion exchanged, creates really a layer of armor and
an extra strength that other glasses are not
capable of doing.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. I thought I read that Gorilla Glass was invented in the 70's but they didn't have a use for it back then? My IPhone has Gorilla glass? Then why is it always broken so easily? Even with screen protectors, my glass breaks.

  2. Can't wait for Gorilla Glass v11. This so called "unbreakable glass" is still very, very easily broken, and it's on what, v6?… :/

  3. So what im hearing is the difference between Gorilla glasss 5 and 6 is that, Gorilla glass 6 was left to be ionized in a saltier bath

  4. My nokia n8 is dead now, but its screen don't have any single scratch up to now. Latest phone have corning gorilla glass 5 and 6. But most reviewers saying that their screen got scratches for a couple of days of usage. Is gorilla glass from then is much stronger than latest gorilla glass?

  5. 5:58 Only phone manufacturers want thinner and sleeker phones, the rest of us want smarter, more durable phones that stay charged longer. Function over form…



  8. The "secret" of Corning Gorilla Glass is not the glass itself :
    glass is glass it's scratches at level 6 and deeper grooves at level 7 (you know that reference)

    But Corning develop a coating that makes Gorilla Glass more durable than typical tempered glass.

  9. I had Lumia 920 with Gorilla 2. And I got a scratch on the screen while cleaning it against my pillow. I guess, I got some tiny speck of sand on my pillow or something, I can't imagine any other way how it would get scratched. So, I'd really like to have scratch resistance more than drop resistance – I have never dropped a phone but I have scratched them a few times, no matter how accurate I tried to be.

  10. Gorilla glass can't save the touch to broken..
    If mobile company gives a living Gorilla with mobile..
    It should be save the touch glass from broken…

  11. gorilla glass factory: no u can’t see the oven competitors might use it against us

    also gorilla glass factory: literally explains the formula

  12. I like how they use robots for safety and not for cost cutting and making their pockets fat. God bless such people.

  13. Well,it's not that hard. Here are a few steps:
    1. Find a Gorilla
    2. Melt some glass
    3. Mix the melted glass with the Gorilla.
    There you have it, Gorilla Glass

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