Corning is showing off its new Willow glass at SID DisplayWeek 2012. The glass is similar to the company’s familiar Eagle glass that is used as substrates for LCD panels and other display applications. The big difference is that Willow is thin: really thin. It is just 100 microns thick, which is about the same as a sheet of paper.
The glass is produced using Corning’s fusion method, which gives it the smooth surface and uniform thickness that makes other Corning glass so well-suited for flat-panel display production. The fact that the glass is so thin, however, means that it can be bent without breaking. It also is much lighter than the thicker versions.
The result is a glass that can be rolled up on spools, and that is light enough to make it practical to ship to customers around the world. Corning is making Willow glass in its Kentucky plant. The glass can be made up to 1 meter wide, and up to 300 meters can fit on a single spool.
While the glass can be used as sheets in traditional batch processing, it can also be used in roll-to-roll production. This probably won’t be continuous processing in most cases, though some coatings could be applied this way. Instead, it will probably be used for “step and repeat” production, which still promises to be much more efficient that the current practice of batch processing individual sheets of substrate.
Willow glass also is a good barrier for air and water vapor, which makes it attractive as a layer to encapsulate thin-film solar cells as well as OLED displays. It also tolerates high temperature processes which would cause flexible plastic substrates to stretch, buckle, or melt. – Alfred Poor, HDTV