Corning Inc. is one of rare United States-based suppliers providing domestically manufactured components for Apple’s devices.
The New York-based company behind the display glass component on your iPhone made a name for itself when Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs pressed their CEO Wendell Weeks not to be afraid of high-volume manufacturing.
Today, the company launched a brand new product, an ultra-slim, flexible glass component dubbed Willow Glass and we have a nice intro video right below…
Corning, which also makes Gorilla Glass, Gorilla Glass 2 and other display products, said in a press release that Willow Glass delivers LCD-grade substrate quality and is compatible with roll-to-roll processing.
Its edge tabs help protect from damage due to roller contact. The product enables high-quality electronics devices made by low-cost continuous processes.
Here’s a look at roll-to-roll manufacturing process.
Corning argues Willow Glass provides electronics manufacturers “with the inherent benefits of glass as a substrate while enabling cost-efficient manufacturing”.
CEO Tim Cook said at D10 that display glass for the iPhone is being manufactured in Corning’s Kentucky facility even though the company is not included in Apple’s list of production suppliers.
Apple’s U.S. Jobs Creation page specifically states that Corning employees in Kentucky and New York create the majority of the glass for the iPhone, which contrasts the New York Times‘ report of Corning making its glass in China:
We could make the glass here, and then ship it by boat, but that takes 35 days. Or, we could ship it by air, but that’s 10 times as expensive. So we build our glass factories next door to assembly factories, and those are overseas.
As revealed in Walter Isaacson’s authorized bio book, Steve Jobs met with CEO Wendell Weeks at Corning headquarters back in 2006, a few months ahead of the iPhone’s January 2007 debut.
Jobs reportedly told Weeks not to be afraid of large-scale manufacturing.
An anecdote shared by Isaacson details this story:
Steve Jobs when he does the iPhone decides he doesn’t want plastic, he wants really tough glass on it, and they don’t make a glass that can be tough like they want. And finally somebody says to him, because they were making all of the glass in China for the fronts of the stores, says, “You ought to check with the people at Corning. They’re kind of smart there.” So, he flies to Corning, New York, sits there in front of the CEO, Wendell Weeks, and says, “This is what I want, a glass that can do this.”
So, Wendell Weeks says, “We once created a type of process that created something called Gorilla Glass.” And Steve said, “No, no, no. Here’s how you make really strong glass.” And Wendell says, “Wait a minute, I know how to make glass. Shut up and listen to me.” And Steve, to his credit, shuts up and listens, and Wendell Weeks describes a process that makes Gorilla Glass. And Steve then says, “Fine. In six months I want enough of it to make–whatever it is–a million iPhones.”
And Wendell says, “I’m sorry, we’ve actually never made it. We don’t have a factory to make it. This was a process we developed, but we never had a manufacturing plant to do it.” And Steve looks at him and says what he said to Woz, 20, 30 years earlier: “Don’t be afraid, you can do it.” Wendell Weeks tells me… Because I flew to Corning, because I just wanted to hear this story. Wendell Weeks tells me, “I just sat there and looked at the guy. He kept saying, ‘Don’t be afraid. You can do this.'”
Wendell Weeks said he called his plant in Kentucky that was making glass for LCD screens, and said, “Start the process now, and make Gorilla Glass.” That’s why every iPhone in your pocket and iPad has Gorilla Glass made by Corning. This is the reality distortion field that is, I submit, part and parcel of a guy who doesn’t believe the rules apply to him, even the rule about never cut in line.
Apple is rumored to use Gorilla Glass 2 for the next iPhone. Gorilla Glass is said to be 20 percent thinner, lighter and stronger than the original Gorilla Glass used on iPhones so far.