Old Invention Transformed into an Innovation

Old Invention Transformed into an InnovationIn 1960, Corning Incorporated, the world leader in specialty glass and ceramics, launched “Project Muscle” to find a glass as strong as steel.

The project was a success. According to the Associated Press (AP), in 1964, “Corning devised an ingenious method called ‘fusion draw’ to make super-thin, unvarying flat glass.” They called the glass “Chemcor™.”

But, “Project Muscle” was also a failure because they didn’t know how to use Chemcor commercially.

According to the AP, “Corning thought Chemcor sheets created this way would be the material of choice in car windshields, but British rival Pilkington Bros. intervened with a far cheaper mass-production approach. And another Chemcor adaptation in photochromic sunglasses also fizzled in the retail market.”

But now, 48 years after its invention, Chemcor is getting a second chance.

Now called Gorilla® Glass, this glass is “up to three times as strong as chemically strengthened versions of ordinary soda-lime glass that is double the thickness,” according to OptionsHouse.com. And, it’s environmentally friendly.

It is currently used in more than 200 mobile devices. And Corning anticipates entering the high-end TV market by this fall, according to the AP. It is in talks with Asian TV manufacturers.

“Now, the latest trend in TVs could catapult it to a billion-dollar business. Frameless flat-screens that could be mistaken for chic glass artwork on a living-room wall.”

According to a Corning press release issued yesterday, “Gorilla glass is an ideal cover glass for smart phones, which today represent almost 60 percent of the global mobile phone market. ‘Gorilla glass is also an appealing solution for the emerging slate computing environment. It is highly damage-resistant and scratch-resistant. The optical quality and elegance of Gorilla glass also makes it a superb cover glass for the thin, edge-to-edge design of LCD televisions,’ (James P.) Clappin, (president of Corning’s Precision Glass businesses) said.”

The story of Corning’s Gorilla glass is a valuable one for all innovators. Here’s a company that accepts when its products fail in hopes that one day they may prove valuable. Even if it takes 50 years. “When demand surfaced for a cell phone glass cover, Corning dug out Chemcor from its database,” the AP said.

Additionally, Corning’s dedication to innovation is clear. According to the AP, “Since the Civil War, Corning has turned out a glittering array of innovations from railroad signals to Pyrex and auto-pollution filters to optical fiber. Allotting 10 percent of revenue to research keeps promising projects brewing at its Sullivan Park research hub on Corning’s hilly outskirts.”

To fuel the growing demand for Gorilla glass, Corning is investing $180 million to expand its manufacturing plant in Harrodsburg, Ky. “The best part about this,” according to OptionsHouse.com, “is that the research and development is already done and the costs absorbed, which is positive for Corning.”

Do you find the story of Gorilla glass valuable? How might it inspire innovation at your organization?

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Stephanie SusmanStephanie Susman is a senior account executive and certified innovation facilitator in the Innovation practice group at Fleishman-Hillard. Stephanie leads the practice group’s marketing efforts through various media including their blog, What Are We Thinking?, and two Twitter feeds: @FHInnovation and @ssusman.

Stephanie Susman




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