Friday, April 22, 2011

Thinner Touchscreens Mean Lighter Mobile Devices

Tokyo-based Asahi Glass says it can make touchscreens on tablets and smartphones 15 percent lighter with its new 0.28mm touchscreen material. Asahi's substrate material holds electrodes and fits behind the glass in touchscreens. Asahi also makes the Dragontrail damage-resistant cover glass that competes with iPhone supplier Corning.

When it comes to tablets and smartphones, thin is in. And Tokyo-based Asahi Glass says it can trim 15 percent from the thickness and weight of devices with its new 0.28mm touchscreen material, which it claims is the world's thinnest soda-lime glass substrate. The current thinnest commercial substrate is 0.33mm.

When mass production begins, AGC expects annual sales of $120 million in 2013.

"Glass touchscreens in smartphones and tablets comprise a tough cover material and an underlying layer of substrate material embedded with electrodes," the company in said. "Soda-lime glass is an ideal substrate material for touchscreens because it maintains form when subjected to heat, resists discoloring due to ultraviolet radiation, accepts chemical strengthening, and is easily processed."

Use With Dragontrail

AGC is the company behind Dragontrail, a damage-resistant cover glass launched in January that could be used to reinforce smartphone, TV and tablet screens that use the new substrate. A rival to Corning's Gorilla glass, Dragontrail is six times stronger than conventional soda-lime glass; free of arsenic, lead and antimony; and highly resistant to scratches. Gorilla glass, used in Apple's iPhone to protect its Retina display, is made from high-strength alkali-aluminosilicate glass.

"Dragontrail is a a strategic product that will build new foundations for growth under Grow Beyond, our management Relevant Products/Services policy," said Yoshiaki Tamura, deputy president of AGC's electronics unit. "We will continue to explore new applications for this versatile product as we expand its global Relevant Products/Services market."

The new soda-lime glass substrate is scheduled to be exhibited during Display Week 2011 of the Society for Information Display (SID) in Los Angeles, beginning May 15. The material is composed mainly of sodium oxide and silicon dioxide used widely in construction, automotives and many types of electronic devices, AGC said. It is made using the float method, during which glass is floated over molten metal for efficient production of highly uniform glass.

Vulnerable To Impact

One advantage of thinner glass is that it's more flexible, said technology Relevant Products/Services consultant Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. But that also makes it more vulnerable to damage from impact. That makes good reinforcement imperative.

"If you make it thinner, unless you do something like reinforce it with Gorilla glass, it is more prone to impact," said Enderle. "You only have a certain amount of material you can work with, so there is some trade-off or limits to how much you can strengthen material to cross over from making it too thin."

In releasing Dragontrail glass in January, AGC, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, invited reporters to attempt (unsuccessfully) to scratch a panel of it with a key and showed a video Relevant Products/Services of a machine exerting 130 pounds of pressure without cracking it.

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