Apple has invested an additional $45 million in US-based Corning Incorporated, maker of Gorilla Glass, the companies announced today.
An Apple press release says the investment will help “expand Corning’s manufacturing capabilities in the US” and “stimulate research and development into innovative new technologies that support sustainability and product longevity.”
The investment comes from Apple’s $5 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which was established in 2017 to invest in manufacturing jobs and infrastructure in the United States related to Apple’s products such as the iPhone.
To date, Corning has received $450 million from that fund. Earlier funding played a role in the development of the ceramic shield, a new screen material that made the new iPhone 12 series more drop-resistant than previous iPhone models.
Apple describes the technology, usage and process behind it as follows:
The new material was made possible by a high temperature crystallization step that forms nanocrystals in the glass matrix. Those specialized crystals are kept small enough that the material is transparent. The resulting material forms the revolutionary ceramic shield, which Apple has used to create the new iPhone front in the iPhone 12 series. Prior to Ceramic Shield, embedded crystals have traditionally affected the transparency of the material, a critical factor for the iPhone’s front panel because so many features, including the display, camera, and sensors for Face ID, require optical clarity to function.
Apple’s relationship with Corning dates back to the very first iPhone, when a last-minute change to that product before launch replaced a scratch-prone plastic screen with a brand new type of relatively scratch-resistant glass called Gorilla Glass from Corning.
Gorilla Glass has since been refined to be more durable, and it’s making an appearance not just in iPhones, but in numerous other mobile products from Samsung and others.
Apple has not said how Corning will use this new investment. Corning is known to be working on new forms of durable, bendable glass that could fit a hypothetical future foldable iPhone, but there’s no guarantee that’s what’s going on here.
We also don’t know if what Corning will develop with these funds will be exclusive to Apple’s products. However, it is likely that the investment will lead to at least some new jobs at Corning, probably in the US state of Kentucky, which manufactures glass for Apple products.