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Curved glass on a roll

Glass is a curious material. It is well understood by technologists, designers and the general public, yet it is constantly undergoing refinement, technological advancement and change. It has a symbolic function in our modern society, representing our society’s increasing transparency.

Now, a new generation of curved glass is going to have a huge influence on the way that the modern world is designed. Why is this?

Glass is typically made in a float process. It is dropped onto a bath of liquid metal and floats on it because its density is lower than that of metal. Because it floats, it is perfectly flat too. Controlling the cooling keeps the glass stable as it hardens.

Now, several companies are launching a new technique. Though the details are secret, the idea is to make glass in a continuous, roll-to-roll procedure. Corning, which makes glass for many smart phones, is pioneering this method. Using this technique also allows for very thin and very strong glass. Because it is thin, there is less risk of fracturing at temperature, and this means that the glass can be curved, bent and wrapped around surfaces.

The manufacturers state that this glass will bend up to 80 degrees before breaking. As it is continuously fabricated, it will also be available on rolls, and we expect the lengths to increase as development continues.

This is great for many reasons. Curved glass displays have a variety of advantages. Research has shown that curves make screens easier to read in ambient conditions, and they also reduce annoying reflections and glare. Additionally, the curve magnifies the screen slightly.

More than this, however, is the limitless range of shapes now available to designers. Say goodbye to the days of rectangular screens. And hello to the age of screens that are wearable, wrap around buildings and fold into cars, trains and planes.