Apple today announced it is awarding its longtime iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch glass supplier Corning an additional $45 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund, building on its $200 million award in 2017 and $250 million award in 2019.
The combined $495 million investment will support Corning’s ongoing research and development into “state-of-the-art glass processes, which led to the creation of Ceramic Shield, a new material that is tougher than any smartphone glass.”
Apple COO Jeff Williams:
“Apple and Corning have a long history of working together to accomplish the impossible,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “From the very first iPhone glass, to the revolutionary Ceramic Shield on the iPhone 12 lineup, our collaboration has changed the landscape of smartphone cover design and durability. Ceramic Shield is a prime example of the technologies that are possible when deep innovation meets the power of American manufacturing. We’re so proud to work alongside Corning, whose 170-year-old legacy is a testament to the ingenuity of the US workforce.”
With support from Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund, experts at both companies worked together to develop a new glass-ceramic, which gets its strength from nano-ceramic crystals, produced in Corning’s plant in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, the facility where every generation of iPhone glass has been made.
The new material was enabled by a high-temperature crystallization step which forms nano-crystals within the glass matrix. Those specialized crystals are kept small enough that the material is transparent. The resulting material makes up the revolutionary Ceramic Shield, which Apple used to fashion the new front cover featured on iPhone in the iPhone 12 lineup. Prior to Ceramic Shield, embedded crystals have traditionally affected the material’s transparency, a crucial factor for the front cover of iPhone because so many features, including the display, the camera, and sensors for Face ID, need optical clarity to function.
Established in 2017, Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund was designed to “foster and support the innovative production and high-skill jobs that will help fuel a new era of technology-driven manufacturing” in the United States, according to Apple.
Awards from the $5 billion fund have led to breakthrough innovations, from supporting the development of advanced laser technology in Texas, to accelerating the supply of Covid-19 sample collection kits for US hospitals, and more.