DIRTT and Corning collaborate on the world’s thinnest glass
Even if you’ve never heard of Corning, you’ve probably used one of their products. As the global leader in materials science, Corning has been responsible for creating some of the most advanced glass and optical solutions in the world.
The bulb shaped glass encasement for Thomas Edison’s incandescent lamp? Corning invented it. Pyrex® – the material your casserole dishes are made of? That was Corning too. Fiber optics? You guessed it: Corning. Odds are you even have their glass in your pocket right now. Their Gorilla® Glass is used as a display on nearly every premium handheld device in the world.
Corning is so innovative when it comes to creating new types of glass, that sometimes they aren’t even sure of all the potential uses. That was the case with their ultra-thin flexible Willow Glass.
Coming together to build better
Corning was first invited to DIRTT HQ in 2014 to talk about their latest innovations in fiber optic networks. It just so happened that one of their material scientists brought along a sample of Willow Glass. Willow was developed by Corning’s expert team of material scientists as an ultra-thin alternative to Gorilla Glass. In fact, it’s so thin that it can bend just like a sheet of paper. This makes it possible for Willow to ship on 900-foot-long rolls!
Most importantly for DIRTT, Willow Glass can be cut using conventional construction tools. This means we can cut the glass right on our production line instead of having it sent away to a glass cutter. Our product development team was immediately intrigued, and the conversation quickly turned to focus on how Willow Glass could be used to solve construction challenges.
We recently collaborated with Corning to integrate Willow Glass into our product offerings, making DIRTT the first company to use Willow as an architectural feature.
Of course, no innovation is seamless at first.
Willow Glass had never been used in an application with such large dimensions (like a DIRTT wall panel) and a challenge soon emerged during initial testing. DIRTT needed to laminate the glass onto our MDF wall panels. But MDF tends to bend, contract, and expand which was leading to cracking on some of the larger panels during testing. This clearly wasn’t going to meet our quality standards, so our product development team got to work finding a solution.
In early 2015, we began working closely with glass scientists and adhesion specialists from Corning to develop ways to bring Willow to market in our various innovative applications.
Willow at work in your space
Using Willow Glass as a building solution was a natural progression for DIRTT. Firstly, it enables us to deliver the highest quality solutions possible. Secondly, Willow Glass has some serious shipping benefits compared to conventional glass. Because of its weight and strength, panels made with Willow Glass don’t need to be shipped standing up like panels made with regular glass. Panels made with Willow Glass can be stacked on top of each other (just like our other wall panels), meaning we can ship nearly three times the amount of panels made with Willow Glass than panels made with conventional glass. Not only is this more sustainable, but it also saves our clients’ money since it cuts down on the number of trucks going to the job site.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Willow Glass is its durability. Because the glass is flexible, it is more durable than traditional protective layers. This makes Willow Glass a perfect material to be used in high-traffic areas where the wall tile may be hit, bumped or scratched.
Our education clients often specify Willow Glass in their spaces. The durability mentioned above is one of the reasons, however, Willow Glass has a couple more tricks up its sleeve. Our panels made with Willow Glass are backed with metal to increase strength, which also means that they’re magnetic. And because it’s glass, the panels can be written on with dry-erase markers – making it the perfect integrated whiteboard!
Willow Glass also has unrivaled optical clarity. This is obviously great when laminating a graphic or piece of artwork, but this clarity also gave us the ability to mimic the aesthetic of different building materials like stone and marble. Instead of sourcing tons (literally) of stone and shipping it across the world, DIRTT simply laminates an image of stone to our wall panels using Willow Glass. This innovation gives our clients the freedom to design a space with an extremely high-end look, but without the high cost and environmental implications of using real stone. And because it’s glass, it can be easily cleaned to keep it looking brand new for years to come.
Willow Glass is also popular in healthcare spaces where it’s often used to bring a touch of nature to the space. Not only does it improve patient comfort, but it’s also easy to clean – which is a top priority in hospitals and clinics.
Willow at work
Corning European Technology Centre
Willow Glass was featured at the Corning European Technology Centre (CETC) in Fontainebleau, France. DIRTT panels made with Willow Glass now greet visitors at Corning’s world-class research, development and engineering center. Fontainebleau itself is a hub for business and innovation within France, which brings some incredible minds through the doors of the CETC.
The Willow Glass finish extends to the DIRTT millwork, adding durable storage solutions to the space. The millwork conceals computers connected to the imbedded monitor, while allowing full access to the equipment for maintenance or upgrades.
Willow Glass was also the ultimate tool for Mariner to express their culture. They held a contest among employees to design a creative artwork for the massive feature wall. The winning design was an interpretation of the Mariner logo. DIRTT painted the artwork onto micro-thin Willow Glass and applied it to DIRTT wall tiles. It was installed on the 40-foot-long by 14-foot-high wall with the exacting precision demanded by such an impressive piece of artwork. Willow Glass was also used on back splashes to provide sophistication in the coffee bar.
Mercy Health Anderson Hospital
Mercy Health Anderson Hospital needed 193 new private patient rooms between two buildings. They wanted their space to meet their needs today and in the future. Installing DIRTT panels made with Willow Glass gave Mercy Anderson a welcoming touch for patients today and the flexibility to change for the needs of tomorrow. All in an easy-to-sanitize solution. It’s a true win-win!
DIRTT Environmental Solutions uses its 3D software to create prefabricated interiors. Each space is tailored to our clients' needs. Manufacturing facilities are located in Phoenix, Savannah and Calgary. DIRTT works with nearly 100 construction partners globally. DIRTT trades on Nasdaq under the symbol “DRTT” and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “DRT”.