Ford GT supercar will get supertough Gorilla Glass – USA TODAY
DEARBORN, Mich. — The supertough, scratch-resistant glass found on smartphones is going to show up in a car windshield.
Ford will debut Gorilla Glass on the Ford GT as part of efforts to make sure the supercar is light, fast and nimble when it goes on sale next year.
Ford worked with Corning to develop a special type of Gorilla Glass, a thin hybrid glass laminate used on smartphones and other consumer electronic devices, for the car’s windshield, rear engine cover and a bulkhead. The material is 30% lighter — glass on the GT weighs only 46 pounds with 12 pounds shaved off — and is stronger, clearer and more durable.
“Ford is the first automotive company to adopt this technology,” said Corning CEO Wendell Weeks. But other automakers have expressed interest and Ford’s Hau Thai-Tang, head of global purchasing, said he knows Ford will not retain the exclusive advantage for long.
The glass is so strong it will not shatter as easily in a crash and it should make it harder to break into a vehicle because the glass won’t break. Emergency responders can still free crash victims with powered extraction tools.
To demonstrate its strength, Ford engineers loaded a cannon with a 1.75-inch hail ball and fired it at 55 miles per hour into a piece of Gorilla Glass. It did not shatter like a piece of conventional glass.
Ford will make only about 250 GT supercars a year. Each car is expected to cost about $400,000 and deliver about 600 horsepower. The GT will be built in Canada with a lightweight carbon fiber body.
A lighter car can accelerate and brake faster, while consuming less fuel and enjoying the handling that comes with a lower center of gravity when there is less top-heavy weight from glass.
Ford approached Corning, the company that introduced Gorilla Glass to the consumer electronics market in 2007, to see if there were automotive applications. It led to the development of a unique formulation that can be used on the exterior of a vehicle.
“We were approached by Ford to see what we could do with glass,” said Corning CEO Wendell Weeks.
Initially the hybrid glass was used in Ford’s lightweight concept car, an experiment in many lightweight materials.
Then came the realization the hybrid glass would work in the real world.
A small, dedicated team of purchasing and engineering employees from Ford and Corning fast-tracked the project. The entire program took 24 months including a final four months of testing that ended with program approval in January, said Paul Linden, Ford body exteriors engineer. That is when Ford unveiled the GT at the 2015 North American International Auto Show so the timing lined up perfectly.
“The GT is the ultimate expression of innovation and technology for us,” said Thai-Tang. And “every ounce of weight is a performance advantage in racing,” he said of the car that will compete in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ford committed significant resources to quickly get it qualified for production applications, said Weeks. “We worked with Ford to develop a glass that successfully withstood thousands of hours of durability testing and is now being used in a Ford production vehicle. We are excited to introduce this game-changing technology to the market.”
For a century, the auto industry has used a two-layer laminated glass windshield using a technology originally introduced by Henry Ford himself. Glass is heavy. Even a small car like the Ford Focus has 50 square feet of glass that weighs about 80 pounds. A larger Explorer has about 100 pounds of glass and the addition of a giant panoramic sunroof can almost double that.
An earlier version of Gorilla Glass has been on cars in the past, including on about 100 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda racing cars.
Experimentation was revived in 2005 when it was eyed for use in consumer electronics. It was brought into commercial use when Apple asked Corning for a thin, tough glass that was used on the new iPhone. About 4 billion devices now have Corning-made Gorilla Glass.
A Gorilla Glass window is 3-4 mm thick while a conventional windshield is 4-6 mm thick. The result is great potential for weight savings.