A lot has happened to the design of smartphones since the iPhone made its debut in 2007. After the evolution of individual components from fingerprint sensors up to today’s face ID, the industry is now already focusing on the next big thing: a foldable smartphone.
3D Imaging & Sensing:
3D imaging and sensing are the technologies required to replicate human vision via recording depth information. Here, glass offers important solutions and plays an irreplaceable role in the key components for 3D imaging and sensing. Specialty thin glass from SCHOTT in thickness ranges from 0.03 mm up to 1.1 mm is already used in 3D sensing capable smartphones, and will enable future AR-capable devices. In general, it can be employed for various technology solutions like Time-of-Flight (ToF) and Structured Light, as well as Stereo Vision to help realize 3D imaging and sensing function.
In the camera module, thin glass, e. g. AF 32® eco, D 263® T eco, with excellent optical characteristics can be used to manufacture wafer level optics (WLO), diffractive optical elements (DOEs), diffusers, and narrow band infrared (NIR) filters. With the help of infrared beams, the camera module measures the distance between thousands of facial points and the sensor, which is protected by an ultra-thin glass cover. Additionally, (structured) thin glass meets the high degree of accuracy and precision needed for different spacers inside those components.
Well suited for 3D Applications
SCHOTT’s thin glass quality is enabled by a proprietary down-draw melting process in high volume mass production. The unique properties of the glasses for 3D imaging and sensing products varies in thickness from 30 μm to 1.1 mm with tight tolerances, a low TTV (total thickness variation) and superior surface quality, excellent optical properties featuring perfect transmission characteristics in both the visible and infrared spectra, as well as high stability and reliability. Structured glasses meet the high accuracy requirements of spacer applications. Glass enables demanding standard imaging and sensing requirements and various solutions for 3D imaging and sensing components – and SCHOTT experts offer guidance, with technical services.
With the respective software, the new (distance) data obtained is aggregated in the fraction of a second into a 3-dimensional model and compared in near-real time to the reference model encrypted in the device memory. Statistically significant similarities of the two data sets are what unlock the device. Thanks to an integrated learning algorithm, the technology is reliable even in the event of optical changes to the smartphone owner – including the use of makeup, growing a beard or an wearing accessory.
But it is not only in the interior of these ultra-modern mobile computers where ultra-thin glass is helping set standards. Glass plays a key role in the next huge evolutionary step the industry is about to take – foldable smartphones.
Those devices are expected to hit the market in 2019, with initial close-to-production prototypes already in existence. The bendable display allows compact construction and mobility to remain unchanged. Yet when the device is unfolded, the active display area is doubled to match a tablet format. This will provide a new form factor that consumers can choose and it has future potential because of the possibility to function as a tablet while still being a portable phone.
New challenges for future displays
In contrast to the current rigid smartphone concepts, the display‘s protective glass for flexible devices must be both thin and robust at the same time. These properties could never be physically achieved with previous thick cover glass, which is usually thicker than 0.5 mm. Flexible ultra-thin glass provides tremendously different advantages over polymer films, at a thickness of less than 100 micrometers (0.1 mm) when used as a cover laminate for protecting the display unit of tomorrow’s device designs. Jose Zimmer, Head of SCHOTT’s Thin Glass & Wafer business, is confident when he says, “Every bendable smartphone made with a glass cover will most likely be using glass made by SCHOTT.”