The 3D glass cover was first applied in LG mobile phone in South Korea in 2014. The concept of 3D glass cover began to rise in 2016. After the warm-up in 2017, the penetration rate of 3D glass cover will continue to increase in 2018.
Global shipments of 3D touch panel cover glass, including front cover glass and back cover glass for electronic devices, are expected to reach 223.5 million in 2018, up 48.6% year-on-year (Y/Y).
According to IHS Markit's "Touch Panel Cover Glass Market Report", growth will remain strong in the next few years, with growth rates of 59.1% and 22.2% Y/Y in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Although the 3D display cover glass market has grown significantly in 2017, most Chinese brands have not been able to use due to limited supply capacity.
The production of 3D covers requires a hot bending process, which is a critical and technically difficult process. Heating the glass to a softening point of about 800 ° C (or 1472 ° F) poses a huge challenge to hot bending equipment and molds, resulting in a limited supply of 3D cover glass and is expensive. In theory, it is also possible to make 3D cover glass by computer numerical control (CNC) molding without using a thermoforming process. However, this requires a high investment in CNC equipment and makes the forming process more difficult and longer. So for mass production, this approach is simply inefficient.
This situation has begun to improve in the last quarter of 2017, with cover glass manufacturers increasing hours of work, lengthening the man-hours of heating and cooling the glass, rather than heating and cooling quickly for efficiency. This has achieved remarkable results in the way of sacrificing "efficiency" in exchange for yield. With the gradual increase in supply capacity, Chinese brands began to use 3D cover glass in their flagship products, especially the 3D back cover.
In addition, because the edges of the 3D cover are curved, glass coloring is another huge challenge. Conventional screen printing methods are widely used for the coloration of cover glass, especially for 2D and 2.5D covers of simple colors. However, this approach is not feasible for 3D covers that require complex patterns. Cover glass manufacturers are developing new ways to achieve better 3D cover coloring effects, such as physical vapor deposition (PVD) or non-conductive vacuum metallization (NCVM), pad printing, photolithography, decorative films, and the like. IHS Markit believes that NCVM has great potential in terms of cost and performance.