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Thursday, February 28, 2013, 10:47 am PT (01:47 pm ET)

Corning's flexible 'Willow Glass' won't appear in consumer products for at least 3 years

Devices featuring Corning's bendable "Willow Glass" won't arrive for at least three years, an announcement that dampens expectations of a rumored Apple-built watch with curved glass display featuring Corning's technology.

Corning originally hoped that its Willow Glass would be available in consumer products this year, but signaled to Bloomberg in a story published on Thursday that products realistically won't hit the market until 2016 at the earliest.

Corning Willow Glass


James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies, said the main issue is companies have not yet come up with products that can take full advantage of Willow. The company is taking time to teach "very big name" customers on how to handle spools of the material, which can be made in a roll similar to newsprint.

"People are not accustomed to glass you roll up," Clappin said. "The ability of people to take it and use it to make a product is limited."

Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Apple was experimenting with wearable wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass. That report claimed the watch would run Apple's iOS platform and stand apart from competitors based on the company's understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body."People are not accustomed to glass you roll up." — James Clappin, president of Corning Glass Technologies

Apple also has extensive patents for curved glass, and even developed a prototype iPhone with a slightly curved glass display.

A Prototype iPhone with curved glass


Of course, Apple's method could use a product other than Corning's Willow Glass, though the company has used Corning's damage-resistant Gorilla Glass in all iPhone and iPad models to date. It's also possible that a potential Apple "iWatch" may not feature a curved glass design, as has been rumored.

Corning's slimmer and flexible Willow Glass was unveiled by the company last June, and heralded as an invention that could "revolutionize the shape and form" of next-generation electronics. It will withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Celsius, and will enable manufacturers to pursue high-temperature roll-to-roll processes, similar to how newsprint is made.