Corning (NYSE:GLW) recently announced its collaboration with Atmel (NASDAQ:ATML), a manufacturer of touch technology solutions.  This collaboration will combine Atmel’s XSense flexible touch sensors with Corning’s Gorilla Glass, a cover glass for consumer electronics such as mobiles, tablets and notebooks. The product will broaden Corning’s product portfolio for the flexible display market, which presently includes Willow Glass and 3D-shaped Gorilla Glass.
Corning might be trying to offer complete display solutions for the flexible display market through this collaboration. The collaboration with Atmel provides Corning access to touch-based technology for consumer electronics. Combined with flexible display glass, Willow, and the capability to mold Gorilla glass into any form, Corning might have an attractive display solution for touch-based consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets.
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Atmel’s XSense Combines With Corning’s Gorilla Glass
Atmel’s XSense is a touch sensor technology that enables the recognition of human touch on a screen. However, the difference between traditional touch sensor and XSense is that XSense is flexible whereas traditional touch sensors are rigid in form. The flexible touch sensor film may be wrapped around displays which facilitates touch capabilities over curved surfaces. Also, XSense allows for narrower borders along the display which helps increase the viewing area for devices thereby enhancing viewing pleasure.
The downside of a flexible touch sensor is that since it is made on plastic film it is susceptible to moisture. Moisture may damage the internal circuits of any electronic device. In order to prevent moisture from setting in, the sensor film is placed underneath a thin sheet of glass. However, this leads to a deteriorating touch performance.
Corning’s Gorilla Glass, being thin (0.4 mm), light and damage resistant, helps offer a better touch performance. Therefore, combining the two technologies, XSense and Gorilla Glass, offers superior touch performance through touch panels that are lighter, thinner and stronger.
Demand For Thinner, Lighter And Bigger Devices Will Help Drive Sales
Customers demand touch-based devices that have exceptional touch performance, are light weight and offer greater viewing pleasure. That is why consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets offer multi-touch capabilities and are getting lighter, bigger and thinner.
To cater to customers’ preferences, manufacturers would require touch based panels that are thin, light and strong. Corning and Atmel’s collaboration will help develop touch screen panels that would be able to meet all these requirements.
Additonally, with growth in the touch screen market, sales of Corning and Atmel’s touch panels are likely to grow. The touch screen market is expected to grow to $32 billion by 2018, doubling from $16 billion in 2012. 
Intense Competition In The Touch Screen Market
The touch screen market is dominated by major players such as 3M Co., Atmel Corp., Chimei Innolux Corp., Cypress Semiconductor Corp., Nissha Printing Co. Ltd., Promethean World plc, Sharp Corp., TPK Holding Co. Ltd., and Wintek Corp. The intense competition and almost similar products makes it difficult for players to grow market share.
Atmel presently has a market share of around 10% in the touch screen industry and is one of the leading players.  Its product, XSense faces tough competition from similar products such as 3M’s recently launched 3M™ Patterned Silver Nanowire Film. Growth in similar flexible touch screen sensors will deter growth for Corning and Atmel’s touch panels.
- Atmel and Corning Collaborate on Ultra-thin, Next-generation Touchscreens with Exceptional Multi-touch Functionality, March 31 2014, www.corning.com [↩]
- Tablet and Smart Phone Demand to Drive 2012 Touch Screen Revenue to $16 Billion, www.crystal-display.com [↩]
- Atmel’s 2013 Sec filing 10-K, www.atmel.com [↩]