Back in the summer, we told you about Corning’s new Ink Jet technology for its line of Gorilla Glass. Ink Jet allows you to print photo-quality images onto Gorilla Glass, opening up the door for fully-customizable glass backs for smartphones.
Although we have yet to see Ink Jet used for the actual back of a smartphone, Corning took Ink Jet to CES 2019 and demonstrated it using glass-backed smartphone cases. What’s more, the company showed a proof-of-concept retail system that would allow consumers to create custom smartphone cases with any image they liked.
Naturally, I decided to design a case for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 with a picture of myself eating some delicious grilled chicken:
Anyway, creating the phone case was so much more fun than I expected it to be. Sure, there are plenty of companies out there that will make you a custom phone case — even Google has one on offer for its Pixel phones. However, you design those cases online and then it takes days or even weeks before it arrives at your door. Those cases also aren’t backed with glass.
With the Corning system, my phone case went from being designed on the kiosk to being printed and placed in my hand in a matter of minutes. I simply chose which case I wanted, uploaded my photo, did some resizing to make it fit properly, and hit “Print.” Corning’s machine got right to work spraying the custom Ink Jet product to the back of a Gorilla Glass 5 smartphone case. There wasn’t even any drying time.
Here’s another example of a printed glass case:
At CES, Corning had a mockup of what a case-printing kiosk machine will look like, which is kind of like a giant soda vending machine. You swipe your credit card on the front and then go through a process very similar to what I did to create my chicken-eating case.
It could be some time before we see Corning offer a web-based version of this printing process, let alone the distribution of physical kiosks. However, if you get the chance to make one of these cases, definitely do so. It was a total blast.