Apple to Build Sapphire Glass Manufacturing Plant in Arizona

iphone_5_camera_sapphireApple will build a new 700-employee manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona, to make sapphire glass, according to releases from the State of Arizona and GT Advanced, a New Hampshire-based materials manufacturing company. Apple purchased the vacant manufacturing building from First Solar, and has contracted with GT Advanced to "own and operate furnaces and related equipment" at the facility.

The State of Arizona reports [PDF] that the plant will create at least 700 jobs in the first year, plus an additional 1,300 construction-related jobs. Apple will also be investing in new renewable energy projects to power the new facility.

Apple provided a statement to Pocket-Lint confirming the facility:

We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction. This new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100% renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.

Apple uses small pieces of sapphire glass -- which provides superior durability and scratch resistance to other forms of glass -- to protect the cameras on the iPhone and on the home button for the new Touch ID-equipped iPhone 5s, however this would seem to be an expansion of Apple's sapphire glass efforts. A report from earlier this year suggested that future smartphones may use sapphire, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, instead of more traditional forms of glass.

Other reports have suggested that Apple has experimented with sapphire displays but found them infeasible. Additionally, Corning has claimed its Gorilla Glass 3 is a better glass solution than sapphire.

One possible destination for Apple's new sapphire glass production is in a potential smart watch project. Sapphire is already extensively used in high-end watchmaking and could be more feasible on a small screen than the larger display on a smartphone or tablet.

The move is a major expansion of Apple's own production efforts -- in recent years, Apple has exclusively contracted with third parties to build and supply components for its products. Many pundits have speculated that Apple would begin using its $150 billion cash pile to grow its manufacturing efforts.

The new plant is also noteworthy because it is in the United States. Apple will assemble its first computer in years in the United States at a Flextronics plant in Austin, Texas. Apple is prominently featuring the Mac Pro's manufacturing location in product videos and in the press.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 7
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Buy Now)
Related Forum: Apple Watch

Top Rated Comments

BinaryTim Avatar
104 months ago
Beam me up!

"...sapphire, a crystalline form of aluminum oxide..."

So in other words, transparent aluminum? :)
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Will do good Avatar
104 months ago
How cool. 700 new jobs in America.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tankmaze Avatar
104 months ago
I'm thinking why all the fuss creating new plant just for sapphire glass ?
why not just use gorilla glass and be done with it.

and then I remember this excerpt from Craig interview in businessweek :

Oftentimes, a product’s design requires manufacturing to solve unreasonable problems. That’s the same as engineering a user interface design. Both are about just solving these crazy problems. But you never get a sense from Tim or from Jeff [Jeff Williams, Apple’s current operations chief] that there’s a question about why are we solving this. Why aren’t we taking an easy way out and sidestepping this problem? It is, “No, this is the right design, and we’re going to do things that no one else in the world has ever tried to do in order to get it right.”
Good stuff Apple !
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
brewcitywi Avatar
104 months ago
Re sapphire

If the entire plant is made from sapphire, it's going to be way too expensive!
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
827538 Avatar
104 months ago
I think Sapphire is a great material. A great choice for a lens cover but using it as a cover glass is a whole different game...
The refractive index is different from soda lime glass (or gorilla glass) so it needs to be treated both front and back with expensive AR coatings. I have an Omega SMP with this AR coated Sapphire and while beautiful, it would be abraded while in pockets, even although the crystal itself would likely remain unscratched (my watch has the sapphire recessed slightly to alleviate this issue).
The other big issue (and why the Omega Speedmaster's - the moon watch - don't use sapphire and instead use a polymer called Hesalite) is Sapphire, while very hard and scratch resistant is prone to shattering. (Having splinters of crystal in zero-g isn't good).
So chances are dropping your stunning new iPhone 6 would result in an expensive repair bill.
I do believe there have been phones made with Sapphire Crystal displays.
Also cost is the other big issue. I imagine this is for lens covers, touch sensitive home buttons and other Apple part covers. Gorilla Glass is pretty dam good at what it does, Sapphire would just trade increased scratch resistance for decreased tensile strength.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
104 months ago
Are Apple just going "crazy" with building stuff that should be in an art museum ?

Time for Apple to hang up their shoes, and say "Its not about the outside, ts about the inside that counts"


I wouldn't care less what the outside looked like, just as long its Apple.

I bet Microsoft people are laughing like hell over the amount Tim blew away on this one.

I know their products are fashionable, but why do their buildings have to be too ? Its only a building, not a $50,000 mansion. ...

What are you talking about?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
airtag in hand

Apple Enhancing AirTags Anti-Stalking Measures With Android App and Shorter Sound Intervals

Thursday June 3, 2021 11:10 am PDT by
Apple is enhancing AirTags security to prevent stalking using the Bluetooth devices, Apple told CNET today. Apple is already sending out over-the-air updates to AirTags that will shorten the amount of time before an unknown AirTag alerts you if it is in your possession. At the current time, AirTags play a sound after three days of being away from their owner. After the update, AirTags will...
maxresdefault

Here's How Apple's New iPhone to iPhone Data Migration Feature Works in iOS 12.4

Tuesday July 23, 2019 1:20 pm PDT by
Apple this week released iOS 12.4, the newest version of iOS 12 available for iPhones and iPads. One of the new features in iOS 12.4 is an updated data migration option that uses device to device transfers rather than relying on iCloud. Apple didn't provide much information on the new data migration feature, so we thought we'd check it out in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the ...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
airtag precision finding

AirTag Includes U1 Chip for 'Precision Finding' Feature

Tuesday April 20, 2021 12:11 pm PDT by
Apple's long-awaited AirTag was finally unveiled today, and as expected, the small circle-shaped accessories can be attached to items like wallets, keys, and more to allow them to be tracked in the Find My app. As was rumored ahead of release, each AirTag is equipped with a U1 chip, and on devices that also have U1 chips, there's a Precision Finding feature. U1 Ultra Wideband chips are...
iOS 15 General Feature Yellow

Everything New in iOS 15 Beta 6: SharePlay Disabled, Safari Redesigned and More

Tuesday August 17, 2021 2:12 pm PDT by
Apple released the sixth beta of iOS 15 just a week after the fifth beta, but the new update brings some of the most significant tweaks that we've seen to iOS 15 during the beta testing period. Safari Redesign Apple in iOS 15 beta 6 has added a toggle to move the Safari address bar to the top of the interface, which returns Safari to an iOS 14-like design and mitigates all of the Safari...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
2016 macbook pro flexgate b

Apple Faces Another Class-Action MacBook Pro ‘Flexgate’ Lawsuit

Thursday August 20, 2020 6:43 am PDT by
Another class-action complaint has been lodged against Apple, which claims that the company was aware of a MacBook Pro design flaw that caused some devices to have backlight display issues (via Apple Insider). The so-called "flexgate" problem was present in some MacBook Pro models manufactured between 2016 and 2017. The problem appears as dark patches along the bottom of the MacBook Pro's...