Apple Looking to Take Arizona Sapphire Plant Live in February for 'Critical' Component

Apple is aggressively pursuing the launch of its new sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona for a "critical new sub-component", according to documents obtained by 9to5Mac. The company is aiming to open the plant by February.

sapphire_furnaces

Furnaces for sapphire glass production.

The documents reveal that James J. Patton, Apple's Deputy Director of Global Trade Compliance, requested expedited approval from the Foreign-Trade Zone Board to approve two requests that would allow Apple to meet its "aggressive go-live timeline" for February 2014. Recently, both Apple and manufacturing partner, GT Advanced, have been recruiting potential employees for the sapphire plant.

In addition, the documents indicate the sapphire plant would be used to create a "critical new sub-component" for use in Apple's consumer electronics. Apple currently uses sapphire glass to protect the iPhones' camera lenses and the iPhone 5s' Touch ID home button, but Apple's language in the documents suggests something more could be in the works.

Project Cascade will conduct high-tech manufacturing of intermediate goods/components for consumer electronics. All finished components will be exported. This high-tech manufacturing process will create a critical new sub-component of Apple Products to be used in the manufacture of the consumer electronics that will be imported and then sold globally. By pulling this process into the U.S., Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology to enhance and improve the consumer products, making them best in class per product type.

While it's not clear what a "new" sub-component could be, Apple could be looking to create full-screen displays made out of sapphire. Sapphire could also be used to protect the display on Apple's much-rumored iWatch.

The report also includes information on some of the other materials that will be utilized in the plant, like diamond cutting wire, which as 9to5Mac points out, is currently used in iPhone and iPad assembly to create bezels.

Just a couple days ago, Taiwan's Apple Daily reported the company's assembly partner Foxconn had begun an initial 100 unit run of an iPhone with a sapphire glass display. Last week, an Apple patent application for an Apple device with a sapphire glass display was also discovered.

Sapphire has been seen as a potential successor to high-strength glass for display covers, although Corning claims Gorilla Glass 3 is stronger than sapphire glass at a lower cost. Apple has reportedly experimented with sapphire glass displays before, but found them infeasible. It is possible, however, that advances in material and production technology have allowed the company to revisit the possibility.

Related Forum: iPhone

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Top Rated Comments

NoNothing Avatar
136 months ago
Whatever this new sub-component might be, I think it's safe to assume it will create another bottleneck in the supply chain. My understanding is that producing sapphire is a complex, slow and expensive process.

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Corning claimed some time ago that Gorilla Glass has better scratch resistance, unless they are worried about sapphire killing their business. I don't think Apple will go backwards with an inferior product...

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Also, let me make it clear that I would much rather prefer Apple use diamond instead of sapphire on my devises. :D

It is not even close. Sand will easily scratch Gorilla Glass. Sapphire? Not even if it wanted to.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jacquesvw Avatar
136 months ago
.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Exotic-Car Man Avatar
136 months ago
Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology

Cutting-edge. I see what you did there. :D
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Robin4 Avatar
136 months ago
That photo reminds me of the Breaking Bad's lab. The one under the laundromat.:rolleyes:
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
elvisimprsntr Avatar
136 months ago
That photo reminds me of the Breaking Bad's lab. The one under the laundromat.:rolleyes:
Like this one?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chevy57 Avatar
136 months ago
iPhone 6 will improve battery life by inscribing solar cells in Sapphire glass-coated screens? I hope newer iPhone's battery life is longer than 10 hours

http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2014/01/26/will-iphone-6-improve-battery-life-by-inscribing-solar-cells-in-sapphire-glass-coated-screens/
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)