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Apple & GTAT open second sapphire manufacturing facility in Massachusetts

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
Apple's much-ballyhooed sapphire plant in Arizona is not its only production facility for the crystalline material, according to a new regulatory filing from manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies, as the two companies have also opened a secondary location in Salem, Mass.

The Salem location as seen from Google Street View
The Salem location as seen from Google Street View


GTAT used a portion of Apple's $578 million prepayment to retrofit its Massachusetts facility -- previously a research and development laboratory -- with new furnaces to match those in Arizona, according to an amended version of the company's quarterly report. The amendment was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week and first noticed by analyst Matt Margolis.

The 50,000-square-foot Salem plant is significantly smaller than its Arizona cousin, which measures some 1.3 million square feet. It is unclear if Apple is depending on the Salem facility -- which appears to have begun growing sapphire in December -- for production, or if the company is simply using it as a testbed.

Apple has already been rumored to be exploring an expansion of the Arizona location, which could potentially see it double in size. That could mean the installation of as many as 5,000 furnaces at the site, easily making it the largest manufactured sapphire plant in the world.

Speculation has run rife with regard to Apple's plans for the enormous quantities of sapphire its plants are capable of producing, with many focusing on its potential uses in the cover glass of future iPhones or the so-called "iWatch."

The investment is likely to have a less exciting purpose, however. Apple is widely expected to bring its sapphire-covered Touch ID sensor to the iPad later this year, and the material is also used as scratch-resistant lens covers for the rear-facing cameras in iPhones. Together, those product lines sell nearly 250 million devices each year and continue to grow.
post #2 of 35
Whatever Apple is working on here is something that was probably initiated several years ago. They really do invest in the future, but keep a low profile, no?

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post #3 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Whatever Apple is working on here is something that was probably initiated several years ago. They really do invest in the future, but keep a low profile, no?
I'm guessing this is what Ive meant when he said Apple was working with new materials. He said he's been involved with it for several years.
post #4 of 35
Other companies just don't realize they aren't nearly nimble enough to keep up with Apple.
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post #5 of 35

News... or matter of fact.  Given Apple's Growth rates, if it needs X sapphire production day 0, day 365 it will need 1.50X  (Apple's growth is that much YoY for flagship phones and iPads).   We should be seeing LOTS of sapphire plants opening up all over the world with 50% YoY growth.

post #6 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

Whatever Apple is working on here is something that was probably initiated several years ago. They really do invest in the future, but keep a low profile, no?

It would be better if they didn't think longterm. It would be better if they held impromptu events to show us ideas they just thought of or create CGI-based videos of what the technology might eventually be like¡

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post #7 of 35

This is most likely a factory for making prototypes. Just based on the size (compared to the Arizona facility) is would appear to be too small as a mass production factory.

 

It is notable that the Salem location is just about an hour's drive from the GTAT company headquarters in New Hampshire, providing easy access for the engineering team.

post #8 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


It would be better if they didn't think longterm. It would be better if they held impromptu events to show us ideas they just thought of or create CGI-based videos of what the technology might eventually be like¡

That gives competitors more insight into what direction Apple is headed. That is not to Apple's advantage although it might give some tech forum readers something to drool over. 

 

Fortunately for shareholders, Apple doesn't care about tech forum readers.

 

Note that the WWDC previews are different, in that Apple needs third-party developers to create functionality. Apple thinks like a software and services company, even though the bulk of their profits result from hardware sales. It's just that their software and services run best on the company's proprietary hardware, but the developer focus is always on software.

post #9 of 35
Something that Samsung can't steal.
post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

That gives competitors more insight into what direction Apple is headed. That is not to Apple's advantage although it might give some tech forum readers something to drool over. 

Fortunately for shareholders, Apple doesn't care about tech forum readers.

Note that the WWDC previews are different, in that Apple needs third-party developers to create functionality. Apple thinks like a software and services company, even though the bulk of their profits result from hardware sales. It's just that their software and services run best on the company's proprietary hardware, but the developer focus is always on software.

I think you missed the sarcasm.
Too many Apple products to list...Long on AAPL, so take what I say with a bucket of salt.
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post #11 of 35

No, I did not.

 

Again, this is an ongoing problem with this site and others. There are plenty of readers who are non-native English speakers. Sarcasm should be noted with a /s tag or smilies should be used. That's what they're for.

 

Note that sarcasm is not as extensively used in many other cultures as it is in America, and regardless, those without the benefit of being native English speakers are at a disadvantage. 

 

This issue is compounded by a completely separate matter: there are a certain number of naive and or insane people here on the forum. Often completely absurd statements are made by people who believe they are speaking the truth (or at least their opinion).

 

Lacking any indication of sarcasm (via tags, smilies), it is actually an amusing practice to take everything at face value in anonymous Q&A forums like AppleInsider.

post #12 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

No, I did not.

Again, this is an ongoing problem with this site and others. There are plenty of readers who are non-native English speakers. Sarcasm should be noted with a /s tag or smilies should be used. That's what they're for.

Note that sarcasm is not as extensively used in many other cultures as it is in America, and regardless, those without the benefit of being native English speakers are at a disadvantage. 

This issue is compounded by a completely separate matter: there are a certain number of naive and or insane people here on the forum. Often completely absurd statements are made by people who believe they are speaking the truth (or at least their opinion).

Lacking any indication of sarcasm (via tags, smilies), it is actually an amusing practice to take everything at face value in anonymous Q&A forums like AppleInsider.

He used the upside down exclamation point which is a generally accepted indication by English speakers since we don't normally use that mark.
post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

No, I did not.

Sarcasm should be noted with a /s tag or smilies should be used. That's what they're for.

It is also what the ¡ tag is used for at the end of a sentence. Much less universal... goes back to the comment about insane people I guess...
Quote:
Temherte slaqî

In certain Ethiopic languages, sarcasm and unreal phrases are indicated at the end of a sentence with a sarcasm mark called temherte slaqî or temherte slaq (U+00A1) ( ¡ ), a character that looks like the inverted exclamation point.
post #14 of 35

It's interesting that a critical component of many of their products is being manufactured in the US. Makes me think their long-term plan is to bring much of manufacturing back to the states, or at least a portion of it for the US market. Alternatively, this could just be a move to keep IP in the states, and not have it raided by China, absorbing the costs of shipping sapphire.

 

Also, this small facility might just be a testbed for R&D on the manufacturing process, not a full production facility or even an R&D facility for new materials. Apple is becoming quite good at manufacturing as they continue to build their vertical ecosystem. 

post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I'm guessing this is what Ive meant when he said Apple was working with new materials. He said he's been involved with it for several years.

Right, and liquid metal. Apple's investment in it seems disproportionately large for using it only for those SIM card ejector tools. I mean, they could ship a paper clip as an ejector tool! Someday, we'll find out.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

That gives competitors more insight into what direction Apple is headed. That is not to Apple's advantage although it might give some tech forum readers something to drool over. 

Fortunately for shareholders, Apple doesn't care about tech forum readers.

Note that the WWDC previews are different, in that Apple needs third-party developers to create functionality. Apple thinks like a software and services company, even though the bulk of their profits result from hardware sales. It's just that their software and services run best on the company's proprietary hardware, but the developer focus is always on software.

Apple has been very consistent about secrecy, despite leaks. It's one of the reasons the company has such a vibrant "rumor community" online.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
Reply

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mpantone View Post

No, I did not.

Again, this is an ongoing problem with this site and others. There are plenty of readers who are non-native English speakers. Sarcasm should be noted with a /s tag or smilies should be used. That's what they're for.

Note that sarcasm is not as extensively used in many other cultures as it is in America, and regardless, those without the benefit of being native English speakers are at a disadvantage. 

This issue is compounded by a completely separate matter: there are a certain number of naive and or insane people here on the forum. Often completely absurd statements are made by people who believe they are speaking the truth (or at least their opinion).

Lacking any indication of sarcasm (via tags, smilies), it is actually an amusing practice to take everything at face value in anonymous Q&A forums like AppleInsider.

1) My apologizes. I thought I added sufficient hyperbole to my comment to make it clear that I was being ironic.

2) Even among native English speakers irony can be lost within this medium due to the many inline conventions and short comments which is why we really do need a standard sarcmark. Two or more characters ranging from /s to /sarcasm to [sarcasm]blah blah[/sarcasm] is simply too verbose. Image if we used /q, /p, or /e to refer to questions, periods, and exclamation points.


edit: It removed my lt/gt brackets used in HTML so I changed to standard brackets.
Edited by SolipsismX - 6/19/14 at 9:57am

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post #18 of 35

Sapphire can be used in so many other applications apart from consumer tech products or just for Apple's use.  There are plenty of sapphire in the medical field which Apple seems to be getting into.  Hospitals may no longer bother with those standard steel blade or tungsten carbide scalpels and use sapphire ones instead if the prices come down enough.  Sapphire blade scalpels can hold a sharper edge longer.  I'm thinking that sapphire could be used in artificial joints if alloyed with something like Liquidmetal.  It just seems as though Apple could really make some serious money from various sapphire uses.

post #19 of 35

I guess it's all those taxes Mass collects that has attracted Apple to it. 

post #20 of 35
Thought this was interesting. Describes the process. Also notice video date was 4/13, acquisition was 11/13.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsCER0uwiWI
post #21 of 35
I bought some GTAT stock a while back, this is music to my ears.
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post #22 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwingrav View Post
 

It's interesting that a critical component of many of their products is being manufactured in the US. Makes me think their long-term plan is to bring much of manufacturing back to the states, or at least a portion of it for the US market. Alternatively, this could just be a move to keep IP in the states, and not have it raided by China, absorbing the costs of shipping sapphire.

 

Also, this small facility might just be a testbed for R&D on the manufacturing process, not a full production facility or even an R&D facility for new materials. Apple is becoming quite good at manufacturing as they continue to build their vertical ecosystem. 

 

GT has been around for a while and is a US based company.  To date, they have been purely a capital equipment manufacturer.  They make the equipment that makes the saphire.  Semiconductor facilities and other companies that wanted sapphire bought their equipment, then made their own sapphire themselves.  The Apple deal is standing GT a little bit on its head and now turning it into a sapphire supplier.  In a sense it has become its own biggest customer and now has to buy its own equipment and then use that equipment to deliver sapphire to Apple.

 

Hopefully they have hired all new experienced people to run the manufacturing side of things.  Manufacturing requires a whole different mentality than development (in fact almost the exact opposite mindset in quite a few cases).  As I understand it GT is going to be an OEM supplier and Apple isn't doing any of the manufacturing themselves.

post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Frood View Post

GT has been around for a while and is a US based company.  To date, they have been purely a capital equipment manufacturer.  They make the equipment that makes the saphire.  Semiconductor facilities and other companies that wanted sapphire bought their equipment, then made their own sapphire themselves.  The Apple deal is standing GT a little bit on its head and now turning it into a sapphire supplier.  In a sense it has become its own biggest customer and now has to buy its own equipment and then use that equipment to deliver sapphire to Apple.

Hopefully they have hired all new experienced people to run the manufacturing side of things.  Manufacturing requires a whole different mentality than development (in fact almost the exact opposite mindset in quite a few cases).  As I understand it GT is going to be an OEM supplier and Apple isn't doing any of the manufacturing themselves.

Great info, thanks. So, in a nutshell, Apple has side-stepped middleman for their requirements.
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post #24 of 35

We're not only entering the Diamond Age*, we're entering the Sapphire Age.

 

*Neal Stephenson reference

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GOA

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GOA

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post #25 of 35

Long GTAT, also music to my ears, sounds like another piece in the puzzle, very good news.

post #26 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

We're not only entering the Diamond Age...

I thought that was in the 1970's.

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post #27 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


I thought that was in the 1970's.

 

No, that was the Golden Age... or was it the Plastic Fantastic Age?

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post #28 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


Great info, thanks. So, in a nutshell, Apple has side-stepped middleman for their requirements.

 

Not so much sidestepped them as created something out of nothing.  Hopefully GTAT is nimble enough to pull off the transition.

post #29 of 35
Silicon on insulator
For silicon on insulator optical devices, see silicon photonics.

SIMOX process
Silicon on insulator (SOI) technology refers to the use of a layered silicon-insulator-silicon substrate in place of conventional silicon substrates in semiconductor manufacturing, especially microelectronics, to reduce parasitic device capacitance, thereby improving performance.[1] SOI-based devices differ from conventional silicon-built devices in that the silicon junction is above an electrical insulator, typically silicon dioxide or sapphire (these types of devices are called silicon on sapphire, or SOS). The choice of insulator depends largely on intended application, with sapphire being used for high-performance radio frequency (RF) and radiation-sensitive applications, and silicon dioxide for diminished short channel effects in microelectronics devices.[2] The insulating layer and topmost silicon layer also vary widely with application.[3] The first industrial implementation of SOI was announced by IBM in August 1998.[4]

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_on_insulator
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post #30 of 35
Duplicate
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post #31 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Constable Odo View Post
 

Sapphire can be used in so many other applications apart from consumer tech products or just for Apple's use.  There are plenty of sapphire in the medical field which Apple seems to be getting into.  Hospitals may no longer bother with those standard steel blade or tungsten carbide scalpels and use sapphire ones instead if the prices come down enough.  Sapphire blade scalpels can hold a sharper edge longer.  I'm thinking that sapphire could be used in artificial joints if alloyed with something like Liquidmetal.  It just seems as though Apple could really make some serious money from various sapphire uses.

Scalpel blades aren't reusable.  No need to make the blade last longer.

post #32 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

Other companies just don't realize they aren't nearly nimble enough to keep up with Apple.

The problem is that to be nimble enough they need to move in a specific direction long before Apple gives a clue, so the competitors are always jumping too late to catch Apple. Also,, like with the 64-bit A7 chip...no one could figure out what they did that for, now they know that it was to support a new graphic language and "Metal." In a few months Apple will dump their iPhone6 and new iPad and (Only Tim knows what else) on the market that is already flush with around 100 million A7 devices capable of handling the new faster graphic iOS8.

Life is hard. It's even harder when you are Apple's competitor. (Sorry Duke)
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post #33 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post
 

I guess it's all those taxes Mass collects that has attracted Apple to it. 

Uh, why?

 

Taxes collected go to the government. They don't go to the company's piggy bank.

 

If one California county has a sales tax of 7.75% ($77.50 on a $1000 Mac) and another one has 8.75% ($87.50 on a $1000 Mac), guess what the difference to Apple's profit is? Zero dollars.

post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Applebaum View Post

Silicon on insulator
For silicon on insulator optical devices, see silicon photonics.

SIMOX process
Silicon on insulator (SOI) technology refers to the use of a layered silicon-insulator-silicon substrate in place of conventional silicon substrates in semiconductor manufacturing, especially microelectronics, to reduce parasitic device capacitance, thereby improving performance.[1] SOI-based devices differ from conventional silicon-built devices in that the silicon junction is above an electrical insulator, typically silicon dioxide or sapphire (these types of devices are called silicon on sapphire, or SOS).

Oh, what a surprise is in store for competitors if Apple has plans for Sapphire in this fashion! The sweet thing about Apple using Sapphire in various ways to differentiate their products is that for the competitors it isn't a matter of buying the needed sapphire on the open market, nor do you just order 6000 Sapphire ovens from a catalog.
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post #35 of 35
Fortunately, Dude, it's not all about You!
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