Rumor: Apple could produce 100-200M sapphire iPhone displays with new equipment

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2014
A report on Thursday claims Apple partner GT Advanced has taken receipt of sapphire manufacturing and testing equipment at its plant in Arizona, with the new machines estimated to output between some 100 and 200 million 5-inch iPhone displays per year.

ASF
GT Advanced Technologies' ASF sapphire furnace.
Source: GT Advanced


In a supposed effort to get a sapphire facility up and running in Mesa, Arizona, Apple and manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies are assembling machinery that will reportedly be used for bulk sapphire production. Among the machines said to be on-site are furnaces and advanced testing equipment.

While the source of the information has not been fully disclosed -- listed only as "import/export records" -- analyst Matt Margolis (via 9to5Mac) claims GT has taken receipt of 518 fully assembled furnaces that he estimates can churn out enough sapphire for between 103 million and 116 million 5-inch iPhone displays. An additional 420 machines wait unassembled and could boost yearly production numbers to about 200 million units.

According to GT, "ASF" sapphire furnaces produce high-quality, large-area substrates for demanding applications like high brightness LEDs, consumer electronics and industrial applications.

As for the sapphire inspection tools, GT is using a piece of hardware from Intego called the SIRIUS Slab. The automated system will increase the yield of high quality sapphire in a repeatable manner, says a GT Advanced press release detailing the Intego partnership. In the document from March 2013, GT's president and CEO Tom Gutierrez said the implementation would offer lower costs and increased sapphire production for mobile device industries.

"Automating the sapphire material inspection process will deliver more repeatable and consistent results that drive greater throughput," Gutierrez said. "This will help to lower the cost of sapphire for high volume applications such as cover material for mobile and touch screen devices."

SIRIUS
Intego's SIRIUS Slab sapphire inspection tool. | Source: Intego


Apple inked a $578 million deal with GT Advanced in November 2013 for the supply of sapphire materials, though the specifics of the multi-year contract are largely unknown. The money is said to be a prepayment for the build of the Mesa, Arizona sapphire plane, GT Advanced will reimburse in full starting from 2015.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer offered a bit more clarity as to the size of the Apple-GT Advanced plant, saying in November that the facility will create some 700 new jobs in the first year alone, not counting the 1,300 construction jobs for building out the area.

In an interview with ABC News in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed the Mesa, Arizona facility is a sapphire glass plant, but declined to reveal how the material would be used.

Apple holds a number of patents regarding the production and use of sapphire in products like the iPhone, including a recently-discovered property for a sapphire iPhone display. The company first experimented with sapphire on the iPhone 5's rear camera cover glass and expanded the material's role as a protective cover for the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

It was reported in late January that Apple was looking to ramp production of "critical" sapphire subcomponent by the end of February, which will then be exported for outside of the U.S. for assembly. The part will supposedly be "new," suggesting either a replacement for existing hardware, like an iPhone display, or something completely novel.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    200,000,000 per year?

    That plant could put out enough devices to drive Apple's share price down nicely!
  • Reply 2 of 25
    How about 80-160M 6" iPhones instead?
  • Reply 3 of 25

    Some furnace salesman got a nice bonus this Christmas. 

  • Reply 4 of 25
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 4,034member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GTR View Post



    200,000,000 per year?



    That plant could put out enough devices to drive Apple's share price down nicely!

    How? If they're used for more than just in iPhones like iPod, iPad, iWatch, iPhaplet or whatever the next product is, it wouldn't be an issue.

  • Reply 5 of 25
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by fallenjt View Post

     

    How? If they're used for more than just in iPhones like iPod, iPad, iWatch, iPhaplet or whatever the next product is, it wouldn't be an issue.


    Joke recognition fail.

  • Reply 6 of 25
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,711member
    $578m for a multi-year agreement to supply 200m iPhone screens per year seems like an amazing deal for Apple.
  • Reply 7 of 25
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,723member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wally626 View Post

     

    Some furnace salesman got a nice bonus this Christmas. 


    Well, he won't have been fired at least.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by fallenjt View Post

     

    How? If they're used for more than just in iPhones like iPod, iPad, iWatch, iPhaplet or whatever the next product is, it wouldn't be an issue.


    GTR, you're going to have start using the sarcasm tag.

     

    As long as the sapphire furnaces don't employ a gas centrifuge, Apple should be safe from mistaken identity and sabotage, for now at least...

  • Reply 8 of 25
    Originally Posted by Chez Whitey View Post

    How about 80-160M 6" iPhones instead?

     

    Sure. Any lie is good enough for Wall Street.

  • Reply 9 of 25

    Originally Posted by wally626 View Post

    Some furnace salesman got a nice bonus this Christmas. 




     

    Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

    Well, he won't have been fired at least.


     

    Being "fired" is something you don't want to happen when there are a bunch of furnaces around. :p 

  • Reply 10 of 25
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,864member
    WS raises estimates to 200 MM iPhones in FY2014.
  • Reply 11 of 25

  • Reply 12 of 25
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,254member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sog35 View Post



    It's obvious this is a move to get rid of the home button since the whole screen will be sapphire. This will enable a 5 inch iPhone to be only slightly larger than the 5s

     

    Nothing says marketing win like the phrase "only slightly larger." And this would be totally be compatible with Touch ID.

  • Reply 13 of 25
    ash471ash471 Posts: 705member
    crowley wrote: »
    $578m for a multi-year agreement to supply 200m iPhone screens per year seems like an amazing deal for Apple.
    Depends on how much they have to pay for each panel. I'm sure the $578m is prepayment on build out of the facility, not COGS
  • Reply 14 of 25
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

     


     

     

    Never gets old. That really is me!

  • Reply 15 of 25

    Maybe they are just looking to produce some extremly stiff glass fronts for their retail stores so that some dumbasses can't drive their ghetto cars through them anymore :)

  • Reply 16 of 25
    irelandireland Posts: 17,751member
    The plant would have the ability, not the plant is going to do this. Besides, we have iPad and iWatch glass too, guys. That will over 100,000.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    clemynxclemynx Posts: 1,510member
    The sapphire is more likely for the iWatch first, then maybe for the iPhone too.
    It's incredible how hard it is to find videos on the web making break resistance comparison between sapphire glass and Gorilla glass, apart from the video from Corning.

    I'd like to know if it is indeed more fragile.
  • Reply 18 of 25
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GTR View Post



    200,000,000 per year?



    That plant could put out enough devices to drive Apple's share price down nicely!

    Again ... the stock price is the only topic anyone here can relate to, even when it comes to (poor) attempt at humour.

  • Reply 19 of 25
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ClemyNX View Post



    The sapphire is more likely for the iWatch first, then maybe for the iPhone too.

    It's incredible how hard it is to find videos on the web making break resistance comparison between sapphire glass and Gorilla glass, apart from the video from Corning.



    I'd like to know if it is indeed more fragile.

    What data do you have to opine on what this is more or less likely to be for?

  • Reply 20 of 25
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by bluenix View Post

     

    Maybe they are just looking to produce some extremly stiff glass fronts for their retail stores so that some dumbasses can't drive their ghetto cars through them anymore :)


    Now we are thinking.

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