Smaller facility may be purely for test production
Apple and GT Advanced have opened up a second sapphire manufacturing facility in Salem, Massachusetts, according to a filing submitted to the US Securities and Exchange Commission this week. GT already owned the 50,000-square-foot space in Salem, but has used part of Apple's recent $578 million prepayment to retrofit it with furnaces like the primary sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona. Previously, the Salem complex was used as a research lab.
GT Advanced facility up to over 2,500 furnaces
Apple should have enough sapphire to cover the displays of both the iWatch and its 4.7- and 5.5-inch iPhones, claims Seeking Alpha's Matt Margolis. Based on supply chain checks, he suggests that GT Advanced's Mesa, Arizona sapphire plant -- which is dedicated to Apple -- will have "ample supply" for all three devices this year. "Additionally, the maximum sapphire screen capacity of the Mesa facility is likely to exceed 200m annual units," he writes.
Fraction of planned furnaces reportedly online
The Arizona sapphire plant operated by Apple and GT Advanced Technologies started production last month in a 100-furnace trial, claims UBS analyst Stephen Chin. The material was allegedly shipped to one of Apple's manufacturing partners in China. From there, it's believed to have gone into the Touch ID sensors and camera lens covers for the iPhone 5s, which already use sapphire from other suppliers.
Expansion thought to be geared toward increasing yields
Even though the core facility still isn't finished, Apple and GT Advanced are already planning to expand their sapphire factory in Mesa, Arizona, AppleInsider reports. The site claims that several companies have already stepped up with bids for the expansion. The plant and its grounds currently occupy 83 acres; the expansion may grow into land directly behind it, which records show are vacant and more than large enough to support a bigger complex.
Financial forecast hints at sapphire coming to iWatch or new iPhones
GT Advanced's partnership with Apple on sapphire production is "progressing well," according to a statement in the company's latest quarterly earnings report. CEO Tom Gutierrez notes that build-out of the Apple-oriented sapphire plant in Arizona began last quarter, and that hiring started around the same time. Although he doesn't reveal when mass production will start, he says that GT should return to profitability in the second half of 2014.
New solar and geothermal power projects underway
Both the city of Mesa and the state of Arizona acted aggressively to lure Apple and GT Advanced Technologies into building their sapphire plant in the Mesa area, according to a new Bloomberg report. The publication notes that since Arizona lost out on an Apple operations center that ended up in Austin, Texas, local government was eager to make concessions in order to attract the company's jobs and business. Apple is said to have received a $10 million grant from the state to support hiring and building improvements, as well a special designation for its land, slashing the company's property taxes by over 70 percent.
Leaked shipping data points to factory working on display tech
GT Advanced's sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona -- built to produce goods for Apple -- appears poised to produce anywhere between 100 million and 200 million five-inch display covers, a new report suggests. Import records show that in January, the company acquired machines labeled as Intego Sirius Sapphire Display Inspection Tools. The machines are large, and able to process several slabs of screen covers at once.