A new report published late last night reveals that Apple's sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona will be producing synthetic sapphire for future iPhones and could possibly be used to manufacture other parts related to solar cells and a smartwatch.
According to a new Bloomberg report titled "Apple Wooed by Arizona as Obama Seeks U.S. Jobs Comeback," the sapphire material requires furnaces to spark a reaction in which cylinders of sapphire grow over about a month, then can be sliced to less than a millimeter thick for use on gadget screens, said Eric Virey, an analyst with Yole Developpement, a research firm that studies the market.
Apple's Mesa plant will make an "unprecedented" amount of synthetic sapphire, Virey said.
Virey further stated that "When it's operating at full capacity, this plant is going to be producing as much as two times the current worldwide capacity," he said. The factory will be able to make enough sapphire for 80 million to 100 million iPhones a year, he said.
The process is highly technical and requires a small and well-trained workforce, Virey said. That makes Apple's new facility unlike those run overseas by manufacturer Foxconn, where thousands of workers put iPhones and iPads together by hand on an assembly line. U.S. factories make sense economically when they have expensive and complex equipment that require skilled workers to operate, said Jim McGregor, a technology industry analyst who lives in Mesa.
We reported on Thursday that the equipment for the plant began arriving last week. To learn about Apple's intellectual property on sapphire related projects, see our Archives. According to Wikipedia, synthetic sapphire material is identical to natural sapphire, except it can be made without the flaws that are found in natural stones.
The rest of the Bloomberg report is about how Mayor Scott Smith wooed Apple to Arizona with the right package of incentives to land the deal for the city of Mesa, a Phoenix suburb.
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