Apple has agreed with GT Advanced to build a factory in which the latter will manufacture sapphire glass in high volumes. Apple even paid the company $570 million up front to help GT start the production. “Why?” you may ask. That question is exactly what convinced TechCrunch to look deeper into the potential of sapphire glass, and they found a couple interesting things. Among them: The future of smartphone screens is sapphire.
You may recall the video in which Pocket-Lint visits a GT Advanced facility and we can look inside the sapphire glass manufacturing process. In that video, the reporter explains that sapphire glass currently has a major issue: pricing. A sapphire glass smartphone screen costs more than $30, while the same Gorilla glass screen costs less $3.
So why would Apple invest in GT? Well, according to information obtained by TechCrunch, GT bought a company called Twin Creeks last year and got a bunch of patents, including its Hyperion ion implanter, which has the potential to “minimize, or in some cases eliminate, the need of wafering saws, which would significantly lower the cost of production,” as the GT press release notes.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Now it’s time to take a look at Apple’s patent portfolio. Interestingly, there is a patent called sapphire laminates, which presents a variety of ways to laminate sapphire sheets together with glass or other sapphire sheets.
Apple has already come up with a method to meld the thin sheets of sapphire with cheap glass sheets. By prepaying GT Advanced the $570 million, Apple has just secured the necessary tools to mass produce its patented sapphire glass sheets. The new technology obtained by GT combined with Apple’s patented technology will drag the manufacturing cost down and make the sapphire glass screen iPhone materialize much sooner than analysts have dreamed.