Ever since Apple acquired the plant in Mesa, Arizona, and struck the deal with GT Advanced, the blogosphere has gone crazy about future sapphire glass iPhone screens based on a handful of Apple patents and some limited information about the technology GT Advanced has developed. For skeptics, here is a good reason for Apple’s push to make the plant operational by February: The company has purchased enough sapphire crystal furnaces to manufacture up to 200 million ~5-inch iPhone displays.
The above information was obtained by 9to5Mac, with some help from analyst Matt Margolis. They have uncovered a couple of documents showing that GT Advanced has purchased 518 sapphire furnaces and chambers (pictured below), which work together to transform sapphire crystal material into something that will be reprocessed, polished, and then sliced into display shapes. (You can see a video here.) GT Advanced has also acquired sapphire crystal display testing tools from Sirius Slab.
In terms of productivity, those 518 units are capable of building between 103 million and 116 million 5-inch displays per year. But that’s not all: Another 420 machines are on their way to GT Advanced, raising the output with an additional 84-94 million screen covers. And the final piece of the puzzle is that Apple’s partner has ordered more than 100 tons of graphite material to heat the furnaces.
For those wondering whether GT’s purchases are Apple-related or not: The latest SEC filing sheds light on the exclusive deal the two parties have closed.