A Sapphire Boule
Apple's sapphire supplier, GT Advanced Technologies, is continuing to expand its capacity to produce the synthetic material. According to documents filed with the SEC (as noted by Seeking Alpha), the company is opening new facilities that add another 20 million screens to the 200 million unit capacity the company already has.
Apple's relationship with GTAT first came to light in SEC documents filed in 2013, where it was learned GTAT would be operating machinery owned by Apple in a factory also owned by Apple. To this date, Apple has not announced a product that will use sapphire, but speculation and leaks have both centered on new iPhone models and Apple's much-rumored iWatch.
Apple's chief designer, Jony Ive, recently said in an interview that his design group has been working with new materials. Sapphire wasn't mentioned by name, but that is the one new material we know Apple has invested in.
Thursday's new information was released as part of an amended 10-Q form, a quarterly report required by the SEC. Those documents revealed timelines for GTAT to create new facilities and start growing sapphire
Apple has thus far prepaid over US$400 million dollars to GTAT for retrofitting some existing furnaces and building out the above-mentioned facility in Mesa, Arizona. There is another $139 million dollar prepayment listed, but the date was redacted.
Apple's investment in this material is immense, and it demonstrates an intense commitment to it.