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Old Mar 28, 2014, 11:51 AM   #1
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Apple's Arizona Sapphire Plant May See Expansion to Bolster Yields




As construction on Apple and GT Advanced's sapphire manufacturing plant in Mesa, Arizona, progresses, the two companies are already looking at expanding their available space.

According to AppleInsider, several companies in the area are currently bidding on a potential expansion, which would possibly allow GT Advanced to put out even greater quantities of sapphire for use in Apple's products. While it remains unclear just how Apple will use the sapphire, there have been several strong hints and equipment orders pointing towards sapphire displays for the upcoming iPhone 6.

Aerial view of Apple's existing facility (via AppleInsider)
Announced in November, the Mesa, Arizona facility currently under construction will house approximately 700 employees with enough sapphire-making equipment to supply screens for Apple's entire line of iPhones - capacity is at 100 to 200 million sapphire displays per year, according to an analyst estimate. If the proposed expansion is also used for sapphire manufacturing, GT Advanced's output capabilities could increase even further.

Public records from the U.S. International Trade Administration suggest that there are several vacant parcels of land adjacent to the area where Apple is already building.
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Although the exact purpose of the second unit is unknown, the build would likely be similar to Cascade's building as project planners are said to be fielding bids from existing construction companies and material suppliers. Firms actively working on the project include Rosendin Electric, Wesco Distribution and Graybar Electric, among others.
While documents filed with the Foreign-Trade Zone Board in January suggested Apple was aiming to open the plant in February, construction is ongoing. The site does appear to be functioning in a partial capacity, however, powered by an array of temporary generators, possibly already producing sapphire for future products.

Article Link: Apple's Arizona Sapphire Plant May See Expansion to Bolster Yields
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 11:53 AM   #2
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Good news for Arizona and Apple, though I wonder what they'll be needing the increased quantities of Sapphire for?
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 11:55 AM   #3
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Man, they'd be able to fit sooo much RAM in that new chip desi—oh, it's not hardware…
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 11:56 AM   #4
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I'm not sure why analyists keep talking about sapphire screens for iPhones. Seems unpractical to me. I think it'll be used on their wearable/iWatch instead (first). Makes the most sense to test this new process/material on a smaller size/smaller quantity device, and then if it works well bring it up to the iPhone.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 11:59 AM   #5
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Desert circles?
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:01 PM   #6
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That giant circle in the center of the image is odd. I didn't realize that sapphire production required a particle accelerator.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:07 PM   #7
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Desert circles?
I bet those circles in the view is a group of dirtbike courses for the locals to mess around on. They are worn enough to where they may have seen organized competitions on them.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:09 PM   #8
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Desert circles?
Its a outline for the next Apple Mothership.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:10 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by jayducharme View Post
That giant circle in the center of the image is odd. I didn't realize that sapphire production required a particle accelerator.
It does, actually... GT uses Hyperion Ion Cannons to slice sapphire wafers. But they look more like oversized industrial washing machines than those used in high energy physics investigations.

I admit, though, that was the first thought I had when I glanced at the picture of the site. I wonder what was there before?
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:12 PM   #10
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That giant circle in the center of the image is odd. I didn't realize that sapphire production required a particle accelerator.
The truth can now be told: It's an alien landing pad.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:16 PM   #11
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Larger iPhones need more Sapphire
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:16 PM   #12
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I found it on Google Maps. It does look like a set of tracks for dirt bikes or ATVs:

https://www.google.com/maps/search/S.../data=!3m1!1e3

EDIT: When you zoom in, you can see that a lot of it is broken pavement, as if it used to be a NASCAR area long ago.

Last edited by jayducharme; Mar 28, 2014 at 12:21 PM.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:17 PM   #13
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The circles and tracks there are remnants of the old GM proving grounds.
They have since moved to Yuma away from the home developers who have encroached onto the proving grounds making it harder to test prototype stuff.

I knew a developer bought a chunk of that land to build more houses but if they had anything left over Apple would have great room to expand.

Intel has been doing this over in Chandler the last couple of years and they are really pumping up production on hardware now.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:22 PM   #14
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The circles are part of the old, abandoned GM dessert proving grounds.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:23 PM   #15
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What a dismal looking working location. And is that a Hadron Collider they are using to power this factory?
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:23 PM   #16
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:24 PM   #17
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The circles are part of the old, abandoned GM dessert proving grounds.
Mmmmm ... donuts....
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:31 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by jayducharme View Post
That giant circle in the center of the image is odd. I didn't realize that sapphire production required a particle accelerator.
Actually a test track. The facility is on the NE corner of what used to be the GM Desert Proving Grounds, where General Motors used to have test tracks, road courses, etc for testing new vehicles. You can easily recognize some of those leftovers, including the "drag strip" that leads practically to Apple's side door on the south end of the building.

If I recall, that straight test track was about 2.25 miles long with a turnaround at the south end. The circular track was some 9,000 feet in diameter, or about 5.5 miles for a full lap. That puts some perspective to the amount of land available at this site.

Last edited by btbeme; Mar 28, 2014 at 12:38 PM.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:50 PM   #19
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Also of note - check this site on Google Maps. You will see that it sits right next door to Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport, which is built on the site of the former Williams Field Air Force Base.

Gateway Airport is being built out as a second Phoenix-area airport fully capable of handling all but the very largest passenger aircraft. It also houses many private and corporate aircraft companies as well as repair and service facilities for private and corporate (and regional-sized) aircraft. Also on the grounds is an extension of Arizona State University.

This site in Mesa is, I think, a very good, very strategic location for Apple to build production facilities. Transportation by air and freeway is right next door. There is plenty of room for alt energy installations such as solar and fuel cell. There is even a large landfill just a mile away that produces copious amounts of methane which is captured and sold for energy production. And, there are several high-tech companies with large facilities in the immediate area - such as Intel, Orbital, Motorola, Freescale, and several huge server farms.

All in all, I would think that Apple would be very excited about the possibilities for this site.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:53 PM   #20
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Breaking News: desert land available in Arizona.

-t
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:54 PM   #21
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The truth can now be told: It's an alien landing pad.
The picture does have an 'Area 51' feel about it.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 12:57 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Mad Mac Maniac View Post
I'm not sure why analyists keep talking about sapphire screens for iPhones. Seems unpractical to me. I think it'll be used on their wearable/iWatch instead (first). Makes the most sense to test this new process/material on a smaller size/smaller quantity device, and then if it works well bring it up to the iPhone.
Why would a sapphire crystal screen be impractical? It hardly needs to be tested, it's been used for watch crystals for decades. It's a known entity. It's not an experimental substance.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 01:03 PM   #23
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It's not necessarily about Apple. The Apple deal has attracted the interest of other manufacturers. It could be GT gearing up for non-Apple production.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 01:13 PM   #24
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There is definitely room for expansion at this site, in fact, in First Solar's original plans, this was to be the first of 4 such buildings for them.
This happens to be near my neighborhood, in fact my house is just barely outside the picture to the lower right.

A little background for anyone interested:
This plant was originally built by First Solar, it was completed for their purposes, but never went into operation. In fact their sign was still on the building until about 4 weeks ago. In the last two weeks, the GT Advanced Technologies signs have gone up. We were hoping for a bug Apple logo, but no such luck.
As I mentioned, in First Solar's original plans, this was to be the first of 4 plants that would/could be built in this location.
You can see the outlines of the tracks of what was the GM Proving Grounds for like 50 years & the entire site has/is being repurposed, with high tech & manufacturing, housing, education & many other purposes.
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Old Mar 28, 2014, 01:16 PM   #25
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The big ring in the left/west of the facility looks a lot like a particle accelerator.

In fact, it looks exactly like a smaller version of Fermilab's Tevatron Collider.

The question is: what do they need a particle accelerator for?


Last edited by Reason077; Mar 28, 2014 at 01:24 PM.
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