Apple's Arizona Sapphire Plant May See Expansion to Bolster Yields

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Mar 28, 2014.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    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.
    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
  2. Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Good news for Arizona and Apple, though I wonder what they'll be needing the increased quantities of Sapphire for?
  3. macrumors 68020


    Dec 9, 2008
    Hill Valley, California
    Man, they'd be able to fit sooo much RAM in that new chip desi—oh, it's not hardware…
  4. macrumors 68040

    Mad Mac Maniac

    Oct 4, 2007
    A little bit of here and a little bit of there.
    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.
  5. JAT
    macrumors 603

    Dec 31, 2001
    Mpls, MN
  6. macrumors 68020


    Jun 22, 2006
    The thick of it
    That giant circle in the center of the image is odd. I didn't realize that sapphire production required a particle accelerator.
  7. macrumors 68040

    Sep 4, 2009
    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.
  8. macrumors regular

    Apr 16, 2008
    Houston TX
    Its a outline for the next Apple Mothership.
  9. macrumors newbie

    Dec 22, 2011
    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?
  10. macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    The truth can now be told: It's an alien landing pad.
  11. macrumors newbie

    Feb 17, 2012
  12. jayducharme, Mar 28, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014

    macrumors 68020


    Jun 22, 2006
    The thick of it
  13. macrumors newbie

    Mar 6, 2014
    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.
  14. macrumors member

    Aug 23, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    The circles are part of the old, abandoned GM dessert proving grounds.
  15. macrumors 6502a


    Mar 1, 2011
    What a dismal looking working location. And is that a Hadron Collider they are using to power this factory?
  16. macrumors G5


    Nov 14, 2011
    Touch ID on iPads and iPod touches and maybe Macs?
  17. macrumors 68020


    Jun 22, 2006
    The thick of it
    Mmmmm ... donuts....
  18. btbeme, Mar 28, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014

    macrumors regular

    Jul 29, 2010
    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.
  19. macrumors regular

    Jul 29, 2010
    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.
  20. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2004
    Breaking News: desert land available in Arizona. :p

  21. macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2011
    The picture does have an 'Area 51' feel about it.
  22. macrumors 68000

    Four oF NINE

    Sep 28, 2011
    Soviet Union
    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.
  23. macrumors 6502a

    Aug 28, 2012
    Between the coasts
    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.
  24. macrumors member

    Aug 31, 2010
    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.
  25. Reason077, Mar 28, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014

    macrumors 68000


    Aug 14, 2007
    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?


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