MacRumors

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Apple revolutionized aluminum manufacturing when it adopted the unibody design for its MacBook Pro line of notebooks, advancing the production process in a way that benefitted the industry as a whole. Now, the company is poised to change the nature of sapphire manufacturing in a similar way, but this time the sole beneficiary will be Apple, argues The Verge.

macbook_pro_13_15_late_2013.jpg
When Apple introduced the aluminum unibody MacBook Pros in 2008, the company was relying on third-party suppliers to provide the material needed for the notebook line. Backed by Apple's cash, manufacturers were able to streamline and scale up production to meet demand for the new unibody machines. Once rare, processes like aluminum extrusion and forging became commonplace, with Apple "reinventing a whole new supply chain around the material."
"Aluminum is now cheaper and easier to implement thanks to Apple itself," says noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities. His assessment, shared by many others, is that Apple's demand drove "related suppliers of aluminum casing to invest more on capacity and technology." They were all competing for the lucrative prize of satisfying the MacBook maker's need to extrude, machine, anodize, and recycle vast quantities of the metal.
Apple may have kickstarted the aluminum revolution, but it did not control the production processes it advanced and the adoption of the metal spread across a variety of industries. With sapphire, Apple is taking a different approach. The company is again poised to overhaul a new manufacturing industry, but this time Apple is in a better position to keep most of the benefits to itself.

sapphire.png
Apple partnered with materials manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies to build a sapphire production plant in Arizona and is working on mass producing the material for use in its iPhone lineup and possibly the iWatch. Any advancements the company makes in sapphire production to make it more affordable and to scale its manufacturing output to support hundreds of millions of devices per year will stay within the walls of Apple and GT.

Competitors will have to pursue their own sapphire manufacturing endeavors or concede sapphire to Apple and pursue different transparent cover materials to use in their devices. Most companies will be left behind as they do not have the financial reserves that allows a company like Apple to invest in a full-scale production facility dedicated to a single material used in their devices.

Apple and GT have already started producing small quantities of sapphire in their Arizona plant, with approximately 100 furnaces online producing 2,220 kg of sapphire in early production runs. GT is expected to install more than 1,000 additional furnaces as the company ramps up production for the end of 2014 ahead of the release of the iPhone 6 and iWatch.

Recent reports suggest Apple may incorporate sapphire into its upcoming wearable product and may outfit its high-end iPhone 6 models with a sapphire screen. The company currently uses sapphire as a covering for its iPhone rear camera lens and its Touch ID sensor.

Article Link: Apple's Move to Revolutionize Sapphire Manufacturing Likely to Leave Competitors Behind
 

Dekema2

macrumors 6502a
Jul 27, 2012
847
432
WNY or Utica
I'm sure they signed a contract where the price won't fluctuate. Samsung will have to either pay a fortune or jack their phone prices up.
 

nia820

macrumors 68020
Jun 27, 2011
2,111
1,961
So can someone tell me what the advantages of sapphire are?

It sounds cool and its's suppose to be really durable. It is a benefit for people who abuse their phones. But for people who actually take care of their phones it is unnecessary.
 

keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
9,534
25,287
It sounds cool and its's suppose to be really durable. It is a benefit for people who abuse their phones. But for people who actually take care of their phones it is unnecessary.

Yeah, well cars sound cool and are supposed to be really practical. It is a benefit for people who are lazy. But for people who actually walk, they're unnecessary. :rolleyes:

Honestly though -- how can a more durable phone be a bad thing? If you want your phone made out glass and virgins' tears because you're too perfect to drop it, that's fine -- but don't take the high-ground attitude about it.
 

yossi

macrumors regular
Nov 26, 2004
220
669
Except the transition to sapphire wont be as revolutionary as the transition to unibody aluminum.
 

thunder1102

macrumors newbie
May 7, 2014
2
0
Some food for thought:

Check out margolismatt dot com for information on Apple's sapphire plans.

GT Advanced reports earnings today after the close.
 

viizi

macrumors regular
Dec 2, 2010
224
68
Nice job Apple. Good to see the real leaders back out in front where they are meant to be. Hopefully this inspires the copycat company to do some of their own hard work for the good of everyone :)
 

jrswizzle

macrumors 603
Aug 23, 2012
6,107
129
McKinney, TX
Yeah, well cars sound cool and are supposed to be really practical. It is a benefit for people who are lazy. But for people who actually walk, they're unnecessary. :rolleyes:

Honestly though -- how can a more durable phone be a bad thing? If you want your phone made out glass and virgins' tears because you're too perfect to drop it, that's fine -- but don't take the high-ground attitude about it.

LOL winner.
 

AppleScruff1

macrumors G4
Feb 10, 2011
10,026
2,948
If sapphire is brittle and breaks easily, I'm not understanding why it is such a breakthrough for phone screens. You never hear people complain about scratching their phone screens, but you see plenty of cracked screens. :confused:
 

lincolntran

macrumors 6502a
Jan 18, 2010
843
471
It sounds cool and its's suppose to be really durable. It is a benefit for people who abuse their phones. But for people who actually take care of their phones it is unnecessary.

Cars are for people who want to go fast from point A to point B. For people who go slow, horse carriages will suffice. :rolleyes:
 

Ahheck01

macrumors 6502
Aug 7, 2006
446
37
The next iPad better have sapphire. Or else I'm not buying.

The plasticky feeling of the iPad Air and Mini Retina have kept me from buying them - they've lost the premium feel, despite their incredible thinness and lightness. A sapphire iPad screen seems a bit ambitious to hopeful though.
 

jacobj

macrumors 65816
Apr 22, 2003
1,124
87
Jersey
That's good, that seems that it might possibly mean that it is a potentially proven material, maybe.

It is incredibly hard - I know of only one person that has managed to scratch their watch and they were working with hardened engineering tools at the time.

It is however more prone to shattering. The edges can be protected, but a direct point of impact on a large face will be interesting. I'm sure we'll see tests.

Personally I am not too prone to dropping my phone, but I am prone to popping it in my pocket with my keys. This is a good move for me as I can have a case free phone!!

PS Please Apple, add waterproofing too!!! I did once drop a phone in a rock pool and have the phone with me in the kitchen!
 

jrswizzle

macrumors 603
Aug 23, 2012
6,107
129
McKinney, TX
If sapphire is brittle and breaks easily, I'm not understanding why it is such a breakthrough for phone screens. You never hear people complain about scratching their phone screens, but you see plenty of cracked screens. :confused:

For some reason, both my 5C and 5S are scratched to hell....never had an issue before and its not like I've been any harder on these particular devices versus any of my other iPhones.

Honestly, I think Gorilla Glass is an overrated product and look forward to something better/more durable coming along.

Let's face it - if you drop a glass display (any glass) it will break. I'd much rather take care of the day-to-day annoyances like scratches, scuffs and fingerprints now and figure out the indestructible glass later.
 

1Zach1

macrumors 65816
Feb 8, 2008
1,210
746
Northern Va
If sapphire is brittle and breaks easily, I'm not understanding why it is such a breakthrough for phone screens. You never hear people complain about scratching their phone screens, but you see plenty of cracked screens. :confused:

I don't complain about the 3-4 major scratches and 10-15 minor ones I have on my screen because it comes with the territory and doesn't make the phone unusable.
 

designaholic

macrumors regular
Nov 10, 2007
238
23
Bristol, UK
It sounds cool and its's suppose to be really durable. It is a benefit for people who abuse their phones. But for people who actually take care of their phones it is unnecessary.

True, but a wrist mounted device is more notable, much easier to scuff.
 
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