Apple's New Manufacturing Partner, GT Advanced, Uses Particle Accelerator to Cut Sapphire Glass Production Costs

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple's new sapphire glass manufacturing partner, GT Advanced, owns some very advanced technology to manufacture extremely thin sheets of sapphire much more cheaply than current methods.

    TechCrunch has done some digging and discovered a company called Twin Creeks that GT Advanced acquired late last year. Twin Creeks developed a hydrogen particle accelerator (pictured below) as a cheaper alternative to saws when attempting to slice larger chunks of sapphire for use on electronics.

    According to the press release GT Advanced released last week, GT expects to see its gross margins to drop significantly as sapphire glass production rises -- as costs go down -- but the overall volume will more than make up for it.

    TechCrunch goes on to note a patent that Apple got last year that creates a layered touchscreen with a "hyper-thin sheet of sapphire" combined with much cheaper glass sheets. The sapphire glass could be on the outside of the phone, protecting the screen from scratches, while enjoying the cost-savings of cheaper forms of glass on the rest of the display assembly.
    The new Apple/GT Advanced facility is expected to open in Mesa, Arizona sometime next year.

    Article Link: Apple's New Manufacturing Partner, GT Advanced, Uses Particle Accelerator to Cut Sapphire Glass Production Costs
  2. larrylaffer macrumors 6502


    Aug 1, 2009
    Los Angeles
  3. jyen macrumors regular

    Oct 29, 2012
    Wow, I had no idea you could do stuff like that with a particle accelerator.
  4. JohnArtist macrumors member

    Nov 9, 2007
    New York
  5. Reason077 macrumors 68000


    Aug 14, 2007
    Pretty impressive looking particle accelerator.

    But I'd be more impressed if it were portable (say, backpack sized) and fired a stream of protons which could trap ectoplasmic entities.
  6. macrumors 6502

    May 4, 2011
    Mumbai (India)
    I wish they use these kinds of advanced technology for the batteries....but glass will also do for time being, what say ?
  7. Woogaloo macrumors newbie

    Jul 18, 2008
    I'd love to see the cost of the saws if a hydrogen particle accelerator is the "cheaper" alternative...

    Either way very cool that they can do this.
  8. ovt1111 macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2013
  9. josh.b macrumors regular

    Oct 19, 2013
  10. Reason077 macrumors 68000


    Aug 14, 2007
    Yes!! Future iPhones could be powered by micro-sized Radioisotope thermoelectric generators. These will be around the same size as current batteries but will never need to be recharged. Just be careful not to let it overheat, and dispose of responsibly!
  11. Jayse macrumors regular

    Jun 29, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
  12. petsounds macrumors 65816

    Jun 30, 2007
    Seems like the forums got caught in a particle accelerator accident as well.

    Strange that it's such a small device -- the particle accelerators I've seen pictures of are several miles in length and accelerate the particles using pulsed electromagnets. I'm surprised they can accelerate the particles in such a small enclosure and get enough velocity to cut through sapphire!
  13. jtmarine73 macrumors member

    Nov 9, 2011
    I would bet the cost is more, but there are no saws to replace. Hydrogen is in pretty good supply. :) Pretty amazing innovation for a company that can't innovate anymore. Would love to see how much stronger sapphire is then gorilla glass.
  14. scbn macrumors 6502


    Jul 25, 2010
  15. klaxamazoo macrumors 6502

    Sep 8, 2006
    It's not the cost of the saws that makes the Hydrogen Particle Accelerator cheaper. It is the fact that you don't waste a saw blade's width of material, don't waste material polishing, etc. It takes 17 days to make one ingot of sapphire and using the particle accelerators probably get 5x as many wafers out of a single ingot using this process.
  16. neutrino23 macrumors 65816

    Feb 14, 2003
    SF Bay area
    The problem is that the saw blade is relatively thick so that you wind up losing most of the sapphire to the saw cut. Using the proton method there is virtually no wasted material.

    Accelerating protons into sapphire is a clever idea. Charged particles in solids lose energy as 1/E. This means that the slower they move the faster they they slow down. This is why they all wind up at roughly the same depth. The protons acquire an electron from the matrix becoming hydrogen. When the boule is heated the gas expands and a thin slice cleaves off the boule.

    Interesting that they will layer 20 microns of sapphire over glass. Sapphire is extremely hard but it might not be tough. Perhaps the combination is both scratch resistant and fracture resistant.
  17. DTphonehome macrumors 68000

    Apr 4, 2003
    If my understanding of the technology is correct, the particles don't actually cut the material. The hydrogen particles accumulate on the surface of the sapphire, and then, when heated, they expand and shear off a fragment of the sapphire substrate.
  18. TMay macrumors 68000

    Dec 24, 2001
    Carson City, NV
    Would Apple also be pushing Silicon on sapphire?

    I seem to recall that this is one of the processes available for RF devices; might Apple be delving into this as well?
  19. rei101 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 24, 2011
    All that 21st century technology just to receive a phone call from someone to tell you your girlfriend is cheating on you.
  20. The Oak macrumors newbie

    Nov 12, 2013
  21. needfx macrumors 68040


    Aug 10, 2010
    macrumors apparently
    Can they accelerate other production aspects with this contraption?
  22. jmggs macrumors regular


    Jul 6, 2007

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