MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
53,011
14,753



Work at Apple's new sapphire production plant in Mesa, Arizona is progressing, with contractors working "around the clock and even on weekends", according to a new report by AppleInsider. It also says Apple may be expanding into another building already existing on the site.

The site says Apple planned to have the facility up and running by February and it may be partially active as work continues. It also published a series of images showing the exterior of the building, though they are not particularly revealing. The building was built by a solar panel manufacturer but never saw production.

sapphirefactory.jpg
Rumors floating around the local electrical industry in Arizona claim Apple may be mulling a project expansion into a building on the site that was previously owned by photovoltaic panel maker First Solar. The purpose of the support structure is unknown.
Apple originally announced the 700-employee manufacturing facility, in partnership with sapphire-maker GT Advanced, back in November. Tim Cook said in an interview that the facility would be making sapphire for a "secret project" with other reports saying the plant will see full production beginning in the second half of 2014.

Article Link: Work at Apple's Arizona Sapphire Plant Continuing, Possible Expansion in Works
 

Dwalls90

Contributor
Feb 5, 2009
5,068
3,307
Oh, thanks for the update Tim!!

Wait, you're not Tim Cook?? Then your guess is as good as mine.

Okay while his post was on the arrogant side, it's still a considered opinion in the sense that sapphire screens would hurt iPhone margins.
 
Comment

Ieo

macrumors 6502
Jun 17, 2009
251
0
Okay while his post was on the arrogant side, it's still a considered opinion in the sense that sapphire screens would hurt iPhone margins.

But it would give them a major selling point that Samsung can't easily duplicate - apple had to purchase and build the infrastructure necessary to meet the demand for sapphire on this scale, as it doesn't exist yet. Apple will be the only one in town who can do this for a year or two.

There are entire stores dedicated to repairing cracks and scratches in phone screens. Every mall has a dozen kiosks selling screen protectors. Otter boxes sell for $60-$100 and they're very popular - it's definitely a consumer priority

Something tells me apple would be willing to gamble a little bit of their profit margin to fight samsung in market share, especially since the tech specs race is basically a stalemate. Android is catching up bit by bit, Apple can't afford to stay stagnant when it comes to setting themselves apart.

Also, it's entirely possible Apple has managed to bring cost within tolerable range by controlling manufacturing and utilizing a sapphire laminate they had a patent on back in the fall (if I recall correctly).

Oh, here it is: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...to-iphone-ipad-future-iwatch-cover-glass.html
 
Comment

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,889
1,478
Palookaville
But it would give them a major selling point that Samsung can't easily duplicate - apple had to purchase and build the infrastructure necessary to meet the demand for sapphire on this scale, as it doesn't exist yet. Apple will be the only one in town who can do this for a year or two.

There are entire stores dedicated to repairing cracks and scratches in phone screens. Every mall has a dozen kiosks selling screen protectors. Otter boxes sell for $60-$100 and they're very popular - it's definitely a consumer priority

Something tells me apple would be willing to gamble a little bit of their profit margin to fight samsung in market share, especially since the tech specs race is basically a stalemate. Android is catching up bit by bit, Apple can't afford to stay stagnant when it comes to setting themselves apart.

Also, it's entirely possible Apple has managed to bring cost within tolerable range by controlling manufacturing and utilizing a sapphire laminate they had a patent on back in the fall (if I recall correctly).

Oh, here it is: http://www.patentlyapple.com/patent...to-iphone-ipad-future-iwatch-cover-glass.html

While this might all be true, consider that the iPhone is assembled in China, so the logic of manufacturing the glass in the U.S. is questionable.
 
Comment

Ieo

macrumors 6502
Jun 17, 2009
251
0
While this might all be true, consider that the iPhone is assembled in China, so the logic of manufacturing the glass in the U.S. is questionable.

Most guerrilla glass is made in the US, with the rest being made in Japan and Taiwan - none of which are china, and the cost difference between the three to throw it in a container and get it to china is negligible at scale.

Apple gets more control over the manufacture of sapphire, gets to advertise 700 new US jobs, and gets green energy tax credits as well as piles of municipal and state tax breaks for building where there did. It's a lot of wins and one relatively insignificant loss.
 
Comment

racingbull

macrumors regular
Aug 16, 2013
121
92
it might as well be for the manufacturing of the glass panels for the space-ship campus...

Just thinking out of the box...
 
Comment

macs4nw

macrumors 601
Before everyone gets the wrong idea, this is not for iPhone screens. This is probably for the iWatch or something else that's small and actually needs the superior scratch resistance sapphire offers.

Oh, thanks for the update Tim!! Wait, you're not Tim Cook?? Then your guess is as good as mine.

In all seriousness, what is your best guess spyguy10709? They seem to be in an awful rush to get production up and running which points to a product that might launch in the fall? I'm not hazarding a guess myself, but am just as curious as the next guy, and interested to hear what other people think.
 
Comment

Porco

macrumors 68040
Mar 28, 2005
3,165
6,155
The Sapphire Plant sounds like some fantastical place from an ersatz copy of a great work of fiction...

After meeting the nibblenoids of nibbledom, Doris followed the orange-cobble-highway with her dog Tutu and made friends with the bird-frightner, the nickel man and the scardey-leopard, all on their way to meet the marvellous magician of ZO who lived in the Sapphire Plant.
 
Comment

Steve121178

macrumors 603
Apr 13, 2010
5,565
5,043
Bedfordshire, UK
Before everyone gets the wrong idea, this is not for iPhone screens. This is probably for the iWatch or something else that's small and actually needs the superior scratch resistance sapphire offers.

I agree. Doesn't make a great deal of sense for phones when the current materials are good enough. Covering the iPhone with sapphire will add serious $$$ to the cost. It's not a cheap material!
 
Comment

iolinux333

macrumors 68000
Feb 9, 2014
1,798
73
I agree. Doesn't make a great deal of sense for phones when the current materials are good enough. Covering the iPhone with sapphire will add serious $$$ to the cost. It's not a cheap material!


I remember a few years back when Motorola came out with the world's first sapphire faced phone, I think it was about $2000 and I remember thinking "who the hell do they think would ever be stupid enough to pay $2000 for a stupid cell phone"

[I glance over at my almost $1000 64GB iP5s]


If the iP6 were $2000 how many people would pay?
 
Comment

iolinux333

macrumors 68000
Feb 9, 2014
1,798
73
Hardly anyone.

Also, if people think the iWatch is going to be a $99 item then they are very much mistaken. I can't see it costing less than $300-$400. Apple doesn't do cheap junk.

Absolutely. I think there would be versions pushing >$500. Isn't the Moto 360 supposed I be >$300?
 
Comment

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,889
1,478
Palookaville
Most guerrilla glass is made in the US, with the rest being made in Japan and Taiwan - none of which are china, and the cost difference between the three to throw it in a container and get it to china is negligible at scale.

Apple gets more control over the manufacture of sapphire, gets to advertise 700 new US jobs, and gets green energy tax credits as well as piles of municipal and state tax breaks for building where there did. It's a lot of wins and one relatively insignificant loss.

Not really. The colocation effect in manufacturing is very real. It's why so much manufacturing, especially in tech, has moved to Asia. Even components that can't necessarily be made cheaper in Asia are manufactured there to be closer to other manufacturers and suppliers, which saves not only in transportation costs (not negligible), transportation time (not negligible), it simplifies the supply chain (even less negligible). Tax breaks and such can distort the geography of manufacturing, but doesn't negate it. Advertising U.S. jobs gets Apple nothing they are actually after.

My point being, to me the opening of this plant in Arizona suggests a new product with a new supply chain and new materials requirements. If it was entirely for an existing product already being manufactured in Asia, the plant would more likely be located there. We also have Cook's broad hint that the plant in Arizona is related to a "secret project." And since sapphire glass itself is not a secret, it would have to be something else. That's how it adds up for me.
 
Comment

ElectronGuru

macrumors 68000
Sep 5, 2013
1,548
401
Oregon, USA
My point being, to me the opening of this plant in Arizona suggests a new product with a new supply chain and new materials requirements. If it was entirely for an existing product already being manufactured in Asia, the plant would more likely be located there. We also have Cook's broad hint that the plant in Arizona is related to a "secret project." And since sapphire glass itself is not a secret, it would have to be something else. That's how it adds up for me.

I largely agree. However, 1) apple appears eager to reverse the Asian centered manufacturing trend, 2) the best time to make such changes are when making something new, including new versions of old products (see Mac Pro), 3) secret can mean a lot of things, including getting a head start on a new feature advantage in an existing market.
 
Comment

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,889
1,478
Palookaville
I largely agree. However, 1) apple appears eager to reverse the Asian centered manufacturing trend, 2) the best time to make such changes are when making something new, including new versions of old products (see Mac Pro), 3) secret can mean a lot of things, including getting a head start on a new feature advantage in an existing market.

Less than eager, my sense is they are dipping their toe into the water on domestic manufacturing with the new MacPro. A relatively low-volume high-margin product with a market more in the U.S. and Europe than elsewhere (I presume) is not a huge or risky bet. Your second point I agree with, since this is what I am thinking, more or less, but if the "secret project" is little more than a new part for an existing product (or even a new version of an existing product), I would be disappointed. Cook's remark is about as close to dropping the veil as Apple gets. Call it wishful thinking, but I am hopeful that it's more meaningful than that.
 
Comment

ElectronGuru

macrumors 68000
Sep 5, 2013
1,548
401
Oregon, USA
Less than eager, my sense is they are dipping their toe into the water on domestic manufacturing with the new MacPro. A relatively low-volume high-margin product with a market more in the U.S. and Europe than elsewhere (I presume) is not a huge or risky bet.

Your second point I agree with, since this is what I am thinking, more or less, but if the "secret project" is little more than a new part for an existing product (or even a new version of an existing product), I would be disappointed. Cook's remark is about as close to dropping the veil as Apple gets. Call it wishful thinking, but I am hopeful that it's more meaningful than that.

Yes, 1 would be the beginning of a long trend and no way to be sure. I make things in the US myself and it is not easy. We've lost both capacity and capability. But I'm hoping the Mac mini is next!

3 is tricky, since it could be a message to customers to drum up excitement or a message to competitors to misdirect. But even if the later, this will add capability and capacity that would make some never before imagined product that much easier to create. So even with initial disappointment, there is hope.
 
Last edited:
Comment
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.