GT Advanced (furnaces, Pocketnow 001)

According to a new rumor by Taiwan’s Apple Daily, Apple’s favorite contract manufacturer, Foxconn, has ostensibly commenced trial production of the next iPhone, using sapphire as a display glass cover. The initial production run has been pegged at 100 units.

This doesn’t mean that the next iPhone will in fact ditch Corning’s Gorilla Glass for sapphire-strengthened display, mind you. Apple currently uses sapphire to protect iOS device cameras and Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s from scratches and dings.

Earlier today, a video excerpt from ABC’s upcoming interview with CEO Tim Cook and other Apple executives brought the official confirmation of Apple’s plan to exclusively produce sapphire crystal glass components at its new facility in Mesa, Arizona

Apple Daily writes that Apple’s sapphire suppliers Synopsys and Bern Optics have made significant investments in cutting machines and other sophisticated equipment recently.

Both companies currently supply sapphire glass for iDevice iSight cameras and Touch ID sensors. According to the Taiwanese paper, Apple already consumes ten percent of the world’s manufactured sapphire.

MacRumors independently heard that Apple’s been working with a Swiss company called Meyer Burger Technologies to obtain new sapphire cutting machines.

We also know that a company called GT Advanced will own and operate pricey furnaces – depicted top of post – at the Arizona facility thanks to Apple’s prepayment of $578 million.

GT will pay back this sum over five years beginning in 2015.

Although Apple’s multi-year exclusive agreement with GT doesn’t guarantee volumes, GT is required to maintain a minimum level of capacity. The company’s 2014 revenue is expected to grow 15x thanks to the Apple deal.

Apple is now hiring engineers for that plant.

A recent patent filing titled ‘Sapphire Laminates’ indicated Apple has been actively working on processes that can make the expensive gemstone a viable option for the mass production of consumer electronics.

The patent application outlines the lamination of sapphire sheets, as well as sapphire-on-sapphire or sapphire-on-glass applications, resulting in the final sapphire laminate layer that’s just 1mm thick.