Documents produced by the City of Mesa and Apple, related to sapphire production, were outed on Wednesday by analyst Matt Margolis. The paperwork was sent to U.S. Foreign Trade Zone Board executive secretary Andrew McGilvray, and brings into focus some of Apple's plans for sapphire production with partner GT Advanced
in the Arizona based factory. The sapphire produced in the plant will be a sub-component of Apple devices that will be imported into the states. Seemingly, the process of adding the sapphire to the devices will be done in the U.S. and will make the device (whatever it is) the best product in its class.
The project with GT Advanced, dubbed Operation Cascade, involves GT operating equipment it purchased, inside Apple's facility in Mesa. Apple has pre-paid GT Advanced $578 million which will be repaid over 5 years, starting next year. Foxconn has allegedly produced 100 prototypes of the next-gen Apple iPhone using a sapphire glass cover, just to test the manufacturing process
. As the second hardest material after diamonds, a sapphire glass display for the Apple iPhone would be more resistant to scratching and cracking than Corning's Gorilla Glass. The facility in Mesa is expected to begin operation next month.
"Project Cascade will conduct high-tech manufacturing of intermediate goods/components for consumer electronics. All finished components will be exported. This high-tech manufacturing process will create a critical new sub-component of Apple Products to be used in the manufacture of the consumer electronics that will be imported and then sold globally. By pulling this process into the U.S., Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology to enhance and improve the consumer products, making them best in class per product type."-Apple from FTZ filing
Apple currently uses the material as a lens cover on the Apple iPhone 5s
, and to protect the fingerprint scanner on the TouchID embedded in the home button on the flagship model. Besides the possibility of Apple using more of the material on the next-gen iPhone, there is speculation that it will be used to produce the screen for the rumored Apple iWatch.