Apple’s Mysterious Sapphire Plant Is Already Getting Bigger

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is already planning to expand the sapphire manufacturing plant based in Mesa, Arizona, that the California-based company is leasing from GT Advanced Technologies (NASDAQ:GTAT), reports Apple Insider.  According to unnamed “people close to the project” cited by the publication, the iPhone maker is currently fielding bids from several construction companies to build another structure next to the existing plant, which is still being built. Apple Insider’s sources suggested that the upcoming structure might be built directly behind the current facility.

As revealed in GT Advanced Technologies’ third-quarter report from last year, Apple paid $578 million “in advance for the purchase of sapphire goods” and entered into a lease agreement for the sapphire plant in Mesa. Although it is still unknown what type of sapphire component Apple will be producing at the plant, many industry watchers have speculated that it will be making displays for Apple’s next-generation iPhone models or long-rumored iWatch device. Apple currently uses Corning’s (NYSE:GLW) proprietary Gorilla Glass for its iPhone displays. However, sapphire is a harder and more scratch-resistant material.

In Foreign Trade Zone documents first uncovered by 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman and analyst Matt Margolis, Apple Deputy Director of Global Compliance Jim Patton noted that the sapphire plant would produce a “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.” Apple currently only uses sapphire as a protective covering for the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and the iPhone’s camera lens.

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