While Samsung’s Galaxy S 5 phone is waterproof, Apple’s iPhone 6 may feature almost scratch-proof screens made in Arizona from sapphire, among the toughest surfaces known to man. Late last year, Apple declared it was building a 700-employee manufacturing unit in collaboration along with GT Advanced, a New Hampshire-based materials manufacturing firm that is an expert in sapphire production.
As per a new report, GT Advanced has set up around 2,500 sapphire furnaces in the factory for Apple’s exclusive use. The facility is likely to make sapphire boules — basically huge parts of sapphire — that weigh between 200 and 235 kgs, with each of those making sapphire for many, many devices. The complete facility may be able to make as many as 200 million sapphire panels yearly. For comparison, Apple sold 150 million iPhones in fiscal 2013 and is on track to sell millions around that in fiscal 2014.
Synthetic sapphire, chemically identical to the geologic stone, is commonly known as “sapphire glass,” though the material is not purely glass, because it’s not amorphous. Instead, it’s very clear to wavelengths of light that the human eye can see, and — more notable for a smartphone screen — it’s amazingly scratch-resistant.