Like any good fairy tale, this also began once upon a time (2013) in a place far away (New Hampshire), where a small company known as GT Advanced Technologies dared to dream. They hoped to make it big, in a partnership with Apple that would result in cutting the cost of sapphire by two-thirds.
Apple demanded that GT commit to manufacturing this massive production of sapphire, but no where in the contract did it stipulate that Apple should buy it. So they didn't.
It all went downhill from there. Apparently, according to Motherboard, sapphire requires a clean environment (so sans construction), which meant that the factory was “a highly contaminated environment that adversely affected the quality of sapphire material”. Also, it requires a regulation of temperature from both water and electricity, and according to GT, Apple decided against backup generators and powers supplies to cut on costs, despite multiple power outages that ruined entire batches of sapphire. The result was a contract whereby Apple would buy the sapphire-growing furnaces from GT. Five months, in however, Apple demanded that GT begin supplying sapphire instead, and was expecting GT to build a factory just for that - the largest factory in the world, which would eventually double the globe’s sapphire production capacity.
But never fear! GT Advanced Technologies was here! The company which gained prominence due to their manufacturing and production of sapphire furnaces promised that they could cut the costs by two-thirds, provided their increased the size of their equipment and used new crystal growth procedures that would create boules, or cylindrical crystals that are twice the size of regular crystals.Prior to the iPhone 6’s release, there was much ado about sapphire. The material, which is nearly unscratchable, seemed to be Apple’s latest edge over competitors. The problem was that sapphire costs nearly ten times the amount of regular glass used for a smartphone screen.
The last bit is the truly saddening point, however. Apple demanded that GT commit to manufacturing this massive production of sapphire, but no where in the contract did it stipulate that Apple should buy it. GT also signed a non-compete, which exempted them from being allowed to sell to Apple’s competitors. GT creditors are lobbying that Apple breached its contract and conducted “classic bait-and-switch” deals. According to Apple Insider, all Apple has to say for themselves is that they “bent over backwards” to help GT. The settlement date has been pushed back.GT is also claiming that equipment Apple paid for, again, to cut costs, were subpar. A diamond-wire saw that cuts wire in approximately 3.6 hours took an alleged 20 hours, and required replacement immediately after. GT, which has since filed for bankruptcy, claims that this increased production costs of up to 30%.Additionally, sapphire is time consuming. It takes a month to grow a sapphire boule. Throughout the entire month in the furnace, there is no way to monitor the sapphire formation. Which means that at the end of the month, you open the furnace, and there are the results. If there is a problem, expect another month to fix it.
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