GT Advanced Technologies and Apple have reached a new deal concerning more than 2,000 idle sapphire furnaces at a facility in Mesa, Arizona. The two companies will hold an auction on Nov. 23, split the proceeds, scrap what doesn’t sell, and Apple will forgive the debt, according to NHBR. However, Apple apparently hasn’t given up on sapphire technology.
The GTAT furnaces were installed to produce sapphire for use in iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple Watch screens. However, the venture failed and GTAT filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in October 2014.
In a press release at the time, GT said it expected the court would authorize the company to continue to conduct business as usual while it devoted renewed efforts to resolve its current issues and developed a reorganization plan. Those plans never came to fruition.
Despite the situation with GT Advanced, Apple doesn’t seem to have given up on the use of sapphire. A July patent filing (number 20150209903) at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office shows that Apple hasn’t given up on using the material in its iPhone and iPad lines. The patent is for a "system and method for laser cutting sapphire using multiple gas media."
Sapphire is the second hardest material in the world after diamond. The fact that it’s very hard to scratch means that it’s much less likely to break than competitors like Gorilla Glass or Dragontrail.