Apple is said to be exploring options to expand the facility it’s building with manufacturing partner GT Advanced Technologies in Arizona, a facility which is going to be used to help the companies build sapphire components for future devices. The proposed expansion, reported by AppleInsider, would see the facility plans potentially double in size, and is currently seeking bids from contractors for its completion.
A planned expansion could suggest that Apple is looking to do more volume with its sapphire production late this year and into next than it had previously intended. Rumors suggest that the company is looking into the possibility of releasing two new devices by the end of the year, including both a 4.7- and a 5.5-inch iPhone. It isn’t yet clear whether it will use sapphire for its new displays, but recent patents filed by the company indicate that Apple is at the very least researching techniques to make sapphire displays work with touchscreen devices.
Apple currently uses sapphire to protect the iPhone’s camera lens, and for the new fingerprint scanning home button on the iPhone 5s. It’s possible that its interests lie primarily with building more of the same, including Touch ID sensors for a wider range of smartphones and for its tablets, but it’s seeming more and more likely that the next new connected gadgets it releases will employ sapphire to protect their screens, instead of the highly scratch resistant engineered glass they use now.