PatentlyApple broke some more patent news related to Apple and GT Advanced this morning. The latest patent allows for sapphire crystal to be pulled away from the crucible and fed out of the growth chamber.
This invention would certainly reduce the lead time to grow sapphire and allow for GT and Apple to significantly increase the sapphire yield per ASF furnace. Additionally, due to the increased yield the capital costs for equipment would be considerably lower versus the traditional sapphire boule growth method used in ASF furnaces. Lower capital costs would also drop the cost to produce sapphire screens as well since depreciation costs would be lower throughout the production process. Furthermore, this new invention if being used inside the Mesa operation today would allow for Apple and GT to rapidly produce inventory versus the traditional sapphire growth method.
Patently Apple also notes that Apple is most likely using this invention in their Mesa sapphire plant because the patent was originally filed in Q3 2012. This date was also ties in well to when GT and Apple signed their confidentiality agreement which was in August 2012.
Apple credits Dale Memering and Scott Myers as the inventors of patent application 20140090592 which was originally filed in Q3 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. However, in this case, Apple is likely using this invention in their new Sapphire plant in Arizona.
Additional patent information courtesy of PatentlyApple is below:
Apple’s Invents Sapphire Growth Systems
Apple’s invention generally relates to systems and methods for continuous sapphire growth. One embodiment may take the form of a method including feeding a base material into a crucible located within a growth chamber, heating the crucible to melt the base material and initiating crystalline growth in the melted base material to create a crystal structure. Additionally, the method includes pulling the crystal structure away from crucible and feeding the crystal structure out of the growth chamber.
Another embodiment may take the form of a system for continuous sapphire growth including a vertical growth chamber and a crucible positioned within the growth chamber.
The crucible includes a die set and is configured to hold molten alumina. The system also includes a heater configured to heat the crucible and a feeding system for continuously feeding alumina into the crucible. A pulling system is provided and configured to contact a seed crystal with molten alumina at the top of the die set and pull a crystal ribbon upwardly and out of the growth chamber.