GTAT’s Sapphire Screens: Unscratchable, Unbreakable and Coming Soon!

Posted: April 5, 2014 by mattmargolis24 in Apple Investor Information, GTAT Investor Information, Mesa Sapphire Plant
Tags: , , , , , , ,

by Matt Margolis

A few weeks ago I tracked down Jeff Van Camp (Twitter)  (Digital Trend) and had an “epic” discussion with him over Twitter messenger.  Jeff interviewed GT’s COO Jeff Squiller last February during the Mobile World Congress.  Jeff  was given a rock and an opportunity to destroy a piece of Gorilla Glass, a task he completed with ease.  He then took the same rock and “made his mother proud” for Jeff Squiller and delivered substantially more force on the sapphire  screen, the end result was not surprising , the rock got destroyed by the sapphire screen.  Dan Squiller seemed confident over a year ago that the mobile adoption of sapphire screens would not slowed down by price.  The link to Jeff’s article and the 4 minute video interview with GT’s Jeff Squiller and sapphire screen product demonstration can be found  here courtesy of Digital Trend.  The video interview and product demonstration within Jeff’s article are worth the click!

How tough are GT’s sapphire screens compared to Gorilla Glass?

According to Jeff Van Camp’s discussions (full quote below) with GT’s COO Dan Squiller on the toughness of sapphire screens, “you cannot scratch it , it doesn’t break, so if you drop your phone, or abuse it, it won’t break.  You could throw this phone against a cement wall and it won’t break.  Well, the phone might break but the screen will stay intact”.

“Gorilla Glass is still glass, so the way that you break glass is that you score it, and then it breaks. So when you scratch your mobile phone, that’s why when you drop your mobile phone it breaks – because there are scratches in it,” Dan Squiller of GT Advanced told us as he let us scratch up a Gorilla Glass screen with a rock. “So, with sapphire, because you cannot scratch it, it doesn’t break. So if you drop your phone, or abuse it, it won’t break. It’s very very rugged. It won’t scratch; it won’t break … You could throw this phone against a cement wall and it won’t break … well, the phone might break, but the screen will stay intact.”

I can attest that Dan Squiller’s comments about the phone breaking but not the sapphire glass as completely accurate.  A friend of mine witnessed a shattered iPhone 5 that appeared to have damage to the sapphire camera lens cover.  After further review they realized that a ring of glass surrounding the sapphire camera lens was shattered but the sapphire camera lens was completely unharmed.
23% of iPhone Users Have Broken Screens
Dan Squiller, during the video interview, commented that, “half the people who walk by this booth have a cracked screen,”  and according to a CNET report 23% of iPhone users walk around with a cracked screen.
“We’ve only just mounted the effort to sell it into the mobile space,” saidSquiller. “We didn’t realize what we had here, but the mobile industry has a huge problem with broken screens. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who come by the booth and take out their phone and show us their shattered phone.”

Sapphire Growth and Cutting Process (as of February 2013)
Jeff’s interview also touched on the process to grow and cut sapphire (see quote below from February 2013).  As of last year, only diamond tipped wire saws could cut sapphire but sitting here a year later we know Apple has a multi-step “laser” cutting patent and GT has their Hyperion 4 ion implanter that can do just about anything with sapphire, silicon and a variety of other materials.  Additionally, Apple’s patented sapphire growth process and insulated network of piping to grow or anneal sapphire is one-of-a kind.
GT Advanced demonstrations were compelling, and the science seems to back it up. Sapphire is a naturally growing crystal and is the second hardest substance on earth. It’s so hard, only diamond-tipped saws can cut it. GT Advanced grows sapphire and then melts and hardens them into ‘boules,’ which are 115 kilogram, or 254 lb. clear cylinders. Those cylinders are then cut into cubes, which are then chopped up into slices and shapes as thin and wild as you can imagine.

Sapphire can be made as clear as glass and as thin as you desire, and is the perfect material for a phone or tablet screen because almost nothing can scratch it. The crystal is regularly used in things like jewelry, watches, military windshields, LED TVs, and LED light bulbs, but the sapphire industry is a few years late to the game when it comes to mobile touchscreens.

The $10,000 Sapphire Covered Vertu Mobile Phone
I asked Jeff about the Vertu mobile device and whether or not he has any ever seen or had the chance to try to wreck one.  He personally had not, but a close colleague of his did have an opportunity to carry the device and attempt to damage the Vertu’s sapphire screen and was unsuccessful (no surprise here).  The biggest fear about carrying a $10,000 Vertu device is not dropping it and worrying about shatter your screen but dropping it and then realizing that you just lost a $10,000 phone.   I have asked Jeff to get his hand on a Vertu device, perform some testing to demonstrate the toughness of the Vertu’s sapphire screen and most importantly to share it with all us!
GT Advanced Technologies and Apple announced their sapphire contract on November 4, 2013 and the wait to enjoy a sapphire covered iPhone is right around the corner!
Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT and have no plans to buy or sell any holdings in the next 72 hours

 

Comments
  1. Pat says:

    How is that different from tank protection? The Screen protection available since 2012. Google it and let me know please .

    Like

  2. Ted says:

    Epic! Thanks matt!

    Like

  3. calidagirl says:

    Matt great article as usual. But, I am confused, I thought Apple had a lock on GTAT’s production of sapphire only to them. Samsung? how do they figure in the equation?

    Like

  4. […] GTAT’s Sapphire Screens: Unscratchable, Unbreakable and Coming Soon! […]

    Like

  5. […] have in the secondary market (2nd owner/trade-in market).  Apple realizes that if they made an unbreakable screen made of sapphire they could actually generate up $1000 of net profit over the lifetime of the device.   Think […]

    Like

  6. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  7. […] es schaut ziemlich cartoonish. Obwohl Saphir viel viel stärker als ist, Gorilla-Glas (anscheinend ist die UNO-scratchability des Saphirs der Schlüssel zu seinem UNOBreakability), das der gebogene Glasrand herausgestellt glaubt. Das größere Problem ist möglicherweise, dass […]

    Like

  8. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  9. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  10. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  11. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  12. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  13. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

  14. […] looks rather cartoonish. Even though sapphire is much much tougher than Gorilla Glass (apparently sapphire’s un-scratchability is the key to its un-breakability) the curved glass edge feels exposed. The bigger problem may be that the curved edges of the screen […]

    Like

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