by Matt Margolis
Last week the Wall Street journal reported that Chinese Glass Maker Lens Technology International (LTI) is planing to raise $872 million in an initial public offering. LTI is seeking to raise funds to expand production capacity to capture growing demand for consumer electronics. More specifically the proceeds will be used to upgrade and expand production capacity of touch-screen glass covers and to make sapphire, which can be used in screen-cover production. The Journal also reported that Apple and Samsung accounted for 84% of LTI’s sales in 2013.
LTI is currently is very involved with various substrate materials and coatings, including coatings for plastics, coatings for glass and metal coatings. LTI also has chemists that focus on coatings for specialty applications that can work out an ideal coating solution for your plastic, glass, metal, paper, wood, and other products. LTI does not currently make sapphire nor does the company currently use sapphire coating.
Just over a week ago GT Advanced Technologies announced several new initiatives to expand its portfolio of SiC (Silicon Carbide) and Sapphire solutions for next generation consumer and industrial products. Among the announcements made by GT was the company’s focus on selling the coating and bonding equipment as well as working with a leading glass substrate producer to develop specialty engineered substrate materials that can be bonded to ultra-thin sapphire lamina to create unique composite solutions that expand the reach of sapphire into a broader set of applications. GT also announced that the company has acquired patent-pending technology for producing low-cost, scratch-resistant aluminum oxide coatings for various substrates including glass and plastics.
LTI is a very experienced company that is focused on coatings for various substrate materials including glass, plastics and metals. GT is expanding on the company’s immense knowledge of sapphire and is set to create an entirely new and untapped market for sapphire coated and laminated products that will expand the use of sapphire beyond today’s current applications. Sapphire was originally used primarily in military applications but over the last few years the use of sapphire in LED lighting and in consumer electronics has exploded.
Sapphire is a unique material because of toughness, scratch resistance and optical clarity. Sapphire coatings will create a nearly scratch proof protective layer on any substrate including plastics, glass, silicon and other materials. In addition to sapphire coatings, GT is developing a bonding technique that would allow super thin Hyperion exfoliated sapphire lamina to be bonded to various substrates. GT reported last week that the company’s Hyperion technology is consistently producing 2″ Sapphire lamina that only measures 28 microns thick. GT’s sapphire lamina would provide significantly more scratch resistant solution and toughness versus nearly every other protective laminate on the market. The only hurdle that remains to bring GT’s sapphire laminate solution to the market is successfully developing a method to bond sapphire lamina to various substrates including glass and plastics.
LTI is seeking to raise funds to expand production capacity to capture growing demand for consumer electronics. LTI’s expansion includes growing sapphire to further diversify its current product offering. GT’s patent pending sapphire coating technology along with itss sapphire laminate product would fit perfectly into LTI’s product portfolio. LTI is a seasoned veteran when it comes to successfully coating various substrates and adding sapphire coating and sapphire laminates would only strengthen the company’s position in the marketplace. There is no indication that any discussions have been held between LTI and GT, but this is one relationship I wouldn’t mind seeing develop.
Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT