Posts Tagged ‘iwatch’

  • Installed furnaces inside Mesa, AZ are estimated to exceed 2,500 tools
  • Apple Base Case Revenue likely to exceed $2B and $2.00 EPS
  • Sapphire boule size are estimated to approach 235 kg

GTAT is still waiting on the 4th and final prepayment is received from Apple. The delay in the receipt of the final prepayment is believed to be related to the ramp up of equipment of equipment inside the Mesa facility. The sapphire plant is expected to be completed in June, which should coincide with the receipt of the final prepayment from Apple.
 
My latest supply chain check indicated that GT has likely installed slightly more than 2,500 furnaces. Sapphire boule size is expected to range between 200 and 235 kg. Stephen Chin of UBS has been one of the most vocal analyst’s covering GTAT issued a note on May 28th related to the progress of GT’s sapphire operations in Mesa, AZ.
 
The UBS research note issued on May 28th indicated that any installed furnaces greater than 1,500 or boule size greater than 165 kg would likely result in an upside to its 2015 estimates of $1.30. UBS stated, “we believe 2015 has more chance for upside if the furnaces are indeed larger sized and there are more than we estimated.” My supply chain check indicates that the number of installed furnaces will be significantly larger than 1,500 and sapphire boule sizes will also be significantly larger than 165 kg, which will lead to major upgrades across the board from Wall Street analysts in the near future.
 
As a result of my most recent supply chain check I believe that the Mesa sapphire operations will have an ample supply to cover the iWatch, the 4.7” iPhone and the 5.5” iPhone with full sapphire cover glass in 2014. Additionally, the maximum sapphire screen capacity of the Mesa facility is likely to exceed 200m annual units. My most recent supply chain check confirms that GT’s sapphire business with Apple is likely to approach or exceed $2B annually, or $2.00 earnings per share using an estimated ASP of $10 per unit.
 
Current Wall Street models are only pricing in Apple business at $1b annual or $1.00 earnings per share. My latest supply chain check indicates that Wall Street will likely need to DOUBLE revenue, EPS estimates and price targets once the iPhone 6 and iWatch are released later this year covered in sapphire glass.
 
I am maintaining my $87.50 price target as well as my 2015 estimate for GTAT EPS at $2.84 based on $3.177B in sales, including just over $2B of sales from Apple versus $1.335B and $1.30 EPS currently being estimated by UBS.

Get in early and enjoy my top investment picks.

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Barron’s released some information from Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald.

White was most recently in the news regarding his belief that sapphire was seen in some iWatch models and that the iPhone 6 would feature sapphire glass.

White’s supply chain check indicates, “that initial production of certain “iWatch” components is scheduled to begin later this month and there are plans for a sharp acceleration into fall.” The report also indicated that the iWatch will likely arrive along side the iPhone 6 in September. White estimates the iWatch will be priced between $199-$299 for entry level device.

White believes the first iteration of the iWatch is more of a companion device.

Since our research suggests the first iteration of the “iWatch” is more of a companion device, and thus requires a connection to an iPhone, we believe unveiling the two new devices at the same time makes sense.

White also indicated that the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 is likely to arrive this fall.

Furthermore, as we make our way through Computex, our research is uncovering more evidence that the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 will launch this fall.

Related Stories:

iWatch Touch Panel Provider TPK Almost Guarantees iWatch will Feature Sapphire

Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT

The city is Mesa is set to delegate the operational rights of the Mesa sapphire plant sub zone to GTAT on Monday. Up to this point the city of a Mesa has acted as the grantee of the Mesa sapphire sub zone operations under approval that was granted in March 2014. According to the FTZ, the grantee (city of Mesa) has maintained the greatest direct control over the sapphire plant zone operations. The grantee also directly bears responsibility and Customs liability for the Zone’s operation.

GT as soon as Monday June 2nd may take direct control over the sapphire plant zone operations as well as direct responsibility for FTZ Customs liability. On May 20th GT posted a new job titled “Foreign Trade Zone administrator” to “Provide FTZ and import/export compliance training for all personnel working within the zone and at certain other locations”.

GT’s November SEC filing indicated that the company expected to receive the final prepayment in April. Stephen Chin of UBS, in his recent report published earlier this week indicated that the delayed receipt of the final Apple prepayment might be due to significantly more furnaces being installed at the Mesa facility versus his original estimates.

We believe one of the reasons that GT has not received its 4th prepayment from Apple yet (originally estimated the 4th and final would be paid by end of last month) is that there could be around 2,000 furnaces being installed (about 30% more than we originally estimated)

The transfer of the sub zone operations from the grantee (city of Mesa) to GT Advanced Technology on Monday June 2nd might be the final hurdle required before Apple releases the final prepayment of $138 million to GT Advanced. The final prepayment from Apple could be received as early as next week. The Mesa plant is expected to be completed in June.

Next week is setting up to be a very interesting week for GT Advanced Technologies.

Apple’s WWDC begins on Monday June 2nd.

GT is expected to be granted operator status over the Mesa sapphire operations sub zone on June 2nd.

GT’s annual stockholder meeting is scheduled on June 4th.

The final prepayment of $138 million from Apple could be received by GT as soon as next week.

Selecting an Operator (FTZ Website)

For businesses to use the Zone, save money, and expand or keep their operations in the community, the Zone must be fully operational.

Upon a grant of authority, the Grantee must address the processes of administration and operation of the Zone.

Some Foreign-Trade Zone Grantees elect to operate their General Purpose Zone themselves. In doing so, the Grantee maintains the greatest direct control over Zone operations, yet also directly bears responsibility and Customs liability for the Zone’s operation.

Disclosure: I am long GTAT

 

Reminder: My PTT Research Forensics Newsletter that is scheduled to be published on Thursday June 5th at 3pm EST.

My Forensics Newsletter pricing is now available and a special 20% launch discount (for the first 48 hours) will be available when my Forensics Newsletter subscription goes on sale on Monday June 2nd at 12pm EST.

If you were wondering what my next pick will be. Here is my sneak peek summary:

My next pick is a company that is built on top of a strong foundation of intellectual property. My analysis of the company’s data and public comments indicate that a “major ramp” in future sales is just getting underway. The company’s C-suite is in the process of scaling up the business and preparing to manage a much larger and more complex company. The company has quietly created an integrated eco-system comprised of software and hardware that continues to extend its competitive edge over its largest competitors. The industry that the company primarily supports is in the early stages of what is expected to be an explosive and long-term growth cycle.

 

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Brian Blair of Rosenblatt Securities May 27th report on the Asia supply chain spotted iWatch models with sapphire screens. Blair also indicated that TPK will make the touch panel for the iWatch. If Blair is correct that TPK will make the touch panel is it nearly a guaranteed lock that the iWatch will feature sapphire cover glass, which will serve as another catalyst for shares of GT Advanced Technology (GTAT).

TPK as it is the major supplier of the touch-on-lens (TOL) process that is required to work with sapphire-based cover glass. Apple’s WWDC begins on Monday June 2 and if Apple wants to introduce the iWatch you can expect GTAT and sapphire cover glass to be a major part of it.

 

Disclosure: I am long GTAT

 

Reminder: My PTT Research Forensics Newsletter that is scheduled to be published on Thursday June 5th at 3pm EST.

My Forensics Newsletter pricing is now available and a special 20% launch discount (for the first 48 hours) will be available when my Forensics Newsletter subscription goes on sale on Monday June 2nd at 12pm EST.

If you were wondering what my next pick will be. Here is my sneak peek summary:

My next pick is a company that is built on top of a strong foundation of intellectual property. My analysis of the company’s data and public comments indicate that a “major ramp” in future sales is just getting underway. The company’s C-suite is in the process of scaling up the business and preparing to manage a much larger and more complex company. The company has quietly created an integrated eco-system comprised of software and hardware that continues to extend its competitive edge over its largest competitors. The industry that the company primarily supports is in the early stages of what is expected to be an explosive and long-term growth cycle.

 

CNBC is reporting that Brian Blair of Rosenblatt Securities May 27th report on the Asia supply chain spotted iWatch models with sapphire screens.

Additionally, the same report said the upcoming iPhone 6 would use sapphire glass from GT Advanced.

by Matt Margolis

Apple is currently recruiting for an  iOS Blue IOT (Internet of Things) Engineer to qualify the latest iOS products.  The role will be testing BT (Blue Tooths) interoperability in Apple’s innovative new phone.  The job posting also indicates the the engineer must have an understanding of OS X, Windows and/or Unix as well as familiarity with object oriented methodology.

The IOS Blue IOT engineer will focus on testing BT interoperability in Apple’s innovative new phone.  Interoperability in simple terms is the ability of two systems to “inter-operate”.  As it relates to Apple it looks like the “innovative iPhone” will be designed to exchange and automatically interpret information shared between two or more computer systems, which could be devices or actual computers.  At first I was thinking interoperability would allow the “innovative phone” to talk to an iWatch to share information but it looks like Apple is going even bigger than that.  According to the job posting the engineer needs to understand various computer operating systems including OS X, Windows and Unix.  Apple is working on the ability of the iPhone to exchange and automatically interpret information with various computer operating systems through its Blue Tooth technology.

The last part of the job is familiarity with object oriented methodology. Object oriented methodology is what Steve Jobs described as the holy grail of software programming during his 1994 Rolling Stones interview. Below are some comments on object oriented metrology during Steve Jobs’ 1994 Rolling Stones interview.

This time the Holy Grail is object-oriented programming; some have compared the effect it will have on the production of software to the effect the industrial revolution had on manufactured goods. “In my 20 years in this industry, I have never seen a revolution as profound as this,” says Jobs, with characteristic understatement. “You can build software literally five to 10 times faster, and that software is much more reliable, much easier to maintain and much more powerful.”

Object-oriented programming will change that. To put it simply, it will allow gigantic, complex programs to be assembled like Tinkertoys. Instead of starting from the ground up every time, layering in one line of code after another, programmers will be able to use preassembled chunks to build 80 percent of a program, thus saving an enormous amount of time and money. Because these objects will work with a wide range of interfaces and applications, they will also eliminate many of the compatibility problems that plague traditional software.

Apple seems focused on creating a new ecosystem of Apple devices that can automatically exchange and interpret data between multiple devices and operating systems. Apple’s Blue Tooth IOT (Internet of Things) seems destined to bring wireless charging to the next generation of “innovative iPhones” as well as some other amazing inter operating functionality between connected devices.

Below is the information from Apple’s Job Posting

You will join a dynamic team responsible for qualifying the latest iOS products. Your focus will be testing BT interoperability in Apple’s innovative new phone. The successful candidate will complete both documented and adhoc testing to ensure high quality releases.

Understanding of OS X, Windows and/or Unix

Familiarity with object oriented methodology

 

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by Matt Magolis

Yesterday, I highlighted Apple’s mutli-touch sensor patterns and stackup patent that was issued on April 24th, 2014.  The newly issued patent claims indicate that Apple has put in some significant time and effort focused on improving the functionality of their multi-touch sensor patterns that will improve the user’s overall experience while handling a device with a curved screen. The number of individual claims has decreased from 39 to 14, however the precision of their 2014 claims versus the 2009 claims is astounding.  This newly issued patent might indicate Apple is very close to introducing a curved iPhone screen in the not to distant future.

Today, I wanted to share a few Apple job postings I found that indicate Apple’s focus on the “Human Interface” on Apple’s next-generation devices, which include the iPhone, iPad and Mac (iWatch not listed but we know it exists).  Apple is looking to create a completely new user experience that will that will further connect mankind to their portable electronic devices.

The first job postings goes back to January 5th, 2014 when Apple was recruiting for a Multitouch Sensor Algorithms Engineer.  The job focusing on gesture recognition, which is technology (Software) that typically allows humans to communicate with machines (Equipment) without any mechanical devices.  For example you could simply point you finger at the screen and the cursor would move.  The Multitouch Sensor Algorithms Engineer job description is below:

Be part of the engineering team creating next-generation input devices and displays. We are looking for a Gesture or Pattern Recognition Algorithms Engineer with working knowledge of gesture recognition, statistical signal processing and pattern recognition along with strong programming skills.

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Apple posted a position for a HID Multitouch Sensor Algorithm Manager on March 7th, 2014.  The position is focused on the “next-generation Human Interface Devices for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.”  The position will focus on creating “insanely great” sensing experience and focus on “groundbreaking sensing technologies”.  You can take my word that Apple is developing mankind’s “6th sense” and it appears Apple is going to take the human-being user experience to another dimension across Apple’s next-generation of devices.

Come lead a team of creative, energetic, and enthusiastic algorithm engineers responsible for next-generation Human Interface Devices for iPhone, iPad, and Mac. We are looking for talented individuals who enjoy creating pattern recognition and statistical signal processing algorithms, prototyping concepts, investigating new technologies, and ultimately delivering high-quality products. In this role, you will be at the focal point of many cross-functional interactions with the hardware, software, QA, industrial and UI design teams.

Lead the team responsible for developing “insanely great” sensing experiences for Apple products.
Spearhead the development and integration of new technologies from proof of concept phase through production ramp.
Invent algorithm architectures for groundbreaking sensing technologies.
Focus the team on parsimonious methods to achieve fluid customer experience.
Identify, create and document new sensing system metrics and specifications that deliver performance that matter to customer perception.
Simulate sensing system performance and error sensitivities.
Diagnose engineering issues with true scientific method, driving to definitive root cause, in close collaboration with cross-functional team members.

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by Matt Margolis

 

Appleinsider recently broke a story that Apple is planning to expand operations in Mesa by possibly adding a second building to expand production (see Appleinsider’s comments in the image below).  The expansion of the current facility along with a target date of June makes complete sense, but expanding to a second building just does not add up at this time.

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GT Advanced built a 20,000 square foot sapphire production facility in Salem, MA that was completed in 2011. The facility holds over 100 furnaces including over 80 ASF sapphire growth furnaces and there is plenty of room to spare to add additional furnaces, if needed.  The Mesa Sapphire Plant has 1.3 million square feet of production space or the equivalent size of 65 of GT’s Salem sapphire production facilities.  GT’s Salem sapphire production facility can hold over 80 furnaces and if we assume the same space to machine ratio within the Mesa facility the maximum sapphire growth furnace capacity inside of Mesa is over 5,000.  Appleinsider reported (see image below) that the Mesa sapphire facility will be equipped with 1,700 furnaces, which by themselves would only fill 1/3 of the Mesa facility and it’s more than likely in my opinion that the Apple has only completed one or two of the planned expansion phases within the Arizona facility.

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According to the Mesa facility lease agreement between GT Advanced and Apple will deliver the Mesa facility to the tenant (GT Advanced) in multiple phases as each phase becomes ready for delivery to the tenant.  The Mesa delivery of the premise from the landlord (Apple) to the tenant (GT Advanced) is broken into 9 phases and they are referred to within the agreement as Phases 1 to 6 and Phases A to C.  Appleinsider reported that the construction would be finished no later in June and based on the lease agreement between the two companies it seems more than likely that Apple may be targeting June to complete the remaining delivery phases inside of Mesa.  Once the remaining delivery phases are complete, Apple’s tenant GT Advanced to can grow sapphire and process sapphire boules within the remaining dedicated delivery zones (phases).

 

1.2.1       Phases. Landlord anticipates that it will deliver possession of the Premises to Tenant in multiple phases as each phase of the Premises (each, a “Phase”) becomes ready for delivery to Tenant.  As used in this Lease, the term “Current Demised Premises” shall mean, at any given time, the Premises or the Phase(s), and the portion of the Premises corresponding to such Phase(s), of which Tenant has accepted delivery in accordance with Section 1.4.  Exhibit C describes each of the nine (9) Phases of the Premises.  The Phases are designated on Exhibit C as “Phase 1”, “Phase 2”, “Phase 3”, “Phase 4”, “Phase 5”,”Phase 6”, “Phase A”, “Phase B” and “Phase C”.  Except as expressly set forth in Sections 1.2.2, 1.3 and 1.4, Landlord shall deliver each Phase of the Premises to Tenant in its then “as-is” condition without any representations or warranties regarding condition.

The master development and supply agreement between Apple and GT Advanced sheds some significant light on the contracted expectations between both companies.  According to the master development an supply agreement, the expectation is that “GTAT will at its expense, purchase, install, test, maintain and operate all equipment necessary to manufacture and deliver the development deliverables and the Goods”.  Additionally, “before placing orders for or purchasing any materials for use in Goods that are comprised of multiple components, GTAT will provide for Apple’s review and approval, a complete engineering bill of materials for such Goods…”.   The language in this agreement appears to indicate that GT will not only be responsible for development deliverables (sapphire boules) but the delivery of the goods (sapphire screens, sapphire components, etc.).

 

21.1.  Unless agreed otherwise in an SOW, GTAT will, at its expense, purchase, install, test, maintain and operate all Equipment necessary to manufacture and deliver the development deliverables and the Goods.  GTAT will also secure all materials in accordance with applicable Specifications necessary to timely manufacture and supply the development deliverables (pursuant to Attachment 2) and the Goods.  Upon Apple’s request, GTAT will purchase materials directly from Apple, and, at Apple’s request, will provide Apple with (i) weekly reports by part number specifying demand for such materials for the immediately following 12-week period; and (ii) weekly receipt logs of any such materials.  Before placing orders for or purchasing any materials for use in Goods that are comprised of multiple components, GTAT will provide Apple, for Apple’s review and approval, a complete engineering bill of materials for such Goods, listing the GTAT part number(s), lead-time(s), and cost(s) of each material therein.  Except for amounts due pursuant to a Letter of Authorization, the applicable SOW or Purchase Order, Apple will not be responsible for any costs associated with the materials.  “Equipment” means fixtures, tooling, test equipment and any other equipment used in connection with the development, manufacturing, testing, packaging, delivery or servicing of the development deliverables or Goods.  “BOM” means the engineering bill of materials that Apple creates and approves for the development deliverables or Goods.

The master development and supply agreement also indicates that GT will likely be responsible for storing goods for just-in-time delivery at an Apple Hub.  An Apple Hub is defined as a. “Apple-approved facility located at or near Apple-specified manufacturing or distribution facilities, or other Apple-specified location”.

13.   Hubs.  As agreed in any SOW, GTAT will store Goods in Hubs before their Forecast delivery date to support just-in-time delivery of the Goods.  GTAT will: (i) bear all costs associated with warehousing Goods in Hubs; (ii) maintain a sufficient inventory of Goods in the Hubs to satisfy the requirements of the then current Forecast; (iii) ensure that the Authorized Purchaser or its carrier(s) may withdraw Goods from the Hubs as needed; (iv) fully insure, or require the Hub operator to fully insure, all Goods in transit to or stored at a Hub against all risk of loss or damage until such time as the Authorized Purchaser takes title to them; and (v) require that the Hub operator take all steps necessary to protect all Goods in a Hub consistent with good commercial warehousing practice.  “Hub” means an Apple-approved facility located at or near Apple-specified manufacturing or distribution facilities, or other Apple-specified location.

 

The “9” Delivery Phases & Multiple Components within Mesa Takeaway

The “9” delivery phases (1 to 6 and A to C) within the Mesa facility are likely for specific products and/or sapphire components.  If you are going to design a manufacturing plant it would make sense to zone off area based on the specific sapphire “form factor” and the required finishing technique(s) to process the finished sapphire good.  GT’s former CFO Richard Gaynor summed up the “form factor” benefits perfectly during GT’s Q4 2012 conference call, “One of the benefit of the technology that we have is that it can actually change the form factor of the boules that you produce. And so you can actually customize the size of the boule to the application you’re trying to build for”.

In January 9to5Mac reported that Apple was hiring for iPhone/iPad manufacturing design engineers for the Mesa, AZ sapphire plant.  The master development and supply agreement specifically calls out how GT Advanced will handle Apple “goods” that are comprised of multiple components.  The iPhone/iPod engineering job posting in addition to the contract language regarding multiple components certainly send a strong signal that the Mesa sapphire plant will not be limited to just the iPhone.  I have thought for sometime that Apple would refresh the iPod alongside the upcoming iPhone in 2014.  The size of the current iPods and iPhones are nearly identical and it makes sense that you could grow “formed” sapphire boules for “multiple components” (iPhone & iPad) within the same “good” (sapphire boule).

The various contract agreements between GT Advanced and Apple indicate that a lot of activity is going to occur inside of the Mesa sapphire plant.  GT Advanced appears to be responsible for purchasing and installing the ASF equipment, growing the sapphire boules, producing the finished goods and shipping and storing the goods at an Apple approved facility.  At this point it is still anyone’s guess as to what exactly will be produced from the Mesa sapphire plant, but the “9 phases” and the mention of “goods with multiple components” certainly indicate that the scope of the Mesa operations may include all of Apple’s iDevices and not just the next generation iPhone and or iWatch.

 

 

Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT and have no plans to buy or sell any holdings in the next 72 hours

A Patented Review of Apple’s Upcoming iWatch by Matt Margolis

Apple’s iWatch patent was granted on February 21, 2013 under the name BI-STABLE SPRING WITH FLEXIBLE DISPLAY.  There is a significant amount of technical information and detail provided in the patent.  I have tried to do all of the dirty work for you and summarize the technological specifications as well as assess whether some of the juicy options should be expected or not expected in the 2014 version of the Apple iWatch.  Listed below are some significant claims associated with the iWatch patent:

A wearable accessory device is disclosed. The wearable accessory device includes a flexible display coupled to a bi-stable spring. Coupling the display to the bi-stable spring allows the accessory device to be easily worn in a number of convenient locations.

A wearable video device arranged to be worn by an end-user, comprising: a flexible substrate having a flat state and a curled state; a flexible display disposed upon a first surface of the flexible substrate, wherein in the curled state the flexible substrate conforms to an appendage of the end-user, the flexible substrate further comprising: an electronic module in communication with the flexible display, the electronic module providing information to the display, at least a part of which is presented in real time for presentation by the flexible display; and a mechanism for detecting an end portion of the flexible display, the detection for adjusting the arrangement of information shown on the flexible display to match the size of the appendage the wearable video device is mounted on.

 [0008] A method for passing information between an accessory device disposed on one surface of a bi-stable spring substrate and a portable electronic device is disclosed. The accessory device includes a flexible display arranged to present a first set of visual information. The portable electronic device has a portable electronic device display arranged to present a second set of visual information. The method includes the following steps: (1) determining whether the accessory device is being worn by an end-user where the determining is accomplished by at least one sensor on the accessory device; (2) when it determined the accessory device is being worn by the end user, establishing a communication channel between the accessory device and the portable electronic device where the communication channel is arranged to provide a bi-directional communication link between the flexible display and the portable electronic device; (3) passing information between the portable electronic device and the accessory device by way of the bi-directional communication link, where at least a portion of the passed information is presented by the flexible display as the first set of visual information; and (4) displaying the first set of visual information by the flexible display.


[0009] A slap bracelet configured to display information wirelessly transmitted from a portable electronic device is disclosed. The slap bracelet includes at least the following components: (1) a communication link, allowing two-way communication between the slap bracelet and the portable electronic device; (2) a flexible display disposed over a portion of a first surface of the slap bracelet; (3) a touch sensitive user interface disposed over the top of the flexible display; and (4) an electronic module disposed on one end of the first surface of the slap bracelet. Information generated on either device can be displayed on either the host device display or the flexible display.

What Apple’s iWatch could feature based on my review of the patent:

Technological Specifications

  • Worn on leg
  • Worn on arm
  • Solar Power
  • Kinetic Energy
  • Solar Panel Array
  • Wireless Communication Between Devices
  • 2 Batteries – Integrated Device and a Solar Powered/Rechargeable replaceable battery
  • Read email and documents
  • Video capability

Form Specifications

  • Curved Display over a Flat State that rest on the body
  • Flexible Display possibly OLED
  • Flexible straps that confirm to the body “slap bracelet”

Kinetic Energy Charging (Not Likely)

Kinetic energy is listed above as a potential power source within the iWatch patent, which would be used to power one of two potential iWatch batteries. In addition to the patent, Apple has had discussions with Swatch Chief Nick Hayek about materials for products and so-called energy harvesting “Kinetic Energy” technology that would generate energy from physical movement. A lesser know company, n M2E Power was focused on developing motion powered charges and energy storage devices but the company was sold in 2009 to Motionetics and not much is known if they continued this work or dropped the project all together. Kinetic energy is currently used to power watches, but the power draw from a smartwatch would require significant technological improvements and I’m just not sure we are there yet.

Solar Power (Very Likely)

October 31, 2013 Apple was granted a new solar touch screen patent, that will allow Apple to power a device, without the need of a “boost converter,” which will lead to fewer issues squeezing components underneath the hood of Apple’s devices. This is a significant improvement from the February 2013 patent. Although the iWatch was not listed under the electronic devices we all know that it is on the list. The patent’s technical details are below:

Apple’s patent filing states that in the absence of the power adapter and/or mains electricity, the portable electronic device may be powered by the battery until the battery is fully discharged. Because the battery has a limited runtime, operation of the portable electronic device may generally be dependent on the availability of mains electricity. Hence, use of portable electronic devices may be facilitated by improving access to power sources for the portable electronic devices.

Apple’s invention relates to providing a power management system that supplies power to components in an electronic device. The power management system includes a system microcontroller SMC and a charger. The electronic devices that will be able to take advantage of Apple’s new solar panel include a MacBook, iPad, iPod touch and iPhone.

During operation, the power management system accepts power from at least one of a power adapter and a solar panel. Next, the power management system supplies the power to components in the electronic device without using a converter circuit between the solar panel and the power management system.

December 2013 Curved Touch Sensor Patent (Very Likely)

Apple was awarded a curved touch sensor patent on December 10, 2013. The curved patent description aligns closely with the iWatch forms, that were called out in the iWatch patent including; “curved touch surface”, “flat state” and “flexible substrate”. The use of thin films could indicate solar cells and/or sapphire laminates. The curved touch sensor patent abstract is below:

A method of forming a curved touch surface is disclosed. The method can include depositing and patterning a conductive thin film on a flexible substrate to form at least one touch sensor pattern, while the flexible substrate is in a flat state. According to certain embodiments, the method can include supporting the flexible substrate in the flat state on at least one curved forming substrate having a predetermined curvature; and performing an anneal process, or an anneal-like high-heat process, on the conductive thin film, wherein the anneal process can cause the flexible substrate to conform to the predetermined curvature of the at least one curved forming substrate. According to an embodiment, the curved forming substrate can include a first forming substrate having a first predetermined curvature and a second forming substrate having a second predetermined curvature complementing the first predetermined curvature.

Flexible Sapphire Display Made with Liquidmetal (Is Possible)

Apple has been dealing with screen technology issues and one way to remedy this problem is through one of their recently awarded patents filed in Europe. The flexible transparent sapphire wraparound display patent might have been the cure needed to address screen flexibility issues Apple has been experiencing. According to the patent, Apple’s sapphire and transparent display would be made using an alumina powder liquidmetal process and could be used in smartphones as well as devices like smartwatches.  Liquidmetal might be making its first major appearance in Apple iOS devices via the iWatch.  Below are some highlights of the patent:

The device may display content that moves or that remains at a fixed location on the surface of the flexible display layer. For example, the electronic device may display pages of content on the display layer in response to tilt events or other motions of the device.

The electronic device may also adjust scrolling activity and other on-screen content motions based on detected device rotation and other measured movement of the device.

The flexible wraparound display device would still feature a touchscreen, accelerometer, gyroscope and other sensors for user input

iWatch Yield and Battery Life Issues and Sapphire Attachment Technique

The iWatch design team has been working feverishly to address battery life and display issues. The curved, flexible iWatch display has been giving Apple fits for sometime. The battery life has been less than desirable as Apple is attempting to extend the battery life to 4 to 5 days without a charge. The smartwatch battery life issues date back to the middle of 2013. Apple is focused on implementing a longer-lasting battery that would allow the device to live without charge for up to five days. In addition to the battery and display issues Apple lost a key member of the iWatch team Bryan James, who left in January to join Nest Labs.

I believe the recent wave of sapphire patents filed by Apple over the last month stemmed from Apple’s focus on resolving the flexible screen and battery life issues. The iWatch will spend a significant amount of time under the hot sun compared to a iPhone, which will result in increased heat coming to the device, which could be contributing to the battery life issues Apple has been reporting. One of Apple’s most recent patents entitled “Attachment technique,” describes the sapphire mounting process as well as using sapphire as a heat spreader to dissipate heat generated by the processor. My takeaway, this critical patent will be deployed on the iWatch to help push heat away from the processor, which will help improve the overall battery life.  Below is an excerpt from the attachment technique patent:

0025] With particular reference to sapphire, the presently discussed techniques allows the effective use of sapphire in a variety of different applications without the risks associated with conventional attachment techniques. For example, sapphire may effectively be attached to a frame of a mobile computing device as a cover glass for a display screen. Additionally, as sapphire’s thermal conductivity is on the order of metals, it may effectively be implemented as a heat spreader. That is, sapphire may be attached both mechanically and thermally to a processor. More specifically, a sapphire substrate may be used as a processor mount to dissipate heat generated by the processor.

[0026] Referring to FIGS. 1A and 1B, an example mobile computing device 100 is illustrated. The mobile computing device 100 includes a first side 102 that may include a transparent cover 104. In some embodiments, the transparent cover 104 may take the form of a sapphire sheet, a sapphire sheet with a glass laminate layer, a plastic, or other suitable material, through which a visual output of the device 100 is output. Additionally, the cover 104 may be configured to receive input from users via a capacitive sensor, for example. A second side 106 (FIG. 1B) of the mobile computing device 100 includes a camera with a cover 108. As with the transparent cover 104 of the first side 102, the cover 108 may take any suitable form, such a sapphire.

GT Advanced Technologies: Will supply Sapphire and Solar Cells to Apple? (Very Likely & Possible)

GT Advanced Technologies will be supplying sapphire displays for Apple’s up coming iPhones, but is there more to this cover story beyond sapphire? Apple is big on green energy and is already leveraging solar power supply for several large facilities (data center, corporate headquarters, etc) being constructed today. GT is very familiar to solar technology and after review of their recent patents it appears likely that they will be entering the super thin-film marketplace, for the solar industry and consumer electronics.

In one of my most recent publications at Seeking Alpha I went into depth how GT is positioning themselves to electrify the Mobile World. GT Advanced Technologies’ (GTAT) epitaxial growth on thin lamina patent was published on 2/6/14. Epitaxy is defined as the growth of a thin layer on the surface of a crystal so that the layer of growth has the same structure as the underlying crystal. GT’s patent essentially enables the growth of a semiconductor material on a donor body, by firing GT’s Hyperion’s ion cannon which splits (exfoliates) the semiconductor material from the donor body, to form a super thin lamina (layer) of the semiconductor material. The resulting lamina from the first process can be exfoliated by Hyperion a second time to form an additional semiconductor lamina.

One of the most interesting findings within this patent was related to PV (photovoltaic), specifically the creation of a triple junction PV cell and the ability to incorporate the thin (PV cell) lamina into an electronic device. Not only does GT have the ability to create thin-film solar cells but they also have the ability to stack the thin-film solar cells to form a triple junction PV cell that is still less than 25 microns thick before it is incorporated into an electronic device all while rocking a 40%+ efficiency rating. Below are some details from the epitaxial growth on thin lamina patent.

In some embodiments a triple junction PV cell may be fabricated with lamina such as a germanium lamina

The combined thickness of the lamina and epitaxial layer may be between about 2 microns and about 25 microns such as between 15 and 25 microns. One, two or more additional layers may be formed on the either surface of the lamina/epitaxial layer assembly before incorporating the lamina into an electronic device.

 

 

Full Disclosure I am long GTAT and have no plans to buy or sell any holdings in the next 72 hours.

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Apple iWatch Likely to Feature Sapphire Display from GT Advanced Technologies by Matt Margolis

 

Apple’s iWatch patent was granted on February 21, 2013 under the name BI-STABLE SPRING WITH FLEXIBLE DISPLAY.  One clear takeaway is Apple wants this device to have a flexible display and watches need to be durable to take a licking and keep on ticking.  The toughest thinnest flexible display I can think of is sapphire laminate courtesy of GT Advanced Technologies via their Hyperion tool.

A wearable accessory device is disclosed. The wearable accessory device includes a flexible display coupled to a bi-stable spring. Coupling the display to the bi-stable spring allows the accessory device to be easily worn in a number of convenient locations.

A wearable video device arranged to be worn by an end-user, comprising: a flexible substrate having a flat state and a curled state; a flexible display disposed upon a first surface of the flexible substrate, wherein in the curled state the flexible substrate conforms to an appendage of the end-user, the flexible substrate further comprising: an electronic module in communication with the flexible display, the electronic module providing information to the display, at least a part of which is presented in real time for presentation by the flexible display; and a mechanism for detecting an end portion of the flexible display, the detection for adjusting the arrangement of information shown on the flexible display to match the size of the appendage the wearable video device is mounted on.

Screenshot - 3_6_2014 , 8_58_22 PM

Sapphire Laminate Patent Awarded September 2013

Apple was awarded a sapphire laminate patent on September 12, 2013. The patent is very detailed and goes over various forms, uses and assembly options. The patent lists sapphire laminates as a potential cover for nearly everything from phones to watches. The abstract and a key a claim are represented below:

Various sapphire and laminate structures are discussed herein. One embodiment may take the form of a sapphire structure having a first sapphire sheet with a first sapphire plane type forming the major surface and a second sapphire sheet having a second different sapphire plane type forming the major surface. The first and second sapphire sheets are fused together to form the sapphire structure.

0022] Turning to FIG. 1, an example electronic device 100 is illustrated in which a sapphire structure or laminate may be implemented. For example, a sapphire laminate 102 may be utilized as a cover glass and/or back plate of the device 100. Additionally, or alternatively, a sapphire laminate may be utilized as a cover and/or lens for a camera of the device. It should be appreciated that the sapphire laminates may be utilized in various different devices. For example, they may be used for windows, mirrors, cover glass, lenses and so forth in cameras, computers, mobile devices, watches, display devices, touch screens and clocks among other things.

Apple Posts Sr. Module Process Engineer Positions  December 2013

As the world was prepping for new year’s eve celebrations Apple was preparing for their iWatch product ramp up. On December 31st, Apple posted a Sr. Module Process Engineer position located in Taiwan.  The job description indicates that this “role will serve as a focal point in the design and process development of advanced key modules from concept stage to high volume ramp up.   Additionally, under key qualifications the position calls out “experiences in developing and manufacturing high volume display products“. Lastly, the key qualificationsinclude back-end process in flat panel industry, including bonding, laminate and module design.

My takeaways: The position is focused on taking a key module (device) from concept to high volume product ramp, which tells me this product has yet to be mass-produced.  The position is focused on displays (due to experience developing high volume display products).  The unique experience with flat panel industry, bonding and laminate and module design is very intriguing.  Laminates are super thin pieces of substrate, bonding is the process to fuse/epoxy laminates to a substrate and lastly back-end flat panel industry would give someone experience wedging material between two thin substrates. For example, back-end process experience with LCD flat panels would give someone experience placing liquid crystals between two electrically conducting plates.  Is it possible that solar panels would be placed between two electrically conducting plates of sapphire laminates in lieu of liquid crystals?

My conclusion: this position is for a new product (iWatch), that will feature a new type of laminate display (sapphire) and is on the verge of entering the high volume product ramp phase ahead of a 2014 release.

Sr. Module Process Engineer Job Description

Individual in this role will serve as a focal point in the design and the process development of advanced key modules from the concept stage to the high volume product ramp.

Key Qualifications

  • The idea candidate will need to have 3 years of hands-on experience and proven track record in the design and development of the module process & its integration, or the back-end process in flat panel industry, including bonding, lamination and module design.
  • Demonstrated ability to perform DOE, SPC and failure analysis is a must. Experiences in developing and manufacturing high volume display products are preferred.
  • Excellent written & verbal communication skills and people skills are required.
  • The willingness and ability to travel to Asia are also required.
  • Education:
  • Ph.D. degree in Physics or Mechanical Engineering or MS degree

GT’s One of a Kind Sapphire Laminate Technology

GT Advanced Technologies acquired Twin Creeks Technology late in 2012 and one of their first primary focuses was to “to pursue the development of thin sapphire laminates for use in applications such as cover and touch screen devices”. The Hyperion ion implanter machine acquired from Twin Creeks can cut ultra thin wafers (25 microns thick) out of silicon, silicon carbide, sapphire, germanium and other crystalline materials. How thick is 25 microns? The laser sliced sapphire home buttons on the iPhone 5s measure 170 microns thick, which is nearly 7 times the thickness of the sapphire laminates that can be sliced by GT’s Hyperion. The Hyperion machine takes a thick block of crystalline sapphire, blasts it with hydrogen ions and exfoliates a 25 micron layer thick sheet of sapphire from the block. The process is repeated over and over until the block is completely separated.  As of November 2013, GT expected the pace of the development with Hyperion to accelerate.  Hyperion is expected to be commercial ready by 2015, which will also require GT to begin assembly of Hyperion in larger numbers sooner rather than later.  

 iWatch Sapphire Laminate Fact List

  • November 2012 GT acquires Twin Creeks and focuses its pursuit on sapphire laminates for use in cover and touch screens
  • September 2013 – Sapphire Laminate Patent was awarded to Apple (filed March 2013)
  • November 2013 – Apple signed a $578m contract with GT Advanced Technologies to make sapphire material. Additionally, in GT’s 10-Q they informed investors that the, “Company expects to pursue the development of thin sapphire laminates for use in applications such as cover and touch screen devices”.
  • November 2013 – GT updated investors that their Hyperion machine, one of a kind laminate (sapphire) machine is in pre-production. In addition, the Hyperion technology pace of development was expected to accelerate as the company has targeted the technology for commercial use in 2015.
  • December 2013 – Apple posted several Sr. Module Process Engineer positions across the globe.
      • Focus on taking advanced key modules from the concept stage to high volume product ramp.
      • Requires experience with laminates, flex bonding and flat panel industry.
      • Requires experience with high volume display products.
      • Individual must be willing and ability to travel to Asia
  • The iWatch assembly is expected to be performed in Asia

Conclusion:

Given the expected iWatch display size  (2 x 2 inches) and unit sales (10-20m in 2014), I believe the iWatch product launch would be a perfect way to utilize GT’s Hyperion technology to mass produce sapphire laminate displays.   Furthermore, could the Hyperion technology, which was originally for created for solar cells, be the technological bridge that enables GT to provide solar cells across Apple’s portfolio of iDevices?

 

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Full Disclosure: I am long GTAT and have no plans to buy or sell any holdings in the next 72 hours,