GT Advanced Technologies is undertaking several new initiatives aimed at expanding its portfolio of sapphire and silicon carbide (SiC) solutions for solar, LED and electronics industries. These moves signal a shift for the company from research and development of manufacturing equipment to the actual manufacture of sapphire and SiC.
The company has entered into a memorandum of understanding with European-based EV Group, a specialist in bonding and material handling equipment, to work together in various collaborative arrangements including jointly developing high volume production processes and equipment necessary to bond the ultra-thin sapphire and SiC lamina, produced by GT's Hyperion technology, to engineered substrates such as glass, silicon, and plastics.
Additionally, GT announced it will begin working with a leading glass substrate producer to develop specially 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.
The company also announced that it has acquired patent-pending technology for producing low-cost, scratch-resistant aluminum oxide coatings for various substrates including glass and plastics. These coatings are expected to provide some of the durability and scratch-resistant properties of crystalline sapphire at a lower price point to address market opportunities where cost is paramount and not all of the properties of sapphire are required.
These initiatives come five months after GT Advanced Technologies announced a $578 million deal with Apple Inc. to supply sapphire materials, which may be being used for scratch-resistant covers on the iPhone 5s. GT Advanced Technologies is manufacturing the sapphire in its facility in Arizona, yet the company also just announced a 40% expansion of its headquarters in New Hampshire. While company spokesperson, Tim Thompson, would not say whether manufacturing for Apple would take place in the expanded facility, he did say that the company needed to grow the New Hampshire facility “to reflect changes to their operations from an R&D focus to a more manufacturing focus.”
A year ago GT Advanced Technologies acquired Thermal Technology LLC, a company that develops high temperature thermal and vacuum products. In other news, GT Advanced Technologies’ subsidiary, GT Crystal Systems, became the exclusive supplier of sapphire screens for Motorola’s new MP6000 multi-plane bioptic imager.