Apple will represent 20% of 2015 global sapphire consumption with its iPhone and watch sapphire components, according to Eric Virey, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole Développement. "But Lens Technology recently announced plans to raise US$942 million and invest US$532 million of the proceed to further increasing sapphire growth and finishing capacity," he said.
The "More than Moore" strategy consulting and market research company, Yole released last month its annual sapphire industry analysis entitled "Sapphire Applications & Market 2015: from LED to Consumer Electronic." This report discloses the status of the sapphire market evolution including the recent capacity expansion plans, especially in China. Yole's analysts reveal a comprehensive 2014 wrap-up of the winners & losers and a special focus on the sapphire display covers application. Under this new sapphire report, Yole highlights the continuous flow of investing activities in sapphire display cover supply chain…
In 2014, Apple, its partners and their suppliers spent close to US$2 billion to set up a sapphire display cover supply chain. GTAT built and installed 2135 ASF furnaces, Biel and Lens deployed close to 200 wire saws and 1000's of finishing tools and ancillary equipment. But the projects faced many problems and Apple eventually gave up on sapphire for its iPhone 6. Reasons were multiple but can be summarized in "too early, to fast, too much". The project was ambitious in its timeframe and targeted outputs while many of the necessary processes and technologies in crystal growth and finishing were still at an early stage of development. But the venture still set the stage for the future: the partners have developed an unrivalled expertise on how to work with sapphire in high volumes and cost controlled environment. A lot was also learned with the manufacturing of the complex 3D shaped Apple Watch cover. But the question remains: why use sapphire?
At more than 5x the cost of glass, benefits in term of breakages are still far from obvious and high reflectivity washes out displays. Sapphire won't sell for a premium and increase Apple market share just on glamour and cachet. If the company eventually adopts sapphire, it means that it would have either demonstrated that it can improve breakage resistance vs. glass and/or developed entirely new functionalities enabled by some unique properties of sapphire. To exist and thrive, the display cover market needs Apple to take the lead and to succeed. Beside them, only Huawei seems in a position to lift this market up but not at the same level. But alternative technologies are emerging. Various OEM recently adopted alumina coated glass display covers to provide their phones with superior scratch resistance.
Key players of the sapphire industry include Monocrystal, Huawei, GTAT, Silian, Aurora Sapphire, DK-Aztec, Saint-Gobain, Namiki, Meyer Burger and many more.