Apple Sapphire Crystal furnaces acquired: iPhone 6 production lines up

A number of documents have appeared this week showing how Apple and the folks at GT Advanced have moved in a number of machines made for inspecting Sapphire Displays to their new manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona. These machines have been found in import/export records acquired by 9to5 Mac and analyst Matt Margolis and appear to be working with the ability to inspect large slabs of Sapphire. These large slabs are specifically intended for displays as opposed to Apple's previous implementations of the material, those being the frontmost bit of the iPhone 5s' Touch ID home button or the backmost bit on the back-facing camera array of the iPhone 5.

With the SIRIUS SLAB Automated Sapphire Inspection Tool, Apple will be aiming to output large numbers of slabs of Sapphire. As documents going with these machines suggest:

"The SIRIUS Slab automated sapphire inspection tool begins a new level of repeatability and performance throughput to the production of sapphire material intended for high volume markets such as mobile and touch screen devices."

The shipping documents referenced here show that GT Advanced is set to receive 420 machines and has already received 518 machines this year. According to Margolis, the machines GT Advanced has received thus far are capable of outputting between 103 and 116-million displays a year if said screens are at or around 5-inches in size. With the machines still headed to the plant, the company would be able to output between 187 and 210-million displays a year (again, if the displays are at or around 5-inches in size).

These numbers seem to line up rather well with Apple's most recent quarterly results for iPhone output specifically. In this most recent Q1 2014 Apple financial earnings report, the company suggests that 51-million iPhones were sold. That's a record for the quarter, so even if we suggest that Apple sells 50 million iPhones a quarter for the next year, that's still just 200 million iPhones – right inside GT Advanced's range for production.

It's also been made clear again this week by 9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman referencing the recent SEC filing between Apple and GT Advanced that the latter company is working exclusively with the former for the time being. This means – or seems to mean – that the devices moved into the plant this week are all being moved there for Apple-related work.