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Apple invests in scratch-proof sapphire production

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Apple has put its weight behind sapphire by investing heavily in production of the scratch-resistant material.

GT Advanced Technologies, a company that makes the machines used to create sapphire, has just agreed a multi-year deal with Apple. It will see the company providing all of the machines for a brand new Apple plant in Arizona, which will be dedicated to producing sapphire.

As reported by AllThingsD, Apple is paying a cool $578 million up front for the deal. In return, GT Advanced Technologies will purchase and operate the equipment from Apple’s new plant.

The tough sapphire material has already been used in the iPhone 5S to cover both its Touch ID-equipped home button and its camera lens.

However, given the scale of Apple’s new sapphire production plant, which will include a next-generation furnace aimed at delivering "low-cost, high-volume manufacturing of sapphire material," we can expect the material to play a much larger role in future Apple devices.

Indeed, it’s quite possible that we’ll see sapphire making its way into the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2’s (or whatever it’s called) touchscreens, where the material’s scratch-resistant properties would arguably be most useful.

Beyond that, a tougher form of glass would certainly be a good idea in a potential Apple smart watch, which would be far more exposed to daily knocks and scrapes than even a smartphone. The iWatch is expected to ship some time in 2014, so Apple’s new sapphire plant could be coming online at just the right time.

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