Apple has bought a factory in Arizona that will be re-purposed to make sapphire glass. The material is used in the iPhone 5s, seen here, as well as in the wristwatch industry.
Technology giant Apple is buying a large manufacturing space in Arizona, where high-tech glass for its devices will be produced. The move is being hailed in Arizona, where the economy remains slowed by the U.S. housing market crisis.
From Phoenix, Mark Moran of member station KJZZ reports:
"Between the people needed to get an abandoned building ready to makes Apple's sapphire glass and those who will actually make it, the tech giant's foray into Arizona will create about 2,000 jobs in an area still struggling to recover from the housing bust that left many more than that out of work.
"Apple bought an abandoned solar power company building in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, and expects its sapphire operation to start generating significant revenue for the company next year.
"The sapphire glass will actually be made by GT Advanced Technologies, a supplier for Apple, and used in the covers for the camera lenses in Apple's phones and the fingerprint-reading devices in some of its other products."
The facility is expected to employ 700 workers in its first year of operation; before then, the project will create 1,300 construction jobs.
The factory was originally built by First Solar, but it was never occupied due to the recent collapse of solar panel prices that led First Solar to contract its business model, as The Arizona Republic reports.
"This is a large structure," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said, according to KJZZ. "It's larger than a regional mall where we all go shopping. That's a lot of square footage. It's gotta be built out so that it can be a manufacturing facility."
The mayor added that Apple plans to give the factory a clean energy footprint, relying on renewable solar and geothermal power.
Gov. Jan Brewer's office and the Arizona Commerce Authority announced the project Monday, ending weeks of speculation.
Sapphire glass is a transparent form of aluminum oxide. MacRumors explains how Apple might use it:
"Apple currently uses small pieces of sapphire glass — which provides superior durability and scratch resistance to other forms of glass — to protect the cameras on the iPhone and on the home button for the new Touch ID-equipped iPhone 5s."
The site also notes that sapphire glass is widely used in upscale wristwatches. But its use could be widespread. In September, an Apple patent for fusing sapphire glass to device covers was published.