Apple could open a sapphire glass manufacturing facility in Arizona as early as February, according to recently published correspondence between the company and state regulators.
Analyst Matt Margolis unearthed documents that mention the Mesa plant — described as “Project Cascade” — and note that it would be used to manufacturer “a critical new sub-component” for a future Apple product.
Sapphire glass, which is more scratch-resistant than the Gorilla Glass used on Apple touchscreens, is currently utilized for the Touch ID home button and camera lens on the iPhone 5s. Going forward, rumors suggest sapphire may be used for the screen of the next-generation iPhone 6 — including the possibility of a solar-powered screen that would use photovoltaic sensors to juice up the device’s battery.
Cult of Mac previously reported on Apple’s plans to build a sapphire plant in partnership with GT Advanced Technologies, but Cupertino has been characteristically quiet about the project in terms of time frame and what Apple would do with the resulting product.