The iPhone 6 may have a sapphire glass screen. It also may not. We've been through the will-they-won't-they, but MIT Technology Review recently went straight to the source: A company that's designed a better, cheaper way to manufacture the stuff. If Apple is planning a sapphire screen device, this could be the machine that makes it.
We've been through this dilemma before: Sapphire glass is super strong, but it's expensive and impractical to manufacture on the scale Apple would need. That's because to make a screen from the stuff, each layer has to be sliced from a big chunk of synthetically-made sapphire using a saw, then whittled and ground down to the correct thickness. It's slow, pricey, and wasteful.
But as MIT's Kevin Bullis found out in a visit to GT Advanced Technologies, there's now an easier way. GT has created a machine that produces sapphire-strength screens faster and cheaper, by making what amounts to a "veneer" of sapphire that can be added to nearly any screen. Here's how Bullis describes the new machine:
GT uses a different approach in its new machine, which is the size of a concrete-mixing truck and operates in its labs in Danvers, Massachusetts. The machine shoots hydrogen ions at a wafer of sapphire, implanting the ions to a depth of 26 micrometers. The wafer can then be removed and heated up so that the hydrogen ions form hydrogen gas, which expands and causes a 26-micrometer-thick layer of sapphire to tear off.
Gizmodo en Español, meanwhile, reports that the machine is called Hyperion 4, and can produce sheets that are only 24 nanometers thick.