Correspondence between Apple and the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) discovered by 9to5Mac and analyst Matt Margolis reveal that the iPhone maker wants to start operations at its manufacturing plant in Mesa, Arizona, as soon as February. As Tim Cook confirmed, without revealing too many details about it, the Arizona plant will make sapphire glass for Apple, a product that’s believed to be used on a larger scale in future Apple devices – currently sapphire glass covers the Touch ID button of the iPhone 5s and the cameras of the new iPhones.
Margolis has recently speculated that there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that next-gen iPhones may have sapphire display glass covers that will include solar panels. While that can’t be confirmed at this point, it seems that Apple is very interested in seeing the sapphire plant live in order to meet an “aggressive” timeline.
More interestingly, the documentation reveals that the plant will be working on high-tech components for high-end products, without revealing whether it’s talking about new iPhones specifically.
“Project Cascade will conduct high-tech manufacturing of intermediate goods/components for consumer electronics. All finished components will be exported,” Apple wrote. “This high-tech manufacturing process will create a critical new sub-component of Apple Products to be used in the manufacture of the consumer electronics that will be imported and then sold globally. By pulling this process in the U.S., Apple will be using cutting edge, new technology to enhance and improve the consumer products, making them best in class per product type.”
The wording of the description of the activity that Apple wants to conduct at the Arizona plant seems to indicate that the iPhone may be one of the product to be “then imported and sold globally,” and that the facility won’t be limited only to making Touch ID and camera sapphire covers, but components that will “enhance and improve” products. Apple’s aggressive schedule may also indicate that the components need to enter mass production soon, possibly in preparation of a late 2014 iPhone 6 launch.
Furthermore, the document also lists several manufacturing components that will be used at the facility including diamond cutting wire and alumina block. The former is already being used to make components for iPhone and iPad models as well as the Mac Pro, while the latter is needed for making sapphire glass.
Foxconn is reportedly producing a limited iPhone batch with sapphire glass.
Apple’s documentation for the FTZ follows below.