SPI 2014: Sapphire yield issues brought GTAT down

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

GT Advanced Technology (GTAT) was suffering from sapphire yield issues at its Arizona production plant, according to a consensus of financial analysts and equipment suppliers that PV Tech spoke to during Solar Power International, held in Las Vegas last week. 

GTAT had been booked to exhibit at SPI this year but organisers told PV Tech the company cancelled their booth at short notice after filing for chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

Despite prolonged efforts, equipment upgrades and process development undertaken by GTAT to meet quality, cost and yield parameters with stakeholders, the consensus was that yield issues had proved the most problematic to overcome and would have required further furnace redesign and development, taking an unspecified time to accomplish. 

As a result, this prevented Apple from deploying sapphire screens to its new range of iPhones and led to GTAT’s bankruptcy. 

During the week of SPI, GTAT announced the closure of the sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona and Salem, Massachusetts and exit from the market as a producer of sapphire materials. Instead, the company would refocus on manufacturing and developing sapphire growth systems and processes, after reaching an agreement with Apple and subject to court approval. 

The closures were with immediate effect and would result in around 740 job losses at the plant as well as an unspecified number of GTAT jobs at Salem and in Asia, according to the company. 

The knock-on effect was the announcements from manufacturing partners, Manz and Meyer Burger to reduce headcounts at the Arizona plant.

PV Tech had previously disclosed that Manz had become the largest supplier creditor, owed US$21.2 million, according to GTAT court filings.

Meyer Burger said last week that its Colorado Springs facility, established specifically to meet GTAT’s sapphire cutting and shaping requirements would lead to a workforce reduction of 105 staff at this site. 

However, Meyer Burger noted that the facility would still employ around 200 people and would continue to offer slicing solutions and diamond wire technology for the solar and sapphire sectors. 

In an SEC filing, GTAT noted that the closure and job losses would amount to around US$5.6 million in one-time termination costs, leaving around 70 staff to manage the closure of the plant. Other charges related to the closure were not specified, due to a full appraisal yet to be completed by the company. 

However, several equipment suppliers told PV Tech that Apple was seeking another partner to operate the sapphire plant and that negotiations were ongoing. 

Companies and financial analysts requested anonymity to PV Tech in discussing the issues surrounding the Apple and GTAT sapphire business collapse. 

19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.
20 October 2021
Utility-scale solar is evolving, shaped by higher power modules and demand for increasingly lower levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). Those trends are also changing project requirements elsewhere, with inverters capable of delivering high power density and power capacity in strong demand. In this webinar, FIMER will detail how its innovative high-power, multi-MPPT string inverter and modular conversion solution can both meet those demands and transform the utility-scale solar sector for the better.
20 October 2021
The race is on but we need to sprint… With global climate talks fast approaching and time running out to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change, now is the time to act. The Summit will explore the opportunities that emerge from taking action on climate change and provide a clear pathway forward for governments, citizens and companies. Taking place just 10 days before the G20 meeting in Rome, on 30-31 of October, and in the lead up to the critical COP26 meeting in Glasgow from 31 October–12 November, this event will be instrumental in influencing ambitious global action.
10 November 2021
The solar tracker market continues to mature at breakneck speed, with designs and component selections becoming ever-more complex in the pursuit of better project economics. But a more simplistic design could deliver a triple benefit of lower Capex, EPC and Opex costs. This webinar will set out the ideal single axis tracker design for utility-scale solar farms. The design leapfrogs from decades of experience, with a comprehensive understanding and attention to the three cost structures of Capex, EPC and Opx. Sun and Steel Solar has prototyped a single axis tracker designed to deliver up to US$0.03/W in real savings compared to existing single axis trackers on the market. That’s US$30 million for every gigawatt deployed.
15 November 2021
The 10th edition of the famous Metallization and Interconnection Workshop, MIW2021, will take place in the Thor Central venue in Genk, Belgium, on Monday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 16, 2021 as a face-to-face meeting. We are longing for direct exchange of knowledge and ideas after a long time. Hopefully you can be part of it! But of course, the organizors will keep an eye on the evolution of the Covid pandemic. It will be assess carefully, whether the workshop can be held without major risks or excessive restrictions. We are looking forward to exciting talks, discussions and meetings and to welcoming you in Genk!
23 November 2021
The solar, storage and EV industries in the UK are going from strength to strength. There is no better place for the community to meet, share ideas and do business than Solar & Storage Live from 23-25 November at the NEC.There’s something for everyone; more than 150 exhibitors, a high-level conference, a start up and innovation zone, a poster zone, strategic partners to network with and much more. 

Read Next

October 19, 2021
Funds managed by private equity firm Antin Infrastructure Partners have secured a deal to acquire a majority stake in US solar and storage developer Origis Energy.
October 19, 2021
Lightsource bp has announced its entry into Poland’s solar market through a co-development deal which will see the developer proceed with a 757MWp pipeline in the country.
October 19, 2021
Shortlisted bids in Saudi Arabia’s latest solar tender have jumped significantly on the lowest price recorded in the country’s previous renewables programme, reflecting the hikes in PV equipment costs in recent months.
October 19, 2021
The White House has said renewables are still key to its budget reconciliation bill despite rumours of the investment tax credit (ITC) being modified as opposition to the bill by senators Manchin and Sinema continue
October 19, 2021
Europe's energy crisis can be a boon for renewables deployment on the continent by bolstering business cases, but familiar foes such as grid constraints will still need to be hurdled in the coming years.
October 19, 2021
Solar tracker manufacturer Soltec has signed a framework agreement with renewables developer Acciona Energia to supply trackers over a three-year period.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Upcoming Webinars
November 10, 2021
8am (PST) | 5pm (CET)
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021