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Cover glass makers turn to sapphire

After several years of growth, the cover glass market is expected to slow. However, improvements in applications and materials used in cover glass manufacturing could help to stimulate the market again.

The surface area of the cover glass market surged 37% from 2012 to 2013, but slower growth is forecast in 2014, with the surface area growth rate declining to 17% Y/Y. “There has been fierce competition in the cover glass market due to the market maturity of major applications,” said Calvin Hsieh, research director for NPD DisplaySearch. “As sapphire’s popularity rises, and as it is adopted in premium smartphones, slowing growth will be mitigated.” Due to higher manufacturing costs, smartphone makers have thus far used sapphire only for camera lenses and fingerprint-identification components. However, Apple is expected to adopt sapphire for cover glass as early as 2015, using its own patents and supply chain to manufacture the material. Recently, GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) acquired Hyperion and began working directly with its EV Group. Apple provided GTAT with a prepayment of $578 million to build the supply chain. “Apple seems to consider sapphire to be a strategic material for future projects. However, Apple will most likely adopt its own unique approach to the use of sapphire instead of relying on the traditional sapphire material supply chain,” Hsieh noted. Samsung and LG are also expected to use sapphire material on some premium and limited edition models. “Samsung has already announced its Galaxy S5 Swarovski edition, which uses crystal for the rear cover decoration. Premium materials will likely become a critical feature for flagship models,” according to Hsieh.
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February 01 2023 11:01 pm V20.12.5-2
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