9to5Mac, with the help of analyst Matt Margolis, unveiled that the iPhone maker recently placed a large order with GT Advanced Technologies for furnaces and chambers used in making sapphire displays. According to 9to5Mac, GT Advanced has already received 518 furnace and chamber systems, which would let it build 103 million to 116 million 5-inch displays per year. (Another 420 machines are still on order, which would nearly double that production output.) GT Advanced also has ordered Intego Sirius Sapphire Display Inspection Tool components, which would work to make sure that the displays meet high-quality standards, 9to5Mac reported.
Apple late last year signed a contract with GT Advanced to produce sapphire-based materials at Apple's new facility in Arizona. Apple has already used sapphire for the surface of the rear camera lens for the iPhone 5 and the ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S.
To be clear, when we're talking about displays made out of sapphire, we're referring to a manmade, synthetic version, not the actual gemstone. So what's all the fuss about? A future iPhone with a display made out of the material could render it scratch-resistant and nearly unbreakable. To put this in perspective, check out the video below that 9to5Mac posted earlier of a sapphire-coated iPhone display resisting scratches from a huge concrete block.