by Eric Slivka
Apple yesterday posted a trio of job listings (via 9to5Mac) for positions located in Mesa, Arizona where the company is building a sapphire manufacturing plant. The facility is to be owned by Apple and run by sapphire producer GT Advanced Technologies, although the new job listings confirm that Apple will have some of its own staff on hand as well.
Sapphire is currently used to protect the cameras on several recent iPhone models, as well as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s, with the material’s high durability and resistance to scratching making it a key component for those applications. Apple’s commitment to the new sapphire production facility has led to speculation that Apple is preparing to significantly expand its use of sapphire glass, perhaps for the company’s rumored iWatch or to protect iOS device displays.
Among the three Apple job listings for Mesa, one is for a facilities manager to oversee operation of the facility, while the other two positions relate to design and quality engineering with iPhone and iPod products specifically mentioned in the listings.
The iPod/iPhone Manufacturing Design Engineer is accountable for driving the development of key mechanical manufacturing processes across Apple’s worldwide supply base. In this highly visible hands-on role as the expert technical member of the Manufacturing Design Team you will have direct frequent communication and collaboration with Apple Industrial Design, Product Design, Manufacturing Design partners and worldwide suppliers.
Apple’s mention of the positions relating to iPhone and iPod manufacturing of course does not indicate whether or not the company may have broader plans for sapphire such as an in iWatch.