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Sapphire crystal to see widespread adoption

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Sapphire crystal is poised to see widespread adoption among higher-tiered consumer electronic manufacturers, with a Taiwanese company poised to capitalize on the emerging supply chain niche by establishing an early lead in patent holdings.

Last year's iPhone 5S handset marked the arrival of the first popular consumer electronic product featuring sapphire crystal components. The handset is equipped with a sapphire crystal-clad main button, which also doubles as a fingerprint scanner. With stellar attributes in hardness, durability and resilience, sapphire crystal is the ideal material to protect sensors and vital components in most modern smartphones from impact, blemishing and scratches.

Following the release of the iPhone 5S, reports indicate that several leading manufacturers including Samsung, LG and HTC are gearing up to adopt sapphire crystal in their forthcoming handsets, in particular as a protective layer for camera lenses.

Reports also indicate that smartphone applications of sapphire crystal may extend to display panels; however, such a design would dramatically increase the per-unit material requirements of production.

Meanwhile, industry pundits revealed last year that Apple had applied for a patent on numerous processes on manufacturing sapphire crystal windows via laser cutting and the use of liquid-metal alloys. The technology is purported to be an upcoming innovation to raise the scratch-resistance and robustness of smartphones. The U.S.-based company's other patent applications include submissions on sapphire laminates, sapphire-on-sapphire and sapphire-on-glass applications.

Tera Xtal Technology Corporation (ACTC, 鑫晶鑽), a Taiwan-based sapphire crystal wafer manufacturer, earlier this month outlined its plans to expedite research and development efforts to establish an early lead in patent holdings on the fledgling supply chain niche. The company pledged that it is working toward holding patents on vital sapphire crystal components for the consumer electronics, optoelectronics and semiconductor industries. According to the company, over half of its patent applications are for new inventions. ACTC's patent filings include protective layers for smartphone camera lenses, buttons and display screens. The company also stated that a progress update on its patent applications will be announced within six months or one year.

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