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GT Solar completes expansion of sapphire fab

The new facility expects to ramp up to volume production in less than eight months.

GT Solar International, a provider of sapphire and silicon crystalline growth systems and materials for the solar, LED and other specialty markets has celebrated the grand opening of its new state-of-the-art sapphire production facility located in Salem, Massachusetts.

The opening of the newly expanded plant concludes a project that began in the fall of 2010 that triples the sapphire production capacity in its Salem facility. GT invested $27 million to create a high volume production facility to provide sapphire material for the fast-growing LED market and other industrial material industries.

GT Solar's expanded sapphire production facility in Salem, Massachusetts, opened in June for production

 “The investment in this new plant is a testament to our belief in the growth of the sapphire market and our ability to capture a leadership position in this industry,” said Tom Gutierrez, GT Solar’s president and CEO. “We’ve leveraged forty years of crystal growth expertise from Crystal Systems and combined it with GT’s successful track record of rapid scale-up of commercial crystalline growth technology to create a new state-of-the-art sapphire manufacturing facility capable of producing predictable and repeatable high quality sapphire crystal run after run.”

“We are extremely proud of having constructed our world-class manufacturing facility in such a short amount of time, and it is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the team that drove the planning and construction,” said Cheryl Diuguid, vice president and general manager of GT’s sapphire equipment and materials business unit.

“We are also proud to be able to generate high quality employment opportunities to the people of Salem and throughout the North Shore area. Since the completion of the acquisition of Crystal Systems last summer, we have doubled our employment within our business unit. Our sapphire business is growing, and at a time of high unemployment for so many Americans, we are pleased that we are in a position to offer high quality manufacturing employment opportunities.”

“Governor Patrick has focussed on stimulating economic activity in our Gateway Cities and creating jobs in innovation sectors like clean energy and advanced manufacturing. This expansion project combines all three of those important elements,” said Secretary of Housing & Economic Development Greg Bialecki. “On behalf of the Patrick-Murray Administration, I congratulate GT Solar on their significant growth and thank them for their commitment to doing business in Massachusetts.”

GT Solar acquired sapphire producer Crystal Systems in July 2010. Construction of the new 20,000 square foot manufacturing facility began in October and is ramping to full volume production over the next several months. The facility is a highly efficient manufacturing environment utilizing the latest production control technology to produce high-yielding boules of consistent size and quality.

The boules produce cores of two, four, six or eight-inch and beyond for downstream processing into high quality wafers for the LED market and other material such as large diameter A and C-axis windows for other industrial markets. The company’s crystal growth experts also use the manufacturing facility as a research and development centre – testing advancements in process technology and commercialising process knowledge and know-how that deliver value to its list of ASF equipment customers.
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