GT Solar changing name, expands sapphire plant
MERRIMACK – GT Solar has completed a $27 million expansion of a Salem, Mass., factory growing sapphires for various industrial materials.
The move is part of the company’s expansion from its highly successful niche building furnaces used to make silicon and sapphire crystal forms for making photovoltaic systems. As part of that, GT Solar is changing its name this summer to GT Advanced Technologies.
The company bought Crystal Systems Inc. last July and began the expansion in August. GT Solar has doubled employment there to people 90, the company said, and is tripling production.
The plant makes sapphire cores of various diameters – 2, 4, and 6 inches – and is working to create 8-inch cores, since bigger is generally better.
The company forecasts the sapphire business will contribute about approximately $70 million to $90 million of projected 2012 sales of more than $1 billion.
Clients cut wafers from the sapphire cores to make LEDs, and defense contractors use them to make windows for jets or other high-stress applications, because sapphire is strong, chemically inert and resistant to wear.