Apple Invests $390 Million in Laser Tech

Enlarge  The Messages app has been augmented with a number of features that use the front-facing 3D camera—including animojis

During a quarterly investor conference call last week, Finisar's CEO Jerry Rawls refused to be drawn on whether the company's increasing VCSEL output was destined for Apple, or if the phone maker had qualified its components, citing "non-disclosure obligations" that Apple is well-known for using.

Reports before the unveiling of the iPhone X indicated that Apple was struggling to get its hands on enough depth sensors for the device to keep up with demand for the phone.

It's also the latest from Apple's $1 billion "Advanced Manufacturing Fund", which, in addition to supporting American manufacturing jobs, also helps Apple rebuff criticism from Donald Trump-types that it only makes things in China.

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Finisar will open a manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, about an hour north of Dallas, creating more than 500 jobs.

500 new jobs Apple said in a feature posted on its own web site that it hoped the support would transform both the Sherman site, which has been idle since 2012 when previous owner Texas Instruments mothballed the facility, and the local area. This is Apple's second investment from the fund after giving Corning $200 million in May for a Kentucky glass-processing plant. The company makes vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), which are a key part of the Face ID system used in the iPhone X, as well as enabling Animoji. Finisar expects to begin shipping components from that facility in the second half of 2018.

"VICSELs power some of the most sophisticated technology we've ever developed, and we're thrilled to partner with Finisar over the next several years to push the boundaries of of VCSEL technology", said Apple's chief operating officer Jeff Williams in a statement.

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Munster said that Apple's deal makes life especially hard for Samsung, which likely wants to offer similar features in future phones.

Finisar is the second company to receive an investment from Apple's US manufacturing fund.

“Sherman is the ideal place for Finisars significant investment in their operations and facilities and we couldnt be more grateful for their confidence. In AirPods, it helps detect when they're in your ears. Rather than buying the company outright, it is funding research and development in a show of its commitment to providing tech jobs in the US.

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