Apple has announced a massive investment in Finisar. The smartphone giant will give Finisar $390 million to build a new manufacturing plant in Texas. The plant will measure 700,000 square foot and will hire 500 people to work on the laser sensor that is now a big part of the TrueDepth camera in the iPhone X.
Apple said that the deal is part of its efforts to invest more money in local American companies. The smartphone maker has established an Advanced Manufacturing Fund with the commitment to invest $1 billion in US-based companies.
The new Finisar plant will play two roles. First, it will be a research and development center. Secondly, it will also provide the infrastructure needed for the mass production of optical communication components. One of the key products that the facility will be dealing with is the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs). This will perhaps be the most complicated task for the 500 employees working there. The lasers are used on the iPhone X for Facial ID. They also have applications in many other face-mapping technologies.
Apple’s investment on Finisar will be the start of a new era of cooperation between the two companies. Finisar is a major technology manufacturer. The company was founded in 1988 and remains one of the leading producers of optical communication systems. It has 14,000 employees and has consistently grossed above $1 billion in yearly revenue.
Apple’s decision to invest in the company is also quite clear. To start with, suppliers in the optical communication industry are quite limited. Keep in mind that Apple is relying on this technology for an important feature on its iPhone X device and as such, there is a need for the smartphone maker to open more plants for production.
It is estimated that in the fourth quarter of 2017, Apple will buy 10 times more VCSEL wafers than the total production recorded globally in the fourth quarter of 2016. From these figures, it is clear that Apple will drive demand for this technology moving forward. Apple feels that setting up an infrastructure to facilitate the mass production of these components is crucial in bridging the supply gap that exists in the market at the moment.
It’s not yet clear when the 700,000 square foot plant will be ready. However, reports have indicated that it could begin operations in the second half of 2018. Apple’s investment is also a huge game changer for Finisar. Although the company is already a leader in its space, partnering with one of the biggest technology companies in the world will massively lift its profile.
Apple is also likely to become Finisar’s biggest client. The TrueDepth camera on the iPhone X is a key selling point for the device and maintaining this advanced technology is necessary. The partnership with Finisar will play a key role in ensuring advancements on the iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera feature.