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Apple grants $390 million to Finisar to boost laser chip production

Apple grants $390 million to Finisar to boost laser chip production

Apple has made its second notable investment this week, the latest into the facial recognition technology company, Finisar. With the opening of the Sherman plant, the company's payroll in Texas will be valued at roughly $65 million.

The fund was awarded to increase the production of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), which power Apple's new features such as Portrait mode selfies and Animoji, the company wrote in a blog.

As a result of Apple's commitment, Finisar will transform a long-shuttered, 700,000-sqare-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, into the high-tech VCSEL capital of the US. Lumentum was plagued with production bottlenecks earlier this year that limited its 3D sensor revenue, though the company said on its most recent earnings call, on November 1, that it had resolved them.

The tech giant said the award will also create more than 500 high-skill jobs, including engineers, technicians and maintenance teams. Finisar expects the Sherman facility to begin shipping new VCSELs by the second half of 2018.

Apple grants $390 million to Finisar to boost laser chip production

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.

One hundred percent of the VCSELs Apple buys from Finisar will be made in Texas. But it's also clearly not putting all its eggs in one basket: Apple's Advanced Manufacturing Fund, from which the Finsar investment is drawn, is spreading over one billion dollars across various US -based technology manufacturers.

Apple announced the creation of the fund in May and plowed $200 million into Corning Inc., the maker of the Gorilla Glass that is used in Apple's touch-screens. This December alone, the company claims it will purchase 10 times more VCSEL hardware than has been previously manufactured worldwide in one month. The more accurately depth sensors map the real world, the more precisely digital objects can float in it.While Apple nearly never talks about forthcoming products, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has been uncharacteristically vocal about Apple's future focus on AR, calling it a "big and profound" technology shift.Apple released tools for app makers to start creating AR apps over the summer and enabled it on all iPhones back to the iPhone 6s.But the lasers that are critical to AR are hard to come by because there is no existing supply chain like there is for older, more common chips.

The investment announced Wednesday is a huge lifeline for Finisar. "We're thrilled that Finisar and Apple will be a part of the Sherman business community", said Sherman Mayor David Plyler.

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