Apple just confirmed how important the iPhone X's 3D camera really is

Isaac Cain
December 15, 2017

The company announced in a press release on Wednesday that it is investing $390 million in laser chip maker Finisar.

Apple is now using lasers to power Face ID, Animoji, Portrait mode selfies, and even the proximity sensing on the company's AirPods. While Apple has made tentative comments toward shifting more aspects of iPhone production onshore in the last few years, cost remains the critical factor in the decision. In the fourth quarter of 2017, Apple will purchase 10 times more VCSEL wafers than were previously manufactured worldwide over a similar time period. Still, Finisar stock is up 30 percent today, and this is a big deal for the company, which is nearly 30 years old and survived the dotcom bubble and crash experience.

Back in May Apple launched an Advanced Manufacturing Fund that had $1 billion dollars for the company to invest in USA manufacturing.

Finisar produces "vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers" (VCSELs), which power some Apple's newest features, including Face ID, Animoji, Portrait mode selfies and AirPods.

The lasers will also be used for 3D sensors in AirPods, Apple's wireless headphones.

Shares of Finisar rival Lumentum Holdings Inc fell 12 percent to $45.80, which Henderson said validates how important 3D sensing technology is to Apple and other vendors.

It's not unusual for Apple to finance its suppliers.

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Finisar - which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif. - will open a manufacturing plant in Sherman, Texas, about an hour north of Dallas, creating more than 500 jobs.

When combined with the company's nearby plant in Allen, Texas, Finisar's payroll in Northern Texas is expected to be $65 million.

Finisar's new facility should be fully operational by the second half of 2018.

Apple's fund is created to assist the growth of US-based manufacturing, as it seeks to bring a little more production back to the States. "We're extremely proud that our involvement will help transform another American community into a manufacturing powerhouse". Besides Finisar, Apple announced in May its $200 million investment in Corning Incorporated to support their R&D, capital equipment needs and glass processing.

500 people will be hired to help build the TrueDepth cameras for the current iPhone X model.

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