Apple has big plans for proximity sensing technology in its products because it just invested US$390 million in VCSEL laser maker Finisar. That’s the company Apple already uses for some of its depth-sensing tech in AirPods and iPhone X.
Apple’s Finisar investment is part of its Advanced Manufacturing Fund program that will invest a billion dollars in domesting manufacturing companies. The first recipient was Corning with a $200 million investment.
This new investment will no doubt help boost Finisar’s business even more and help the Sherman, Texas, economy. According to Apple, the cash infusion will help create 500 new high skill jobs at the manufacturing plant.
It’s also important for Apple because the company plans a ten times increase in its VCSEL orders in the fourth quarter than were manufactured around the world in the last year. VCSEL, or vertical cavity surface emitting laser, technology is used in the iPhone X TrueDepth camera as well as the AirPods proximity sensor system.
For the iPhone, VCSEL helps with face scanning. In AirPods, it helps detect when they’re in your ears.
Finisar is using the money to build a new 700,000 square foot factory in Sherman, Texas, to handle Apple’s VCSEL needs. The factory is expected to be up and running in the second half of 2018.
Apple’s need for so many VCSEL wafers is a good sign the company either expects demand for AirPods and iPhone X to increase, has new products coming that’ll take advantage of the technology, or maybe both.