Apple has awarded optical communications components manufacturer Finisar $390 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to increase spending on research, development and production on vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers.
SHERMAN, Texas — Apple has awarded optical communications components manufacturer Finisar $390 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to increase spending on research, development and production on vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers.
Apple’s award to Finisar is the second it has given from the $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund announced by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook in May. VCSELs are small semiconductor devices that emit light vertically and measure the depth at which that light is reflected. VCSEL technology helps power Apple product features such as Face ID, Animoji, portrait mode selfies and proximity-sensing capabilities.
“VSCELs power some of our most advanced and popular new features,” Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams said in an interview with the Herald Democrat on Tuesday. “Just to give you a sense of the importance and scale, Apple alone this quarter will consume 10 times more VCSELs than were produced for the entire world prior to the introduction of iPhone X.”
Finisar expects to create 500 high-skill jobs — including engineers, technicians and maintenance teams — at the nearly 700,000-square-foot facility it recently purchased in Sherman. In the news release announcing Finisar’s award, Williams said Apple’s partnership with Finisar will “push the boundaries of VCSEL technology and the applications they enable.”
“Finisar has excellent technology in VCSELs, and they have been a fantastic supplier to Apple,” Williams said to the Herald Democrat. “And we are thrilled they are receiving $390 million as part of Apple’s commitment to support innovation and job creation by American manufacturers.”
One hundred percent of the VCSELs made for Apple by Finisar will be produced in Texas.
“We’re excited to continue our innovation with Apple of a technology that has tremendous potential,” Finisar Chief Executive Officer Jerry S. Rawls said in a news release announcing the Apple award. “When you combine our proven ability to consistently manufacture exceptional products with our new state-of-the-art Sherman facility, we’re confident we can achieve our shared goal of providing consumers with incredibly exciting features. Finisar has always been keenly aware it takes great people to power our work, and that’s why we’re thrilled to be adding Sherman to our family.”
Finisar currently produces VCSEL arrays in its Allen facility and believes the addition of the Sherman facility will give it the ability to ship millions of VCSEL arrays. Rawls said the company expects its new Sherman location to be producing VCSEL arrays by the second half of 2018 and told the Herald Democrat on Tuesday that infrastructure upgrades have already begun at the facility.
“They project volumes that are enormous, so we may need all the capacity we can get from anywhere, so I don’t know exactly how that’s going to work out,” Rawls said of whether the Allen facility’s operations could be moved to the larger Sherman facility. “It’s clear it’s possible that somewhere down the road we would consolidate Allen into Sherman, but we’re not committed to doing that. Let’s take it one step at a time, and let’s get the Sherman plant up and running and efficient. And if the demand comes from Apple the way they say it is, we may just have to keep expanding Apple VCSEL arrays in Sherman while we produce all our data communication and telecommunication VCSELs in Allen.”
Apple’s first award from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund — $200 million for Corning Inc. to support research and development, capital equipment needs and state-of-the-art glass processing — was announced in May. Apple’s news release on the Advanced Manufacturing Fund award said the fund is designed to assist with the creation of innovative production and highly skilled jobs “that will help lay the foundation for a new era of technology-driven manufacturing in the U.S.”
“It’s important to Apple that we continue to have advanced technology and support production all over the world,” Williams said. “But we’re especially excited about this opportunity to bring high-tech manufacturing jobs that are a great fit for the American workforce.”
Apple also announced, as is consistent with its commitment to the environment, it plans to procure enough renewable energy to cover all of its Apple manufacturing in the U.S.
William C. Wadsack is a reporter for the Sherman (Texas) Herald Democrat.