Luminar starts operations at new factory ahead of schedule, begins shipping Iris lidar sensors

Mere months after sharing its production timeline for a new high-volume facility in Mexico, lidar sensor developer Luminar has taken the factory online ahead of schedule and has already begun delivering the first Iris sensors manufactured at the site to one of its largest customers.

Luminar Technologies Inc. ($LAZR) is an automotive component company founded in 2012 that has since established itself as one of the industry leaders in lidar and machine perception technology.

Following a $100 million funding round in 2019, we caught wind of Luminar’s Iris long-range lidar technology, which would soon be implemented in Volvo Cars vehicles as a prime component in the automaker’s Highway Pilot self-driving feature.

Volvo has since continued to expand its relationship with Luminar, showcasing its lidar sensor technology in its upcoming EX90 SUV. Volvo brand Polestar has also tapped Luminar for its EVs beginning with the Polestar 3 SUV.

Most recently, Mercedes-Benz announced an expansion of its existing partnership with Luminar with an investment reportedly in the “multibillions,” that will enable it to implement Luminar’s next-generation sensor technology, Iris+, into all future Mercedes-Benz models.

The Iris+ lidar made its official debut in late February during a Luminar Day event. At the time, the tech company also shared details of its scaled production plans, announcing a new highly-automated manufacturing facility being erected in Monterrey, Mexico.

The originally announced plan was to commence operations in Q2 of 2023, beginning with “rigorous validation” of its technology throughout the second half of 2023 to meet automaker’s standards. However, Luminar revealed today that is already ahead of this previous guidance and has shared a video update of the new Iris lidar manufacturing facility.

Luminar preps for high-volume lidar production by EOY

According to Luminar, its new high-volume manufacturing facility is now online, and its progress toward today’s milestone has been documented in the video you can view below. The new dedicated facility in Monterrey offers Luminar a footprint of 180,000 square feet with an initial production capacity of 250,000 sensors per year.

That being said, the factory already has the capability to be expanded to about 500,000 sensors annually. Manufacturing and supply chain specialist Celestica is operating the new facility for Luminar and is already in the process of building a 200,000-square-foot extension to the existing footprint.

Luminar shared that the extended space will enable “state-of-the-art testing for performance and quality,” plus the option for additional lidar sensor production capacity into the millions annually. Luminar founder and CEO Austin Russell spoke to the potential of the new dedicated factory:

Industrialization is the fundamental challenge to enable and scale with our high volume series production wins. The successful bring-up of the automated factory is a major milestone and continues to show we can execute. This enables an increase in capacity by well over an order of magnitude as compared to our existing, manual line to meet our growing automaker requirements on volume.

Iris lidar sensors are already making their way over to one of Luminar’s largest automotive customers. The company expects to reach high-volume production by the end of the year to support the upcoming vehicle launches of that aforementioned mystery OEM, which could be any of the automakers mentioned above.

With the new high-volume facility joining an existing low-volume plant already operated by Celestica in Monterrey, Luminar’s manufacturing footprint extends up through Mexico into the US as well as overseas to Thailand. Looking ahead, Luminar plans to implement its next phase of sensor production in the Asia Pacific region. It has promised to share more details during its Q1 business update on May 9, 2023.

In the meantime, you can view the progress of Luminar’s latest facility coming into operation in the video below:

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