Moving to high-volume wafer-level assembly
Photonics micro-assembly technology, certainly for some technology applications, is currently undergoing a transition to a ‘micro-chip’ approach, much as that experienced by the electronics industry some four decades ago. Multiple functionality and components are integrated onto a single chip or a small hybrid assembly – a so-called photonic integrated circuit (PIC) – where the underlying packaging technologies provide a route to automated high-volume manufacture at a much reduced cost/part.
This transition to greater miniaturization and higher levels of integration is essential for the competitiveness of state-of-the-art photonics components and products. Instead of production in the 100s & 1000s, PIC approaches are designed for numbers in the 100ks & millions.
This in turn means the adoption of wafer-level or at least parallel processes both in assembly and in test, and where equipment amortization is no longer measured via initial capital investment, but in cost/part. Cycle time and thus machine speed is therefore continuously being questioned and improved.
Where are we now?
Integrated photonics components are poised to experience
rapid acceptance and growth, across diverse applications
Over the last decade or more, there have been a number of international initiatives and projects that have addressed a number of different requirements, issues and goals surrounding implementation of varying PIC technology approaches. There are, for example, differing material systems that are individually best suited to specific optical tasks, there are standards issues regarding interfacing and testing that need to be addressed, and there are design-kit environments that need to be developed to safeguard capability and interoperability across diverse fab environments and services.
Naturally, assembly and packaging are equally critical aspects of the PIC technology implementation, and ficonTEC has played an active role in helping to develop a proper understanding of what the assembly, packaging and test requirements of the manufacturing industry will be.
ficonTEC already serves PIC applications with standard and individual machines, supported by a dedicated and extremely experienced team. Our long-term machine design strategy already enables an in-line, high-volume automated approach to inspection, assembly and test.
What is the way forward?
Understanding how the assembly and testing need
of industry will change over the next ten years
The market forecasts for integrated photonics applications are very positive. CAGR market growth is forecast to be somewhere in the region of 20 to 50% until 2022 and beyond. For telecom (internet communications) and datacom (big data, cloud services), this development is already very real. For all other photonics applications, with improving access and capability, interest and diversity of application are snowballing – the way forward for photonics integration is no longer a question of ‘if’, but is instead one of ‘how soon’.
A move to higher levels of photonics integration is associated with the need for increased miniaturization, higher yield, and better standardization all the way from early photonics design, to packaging, testing and assembly, and leading to a lower cost/part at both low and high volumes. Silicon photonics already leverages the cost-efficient wafer foundry CMOS processes, while packaging and optical interconnects still have plenty of room for optimization. Enter PIXAPP.
Photonics might well be poised to be the next semiconductor frontier, from consumer to high-power computing!
ficonTEC’s contribution to the way forward is more advanced automation, and has already gained valuable experience through the successful completion of comparable solutions for PIC applications with existing clients. Nonetheless, the company additionally takes an active role in current international Projects & Initiatives that are designed to provide both infrastructure and ease of access. By better understanding the developing needs of the greater photonics community in this area as soon as possible, the goal is to be able to provide the solutions when they are required.