Current applications for photonics assembly, packaging & test

Since 2001, ficonTEC has been providing automated micro-assembly and testing solutions for the photonics packaging industry, serving the needs of a broad selection of industry segments.

Our machine solutions assemble free-space optics, attach fiber pig-tailing or waveguide coupling to light sources, and can assemble and test hybrid devices and high-power laser diodes. These solutions are independent of the material system and of the device type involved, and the underlying system architecture is scalable from early device development environments all the way up to high-volume production requirements.

With an installed base of over 500 machines with leading components developers and suppliers around the globe, ficonTEC can supply assembly and test machines designed to achieve automated manufacturing in accordance with the latest device specifications in many sectors. These sectors include those noted below as well as much younger, only recently enabled technology sectors that seek to exploit photonics capability.


Telecom & Datacom

Devices that manage content in the cloud
and that move vaster amounts of data through the internet

Telecom (internet communications) and datacom (content management in the cloud) applications have long been the motivator behind the advance of high-volume integrated photonics manufacturing. The essential drivers are the monetization of ever diverse online services, and the consumption of the related content via increasingly capable devices.

Higher bandwidth, higher device density, greater energy efficiency (pJ/bit) and lower cost (US$/Gbit) in the devices that power these sectors can together only be realized through dedicated PIC approaches for their manufacture. This is in fact already reality – 100 G transceiver manufacturing is now, 400 G is getting very close, and next up is the 1Tb barrier.

Naturally, all of these devices have to be assembled, packaged and satisfy very rigorous testing procedures. In 2001 ficonTEC introduced a machine that automated pig-tailing of AWGs (Arrayed Waveguide Gratings) and since then has gained extensive experience in these sectors, including the assembly of TOSA/ROSA, and later more complex optical transceivers.


Low-power & High-power Laser Diodes

Where would we be without laser diodes
and the myriad devices that are made with them?


Laser diodes in various forms constitute one of the most vital and prevalent components within the photonics sector. Initially discovered in the early 1960’s, the last 20 years in particular have seen a massive diversification of laser diode applications, with wavelengths spanning the entire optical spectrum, and optical power ranging from mW to kW.

In the low-power regime, applications include low-cost laser ranging for autonomous ‘things’, laser-based approaches for metrology, analysis and sensing, VCSEL sources embedded into silicon photonics chips, laser emitter arrays for short-range LIDAR and 3D spatial mapping and recognition. At high powers the focus moves to materials processing in all forms – marking, welding, and cutting.

ficonTEC has been supplying machines for laser diode assembly and testing since 2004. Our machines can handle single emitters, or stack and bond multiple laser diodes and bars. They can also align free-space optics, attach fiber pig-tailing or waveguide coupling, and can mount fiber arrays to laser arrays.


Automotive & LIDAR

Assembling sensors that will improve traffic safety
and that will fundamentally change the way we interact with our vehicles

The automotive sector is undergoing two, maybe three major transitions – the electrification of the drive system, the implementation of automatic safety systems based on vicinity and hazard awareness, and ultimately the introduction of autonomous vehicles at various levels of transportation.

Near-term, a greater number of sensing systems are being integrated into automotive vehicles. These feed into the many driver assistance and safety systems now available – gesture sensing, pending hazard assessment, object recognition systems, automatic lighting adjustment, rangefinders for active cruise control, etc. Many of these systems are photonics-based, utilizing detectors, cameras, optics, LEDs, and lasers.


These systems additionally contribute traffic and hazard awareness data as well as environmental information to the building database of knowledge required for the development of autonomous vehicle systems – automotive LIDAR is one such contributor.

However, the addition of these systems cannot significantly affect the vehicle’s manufacture or adversely affect its principal selling features, so they must be easy to integrate, light, compact, efficient and cost effective. Enter integrated photonics solutions.

Our machines already provide the full gamut of capabilities required to assemble, package and test these devices, making them equally applicable to the automotive sector, and making ficonTEC an ideal partner, for example, for the assembly of next generation LIDAR devices.

BioMedical Testing

At the point of fusion between
biotechnology, photonics, micro-fluidics and electronics


At the point of fusion between biotechnology, photonics, micro-fluidics and electronics, optics-based biomedical testing concepts are playing an increasing role in health care. The advantages, both for the health care sector and for the patient, lie in the sensitivity and specificity provided by the approach, and the speed of diagnosis. In some cases, these devices empower the patient with the process of test, with data collection and diagnosis being performed remotely.

For diabetes, blood pressure, and general health monitoring, DNA sensing, OCT engines, minimal invasive diagnosis, and many other applications, the requirement is for reliable and capable devices that satisfy the very specific requirements of the health care industry. Some of these devices are designed to be ‘single use’, so must be correspondingly cost effective in their manufacture.

Internet of Things

Using photonics devices
to make more ‘sense’ of the world around us

The term ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) commonly refers to devices that are connected to the local network and that can see, smell, count, analyze or in some other way ‘sense’, and that can thus contribute to an accumulation of data for a variety of needs. Due to the many optical approaches utilized in IoT devices, this sector represents yet another convergence for sensing and photonics.

The need for said data is manifold – traffic data for autonomous vehicles and for traffic flow analysis, assorted household management systems, weather data acquisition and prediction, air pollution monitoring, farm and crop management, etc., etc.

More devices means more sensors means more photonics components. And if they are to be energy efficient and exhibit low device cost, this in turn means greater use of integrated approaches in their manufacture. In many cases at high volumes. It also means more data, which ultimately feeds back into the growth of the telecom and datacom sectors.


Consumer Electronics

Assembling the photonics components and devices
that empower consumer electronics technology

Improvements in optical device manufacture (efficiency, miniaturization, high-volume) enable increasingly capable, ‘smart’ and cost-accessible consumer electronics. From smart refrigerators, to gesture-controlled TV sets, and on to retina displays and facial recognition in smartphones, these all rely in part on optical technologies to provide visual performance or multiple sensing capabilities.

Modern dual compact camera modules in smartphones provide 3D capability, embedded VCSEL arrays and diffractive micro-optics provide 3D object recognition, micro-displays powered by super-luminescent LEDs, optical sensors in watches monitor heart rate, blood sugar and other parameters. The list goes on – and all of these devices will become increasingly compact, efficient and capable.