Projects & Initiatives
How and where does ficonTEC contribute
to the photonics assembly and testing development scene?
As part of the on-going development of our technology base, and also as part of our contribution into the development of the sector, ficonTEC is pleased to have previously been, and be currently actively involved and associated with numerous national and international projects and initiatives.
For the activities and interactions listed below – and so too for any developments necessary for specific customer requirements – ficonTEC relies on its dedicated R&D Center, located close to ficonTEC HQ. Manned by highly-qualified, mostly Ph.D.-level (over 70%), but also highly-experienced personnel, the team is central to ficonTEC’s regular and respected contributions to the assembly and testing development scene. The R&D Center is equipped with a variety of specialized assembly machines, a 3D printing system, die testing machines, wire bonders, cross-section capabilities, a die shear tester, etc., and has achieved several significant milestones in photonics micro-assembly.
Mixed-signal electro-optical measurements for integrated photonics
ficonTEC and Coherent Solutions (Auckland, New Zealand) have entered into a collaborative partnership to advance electro-optical measurement capability for use in volume testing within the manufacturing cycle of integrated photonic devices.
As optical and electrical technologies become more miniaturized, complex, and increasingly integrated with one another’s underlying architecture, the more inefficient and frustrating it is for process engineers to implement separate electrical and optical test and qualification procedures. To avoid this, engineers require fully-automated systems that can perform complex precision alignment and assembly, as well as combined electro-optical I/O measurements for complex integrated photonic devices – from singulated dies, through to wafer-level and even up to fully-packaged devices.
The two companies are initially focusing their sights on manufacturers of modules and components for telecom and datacom, and on systems for testing high-density VCSEL systems as used in 3D optical sensing/imaging applications, such as for automotive LIDAR and for the facial recognition modules found in smartphones.
Automated wafer-level tester demo
Tyndall National Pilot Line
An integrated photonics manufacturing ecosystem at Tyndall National institute
Tyndall National Institute and ficonTEC Service have come together along with other industry partners to build the National Photonics Manufacturing Pilot Line, an integrated photonics manufacturing ecosystem designed to advance disruptive photonic technologies from concept to commercialization.
The Pilot Line, located within the Tyndall Institute (Cork/Ireland) will engage with sectors such as MedTech, Life Sciences and Communications. Tyndall is already the location of the PIXAPP Pilot Line Gateway (see below) and the Irish Photonics Integration Centre, which collectively provide access to leading-edge technology, highly-skilled researchers and valuable infrastructure.
ficonTEC will establish a unique facility with a dedicated support team to develop advanced photonics manufacturing equipment for emerging markets. The Pilot Line will additionally train the future photonics workforce in advanced manufacturing processes, with particular focus on MedTech, a valuable sector not only in Ireland.
Funding is being provided by the Irish Government through its Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund (a €500m fund established under Project Ireland 2040), and is run by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, with administrative support from Enterprise Ireland. Access to the Pilot Line is open to any and all companies around the globe looking to quickly realize future integrated photonics devices within a dedicated ecosystem.
iQonic project technology provider
Opto-electronic manufacturing is undergoing an evolution of the manufacturing and associated processes. This trend, together with the pressure to control production costs, imply that systems configurations need to change more frequently and more dynamically. In this scenario, automation and sustainability strategies are the most logical route to reduce the production costs. This alone lies right on our own product strategy path.
iQonic also aims to offer a scalable zero-defect manufacturing platform covering the overall process chain, ranging from the design of new opto-electronic components and their required optimized process chain, their assembly process, to their disassembly and reintroduction into the value chain at their end-of-life through eight scalable strategies.
ficonTEC is part of iQonic and is fulfilling the role of technology provider. The company has wide experience with photonics assembly and testing processes, and it is supporting the project in the design of a reconfigurable process chain and in the development of a new type of handling tool interface for opto-electronic assembly processes.
Moving on to Terabit transceiver modules, and how to assemble them
TERIPHIC’s goal is to go beyond current 400G transceiver module standards and push development to Terabit transceiver modules having at least 2km reach. To achieve this, TERIPHIC will leverage photonic integration concepts and develop a seamless chain of component fabrication, assembly automation and module characterization processes as the basis for high-volume production lines.
ficonTEC will contribute by optimizing assembly processes and hardware on a ficonTEC CL1500 system already in use at the Fraunhofer HHI, thus supporting the development of the required automated assembly hardware appropriate for high-volume manufacturing for as yet to be detailed module-specific align-&-attach processes. In the final stages of the project, ficonTEC will put forward a concept for the entire high-volume production line.
Ultimately, the new transceiver design introduced by TERIPHIC will allow significant cost savings, not only due to assembly automation at the TOSA/ROSA stage, but also at the packaging level, and resulting in a cost below 1€/Gbps for the transceiver modules.
Mass manufacturing of transceivers for the Terabit/s era
The inherent issue of limited throughput and the associated high cost in photonics assembly and test processes is unsurprisingly a major hurdle to the introduction of new photonic developments into the consumer market, and one that can only be solved by cost-efficient assembly solutions. The MASSTART project will tackle exactly this problem with a well-chosen consortium dedicated to the development of a high-throughput assembly line for transceivers for the Terabit/s era. Briefly:
- MASSTART aims to provide a holistic transformation to the assembly and characterization of high-speed photonic transceivers, including a six-fold improvement in throughput. By bringing the cost down to €1/Gb/s or even lower in mass production, this will help guarantee European leadership in the photonics industry for the next decade.
- ficonTEC will develop concepts and assembly solutions for the automated mass production of photonic devices. A key aspect is the concatenation of different assembly stations into a single integrated production line with automated part handling. Orchestrating the whole via a higher-ranking process control will achieve the required high throughput.
The developments performed within MASSTART will allow ficonTEC to maintain its technological leadership within the photonics assembly segment, provide better understanding of future industry demands, and thereby strengthen our position in the market – all while helping to guarantee European leadership within the global photonics industry.
MASSTART is an EU-funded H2020 project pursued by a consortium of renown European organizations and is due to run from January 2019 for 36 months.
Indium-Phosphide Pilot Line
InP PICs offer game-changing performance capabilities across multiple market sectors. The goal of InPulse is to put in place the technological and operational processes to accelerate the uptake of PIC technology in new markets, align scalable and interlocking services and value chains, accelerate time to market with predictive design for fewer and faster design cycles, and to offer foundry processes at TRL7, sharing process optimization across products.
Within InPulse, ficonTEC will drive forward the acceleration and standardization of PIC test procedures to high-throughput processes that are compatible across measurement domains. This will be accomplished using customizable, yet standardized scripting formats for testing and characterization on the optical and radio-frequency domain. Testing can be accelerated by utilizing state-of-the-art robotic handling and highly-optimized optical alignment procedures.
InPulse is an EC-funded H2020 Manufacturing Pilot Line project for photonic integrated circuits (PICs) utilizing indium phosphide (InP), starting January 2019 and running for 48 months. Access to InPulse technology is via JePPIX, the Joint European Platform for Photonic Integrated Components and Circuits.
A national PIC manufacturing infrastructure, widely accessible and inherently flexible
AIM Photonics (American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics) is an industry-driven public-private partnership that focuses the US’s premiere capabilities and expertise to capture critical global manufacturing leadership in photonics.
The Institute’s goal is to emulate the dramatic successes experienced by the electronics industry over the past 40 years and to transition key lessons, processes, and approaches to the photonic integrated circuit (PIC) industry. In doing so, AIM Photonics aims to support SMEs, providing practical access and technology on-ramps for US industry, government, and academic communities.
ficonTEC is closely following this initiative and ficonTEC US has already been selected among a list of suppliers. Our first contribution comes through the award of a contract for a new wafer-level automated tester, working in close cooperation with UoC (University of Columbia), SUNY (State University of New York), and RTI (Rochester Technical Institute).
The world’s first open-access
Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC) Assembly and Packaging Pilot line
Consisting of a highly-interdisciplinary team of Europe’s leading industrial & research organizations, PIXAPP’s goal is to help exploit the breakthrough advantages of PIC technologies by providing users with single-point access to PIC assembly and packaging.
In avoiding what is probably the most significant bottleneck in developing competitive photonic devices, the challenge is to create accepted design rules and standards for photonics packaging, including automatization of the processes and of mass-scale testing, so as to reduce the overall cost of PIC-based products.
The PIXAPP initiative covers five main aspects: design, materials, devices, applications, and equipment. ficonTEC’s role within the project is to target improvements and innovations of existing and future photonics assembly and testing equipment.
PIXAPP is a Horizon2020 ICT 2016 funded project and is scheduled to run until the end of 2020.
Laser-assisted low-stress Reflow Bonding of opto-electronic Components
LaReBo is an investigation of a laser-assisted reflow bonding process for photonic components. The aim is to increase accuracy and component density, thus enabling smaller package sizes and so address novel products and new markets. The enabling technology is transmission laser-soldering with an absorption of laser radiation localized to the bond zone. Process knowledge will be generated for automated bonding complete with an integrated process chain from component to package, and destined for economic, high-throughput and high-yield manufacturing.
ficonTEC’s role within the project is to provide an appropriate bonding machine equipped with a laser-assisted soldering module.
LaReBo is a Horizon2020 eurostars project and is scheduled to run until late 2018.
Fully-automated, high-precision, cost-effective assembly
for next-generation hybrid photonics
Current assembly and packaging technology for PICs leads to custom-engineered solutions. The result is that packaging is at least an order of magnitude more expensive than the photonic chips themselves, and this represents a major bottle-neck to market penetration.
PHASTFlex proposes an innovative solution, in which InP PICs with active optical functions are actively aligned with passive, free-etched dielectric waveguide TriPleX™ PICs bonded onto an LTCC (ceramic) carrier, allowing a fine alignment of the waveguides in two lateral and one rotational axes. ficonTEC has developed a unique assembly machine in which the coarse alignment of the chips on a common substrate as well as the active fine alignment of the waveguides could be performed in an automated assembly process.
The project aims to develop a complete assembly process and the required tooling to implement this concept, including pre-assembly using eutectic bonding and automated handling, with on-chip micro-fabricated fine-alignment and fixing functions.
PHASTFLex is an FP7 funded STREP. It started on January 1, 2014 and was originally scheduled to run for 36, later 44 months.
Automated assembly and bonding technology for
micro-optics and butterfly modules
The AutoFly project was initiated for the development of a fully-automated, high-volume-capable process flow for the production of photonic devices. Core activities included development of innovative and automation-capable optical system approaches and concepts that additionally support the transition from manual to automated production. These approaches should be easily transformable into corresponding, fully automated assembly and attach technologies.
The project produced an automatically packaged 808nm laser module. The package can be hermetically sealed for application in harsh conditions. The high-precision mounting of a double-sided single lens with an innovative optical pick-&-place module was fully automated, with active alignment used to achieve a highly collimated and aligned free beam. This makes the system particularly suitable for sensor and interferometer applications.