EPIC creates working group for photonic integrated circuits

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Members of the European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) have created a working group that aims to promote common agreements and de-facto standards in packaging photonic integrated circuits (PICs). The group was established on 20 November after a series of meetings which have taken place during the last year in Zurich, Switzerland; s’Hertegenbosch, The Netherlands; Cannes, France; and now this one hosted by Vertilas in Munich, Germany.

The working group will promote packaging standards in order to reduce upfront design effort, and make it easier for manufacturing and assembly sites to serve a large variety of customers.

The members of EPIC benefit from a unique influential position in the PIC community, as they are involved in several manufacturing consortia (JePPIX and ePIXfab) and European funded projects (PARADIGM, PLATFORM, PHASTPHlex, ESSenTIAL).

As of today, while not many PIC enabled products from European manufacturers are on the market, it is estimated that with the current technology solutions, packaging is responsible for 50-90 per cent of the manufacturing costs. Furthermore, the low maturity and high customisation needs of the current PIC packaging process remain one of the bottlenecks for the time to market of the PIC-based products.

The semiconductor device industry has identified five levels of packaging. For PIC, those levels are: Level 0: Gate to gate interconnections within the PIC; Level 1: the connection between the chip to its package; Level 2: Printed circuit board, from component to component or to external connector; Level 3: connections between PCBs including backplanes and motherboards; Level 4: connections between subassemblies, for example a rack; and Level 5: connections between physically separated systems.

To that respect, the working group will focus on level 1, paying some attention also to level 2. Regarding the volume production, the starting point will be the process suitable for small volumes, though scalable to higher volumes.

On the level 1, the workgroup will formulate a set of design rules that will specify among others, process methodology and materials for the assembly of the optical fibres to the PIC, pitch of the electronic and optical interfaces, as well as micro-optical components, and many more. It is also the intention to standardise terminology as well as characterisation metrics.

It is important to identify which packaging processes are suitable for many different applications and thus benefiting from standardisation, and which processes are very application dependent. Also, in particular markets such as medical where PIC technology can enable new products, the use of biocompatible materials is of great relevance. These considerations, and many others, will be taken into account by the working group.

Upcoming events for further discussion include a working breakfast at OFC in March 2015 in Los Angeles, a workshop on 9-10 June 2015 hosted by EVG in Austria, and a working dinner on 28 September at ECOC in Spain.

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