Photonic circuits are chips that function with light, and are obviously on the rise, for instant in medical and telecom applications. They are still frequently considered to be 'high-end' applications in small series. That will quickly change, if photonic chips are being employed on a large scale in 5G networks for instance, as is projected LioniX International, a successful company at the University of Twente.
The success of upscaling hinges on a production method to assemble and then package the photonic components in a cost-effective manner. That is a wholly different technique than is employed for electronics chips; it concerns, for instance, the linking of glass fibers with photonic circuits.
The Fraunhofer Project Center aims at developing a unique machine for this and will manage the new PHIX Photonics Assembly along with knowledge of new production processes. This step is presently about mid-volume series between 1000 and 100,000, PHIX anticipates to grow into million series along with a production line on the University of Twente campus in the years to come.
The Fraunhofer Project Center was opened at the start of this year, a partnership between the University of Twente, Saxion and the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Engineering in Aachen, in order to enable the industry with integrated production solutions and to accompany new developments such as 'Industry 4.0'. During the MicroNano Conference, to be conducted on 12 and 13 December at the Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, Fraunhofer already shows a number of modules of the machine. Due to the modular construction, the machine can now be adapted to the application: it is also possible to connect photonic components to micromechanical sensors or liquid chips (lab-on-a-chip systems).
Photonics has been intensely represented in Twente, along with a collection of research groups within the MESA + Institute for Nanotechnology, an Applied Nanotechnology program within Saxion and successful spin-offs. The region is part of PhotonDelta, the ecosystem for combined photonics in the Netherlands. The emphasis is on silicon nitride chips in Twente.
The Fraunhofer Project Center, LioniX and the MESA + Institute for Nanotechnology are all represented at the MicroNano Conference, to be held on December 12 and 13 in Amsterdam.