MESA+ University of Twente
Research Business & Innovation About MESA+ Storyline Education
8 December 2017

Fraunhofer supports start of large-scale production photonic chips

The Fraunhofer Project Center, on the campus of the University of Twente in The Netherlands, will develop a special micro assembly machine for photonic chips. This is an important step, moving from small series to large-scale production by PHIX Photonics Assembly, based on the university campus. Fraunhofer will present the machine during the MicroNano Conference in Amsterdam, 12 and 13 December.

Photonic chips, circuits working with light, are of rapidly increasing importance, in applications like telecom and medical technology. Until now, they are typically produced in small numbers for high-end applications. But this will change, as soon as photonic chips will be used in large-scale applications like future 5G networks. This is the prediction of LioniX International, based on the University of Twente campus. The success of scaling up is highly dependent on technology for assembly and packaging, in a cost-effective way. This is completely different from regular electronics assembly. It involves connecting glass fibers to the photonic circuitry, for example.


Mid-volume

The Fraunhofer Project Center will develop an innovative machine for this, and it will also support the production process as a whole. This will enable the new company PHIX Photonic Assembly to start production of mid-volume series between 1000 and 100.000. On the longer term, PHIX expects to move towards series of millions of chips, with a full production line at the campus. Both LioniX International and the University of Twente are shareholders of PHIX.

Modular approach 

It is exactly for this type of innovative solutions for production, the Fraunhofer Project Center for Design and Production Engineering of Complex High-Tech Systems (FPC@UT) was founded early 2017. In this Center, the University of Twente and Saxion cooperate with the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology in Aachen. During the MicroNano Conference, 12 and 13 December, FPC@UT will already demonstrate some modules of the machine. Thanks to this modular approach, the machine can be adapted to the application: in this way, photonic components can also be connected to microfluidic components (lab-on-a-chip) or micromechanical sensors.

PhotonDelta

Photonics has a firm foothold in the Twente region. UT’s MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology has a strong cluster of photonics research groups and excellent lab facilities. Saxion University of Applied Sciences has an Applied Nanotechnology programme, and there are several successful spin-off companies in the field of photonics. Twente is part of PhotonDelta, the Dutch national ecosystem for integrated photonics. Twente is especially strong in silicium nitride chip solutions.

The Fraunhofer Project Center, the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnologie and LioniX all are present at the MicroNano Conference, 12 en 13 december, Amsterdam, ‘Beurs van Berlage’.