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Small Businesses Gain Entry into Photonics with a New Kind of Partner

13 September 2018

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The photonics market is crucial to a number of emerging and evolving industries that depend on its rapid growth and innovation. Forecasts predict that innovations in photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology will drive industry growth from $10 billion to over $100 billion by 2025. To successfully reach the industries that will benefit from this growth, such as autonomous vehicles and healthcare, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need the ability to collaborate and gain access to resources that would otherwise be out of their reach.

“There are many pieces to the photonics puzzle. Until now, there have been sporadic and fragmented innovations in PIC technology. So Company A would solve one piece of the puzzle, and Company B would solve another. But those companies didn’t talk, and certainly didn’t share information,” said AIM Photonics CMO Frank E. Tolic in a recent interview with FuzeHub. “Using the revolutionary public-private partnership model created by SUNY Poly’s Albany nanotech complex, AIM Photonics is bringing together all those companies — all those pieces of the puzzle — to accelerate the development and delivery of new PIC technologies to the marketplace.”

Figure 1: To successfully reach the industries that will benefit from this growth, such as autonomous vehicles and health care, SMEs need the ability to collaborate and gain access to resources that would otherwise be out of their reach. Source: AIM PhotonicsFigure 1: To successfully reach the industries that will benefit from this growth, such as autonomous vehicles and health care, SMEs need the ability to collaborate and gain access to resources that would otherwise be out of their reach. Source: AIM Photonics

What’s Stopping SMEs from Jumping into the Photonics Arena?

SMEs have much to offer but are in danger of being left behind. Engineers working on their own can waste valuable time redesigning or reinventing pieces of peripheral designs, trying to solve problems that have already been solved somewhere else. Another major obstacle is the high cost of entry and the fact that SMEs have to be more budget-conscious than large companies. This manifests in several key areas.

· R&D: Typical R&D costs today can be more than 50% of SME budgets, making it difficult for them to invest sufficiently.

· Market focus: Larger companies have the money and flexibility to invest in new markets while balancing risk, whereas SMEs often take a wait-and-see approach and lose out on visibility.

· Supply chain barriers: Larger companies either have an established supply chain or can create one. SMEs have to wait to gain access to materials, which puts them at a disadvantage.

· Workforce: Larger companies can invest in hiring and training unskilled workers. SMEs need access to experienced personnel who are already trained to do the work.

Figure 2: Interposer with laser. Source: AIM PhotonicsFigure 2: Interposer with laser. Source: AIM Photonics

How AIM Photonics is Advancing the Industry

Multi Project Wafer (MPW)

AIM Photonics MPW at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s 300 mm semiconductor processing research fab is cost-effective and low risk, utilizing world-class tooling. SMEs gain access to a suite of the most advanced, state-of-the-art integrated photonics wafer processing available at a much lower cost of entry. The MPW capability enables quick turnaround time to allow companies to bring their product to market as efficiently as possible. MPW runs take place quarterly, with additional runs announced so that SMEs have a steady stream of opportunities to leverage this offering.

Photonics Process Design Kit (PDK)

Developed by Analog Photonics and SUNY Polytechnic Institute, the integrated photonics process design kit (PDK) provides SMEs with a key resource for the development of the baseline technology and the design of the products to be manufactured. At the heart of the PDK is the partnership and expertise of leading design companies that have honed the design methodologies for future integrated photonics technology.

AIM Academy — Training and Workforce Development

The future of the photonics industry relies on a well-trained, skilled workforce. The creation of integrated photonics education and workforce development products is one of the primary missions of AIM Photonics Academy (AIM Academy). Programs like AIM Summer Academy, a one-week intensive curriculum, and Future Leaders in Integrated Photonics, a hands-on research opportunity for rising seniors through internships at MIT; SUNY Polytechnic Institute; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of Arizona are just two examples of activities developed at AIM Academy that bring together participants and leaders from academia and industry.

TAP — The New Facility Advancing PIC Technology

The TAP (Test, Assembly and Packaging) Facility in Rochester, New York, is a unique environment where SMEs and large companies share resources and expertise in order to more quickly and competitively innovate, develop, and manufacture. TAP brings together the top talent in indium phosphide (InP) and silicon (Si) photonics integration, as well as SUNY Poly’s extensive design tools and manufacturing facilities to support photonics manufacturing today and well into the future. TAP’s capabilities represent a significant portion of the cost of integrated photonics, giving SMEs a financial leg-up to address a broad range of challenges.

Bryce Tennant, Precision Optical Transceivers CTO, agrees:

“The TAP facility is going to offer equipment that allows people to build product. Because of that, it’s going to just move the Optics industry forward,” he said. “Precision plans to utilize AIM infrastructure to further push the envelope of our technical offerings. We believe that by working with AIM Photonics and its partners we will be able to significantly advance our transceiver product line and offer adjacent components to meet our customer’s needs. Our partnership with AIM Photonics will ultimately provide better services, systems, and cutting-edge technologies for our end users.”

Conclusion

Building upon the revolutionary public-private partnership model created by SUNY Poly, AIM Photonics has created a game-changer for SMEs. With MPW (Multi Project Wafer), PDK (Project Design Kit), TAP (Test, Assembly and Packaging) and AIM Academy, entities of all sizes have unprecedented access to the latest evolving technology, allowing them to gain visibility sooner, access an established supply chain, and participate in leading-edge workforce development and training — all in a cost-effective, low-risk environment.

More information is available at aimphotonics.com and via this video that describes how photonics will impact the 21st century.



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