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Indium-Phosphide Pilot Line for up-scaled, low-barrier, self-sustained, PIC ecosystem

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - InPulse (Indium-Phosphide Pilot Line for up-scaled, low-barrier, self-sustained, PIC ecosystem)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-12-31

The four-year InPulse project offers companies direct access to state-of-the-art manufacturing of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) based on indium phosphide. This will enable the development of PIC-enabled products for a wide range of new markets using PICs developed under the JePPIX brand. 16 European partners have started InPulse to reduce barriers and accelerate development. They are backed by 14 million Euros of funding from the European Commission. The JePPIX pilot line will enable innovators to develop products fast, thus being able to focus on the manufacturability of their products rather than the technological complexity of PIC fabrication. Currently, there are only a handful of companies that can take InP PICs from prototype to product. They do this with their own in-house fabs (production lines) with the associated design and test know-how. These facilities are not accessible to businesses with promising new ideas in emerging market sectors. The JePPIX pilot line enables new entrants to take such concepts from prototype-phase to pilot production using industry tools and processes. The project puts in place the quality control from the design process to manufacturing, testing through to packaging that is needed in order to streamline the development cycle and provide confidence in manufacturability for customer-generated designs. Prototyping services are already available from the consortium in the form of JePPIX multi-project wafer services. The pilot line services are being developed now with manufacturing-grade process design kits that deliver on manufacturing quality. These will be seamlessly coupled, providing an automated flow from design through to foundry production and automated known-good-die selection. The separation of design from the fabrication process through process design kits and the emphasis on quality reduces the risk for businesses embarking on PIC-enabled product development.The integration provides compelling metrics on size, weight, and performance and the JePPIX pilot line opens these possibilities up for small-series production and with pilot line services for volume manufacturing.
WP1 - Project Management: The project is on track for the pilot line services launch during 2020 with the first call opening at the end of the year. The Sustainability and Exploitation Advisory Board comprising the CEOs and directors of PhotonDelta, Smart Photonics, Fraunhofer HHI, and III-V Labs has reviewed the performance metrics and delivered recommendations for ensuring a vibrant, sustainable eco-system develops as the project is implemented. The project is focussed on delivering a sustainable model for foundry services in Europe, guaranteeing supply to customers beyond the project.
WP2 - Communications and dissemination: Public awareness on the JePPIX pilot line is growing and dissemination activities have been streamlined. Close cooperation with comparable open access pilot lines is facilitated through joint promotion. The video launch is rescheduled for February 2020 to synchronize with the timeline of the pilot line services launch.
WP3 - Operations management: The operational flows have been defined and are now being validated with the open access prototyping MPW services. The development of processes and procedures for quality assurance across complex value chains is now underway.
WP4 - Design acceleration: Process design kit (PDK) version control methods and procedures have been implemented and are being validated across the supply chain. This ensures traceability from design through to production and test. Data interchange formats for test and design are in place and standardized data formats are being shared through appropriate forums to enable industry-wide alignment and discussion.
WP5 - Measurement automation: Measurement interfaces have been defined and an instance of the interface has been implemented on a reference tool developed for automated die measurement. Reference designs and common testing environments have been defined to link the JePPIX pilot line with the PIXAPP pilot line for PIC packaging. Adaptations to accommodate RF measurements and automated part handling are also in planning.
WP6 - PIC wafer production: For each of the pilot line platforms, technology adaptations have been implemented to facilitate systematic improvements in the foundry process capabilities. Systematic data collection and analysis procedures have been extended to support statistical process development and management for process optimization. The new buried heterostructure PIC platform at III-V Lab is in development and preparations are in place to create a process design kit for MPW services on this new platform, whilst at Fraunhofer HHI, the foundry capability has been enhanced with the development of improved building blocks for high speed (56 Gbaud) modulators and polarization handling elements.
WP7 - PIC Verification: Methods have been defined across the three fabs for in-line and offline verification methods. This provides a design-agnostic validation of the foundry processes based on the basic building block properties as specified in the planned manufang-grade process design kits. Methods and databases have been established to facilitate systematic process capability improvements in WP6.
WP8 - Validation, and show-cases: Known good die (KGD) selection criteria are being addressed as a customer-specified quality gate. By using real-world PIC requirements for data communications and fiber optic sensing, the derived KGD criteria provide valuable inputs for design and test tool refinements. Customer-driven quality management aspects are identified for integration into the operational flow.
The JePPIX pilot line intimately connects leading-edge photonic design and test tools and foundries to new and emerging markets, accelerating the innovation cycle and technology maturity at the same time. This will turn Europe’s lead in open access research to a lead in open-access manufacturing capability.
The pilot line services are to be launched during 2020, with a marketing plan in place throughout the year to define and along with the offer with customers. The first call is anticipated at the start of 2021. The preparations made in the first year of the project alone are encouraging businesses to accelerate their prototyping programs, which are the first phase before the design freeze for pilot line production. Tens of businesses are now at the prototyping stage, and the JePPIX pilot line will enable such businesses to move seamlessly into the pilot manufacturability phase of product development.
PIC-enabled products will have a considerable, beneficial impact on the key societal challenges recognized by the European research agenda. Embedded sensors in medical instruments open up opportunities for home-health-monitoring and point-of-care diagnostics. New sensor features are anticipated in environmental, security and safety monitoring. Sensors for proximity and motion detection are anticipated for VR systems through to transportation. Structural monitoring circuits for larger installations can be embedded in other products to serve as an important public good. Communications equipment using energy-efficient indium phosphide devices provides an important route to sustainable energy use in the internet infrastructure.