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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - InPulse (Indium-Phosphide Pilot Line for up-scaled, low-barrier, self-sustained, PIC ecosystem)

Reporting period: 2020-01-01 to 2021-06-30

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. 15 European partners, backed by €14 million of funding from the European Commission, work on the InPulse project. 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 with the associated design and test know-how. These facilities are not accessible to businesses with new ideas in emerging market sectors. The JePPIX pilot line enables new entrants to take such concepts from prototype-phase to pilot and full production using industry tools and processes. The pilot line 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.
The pilot line has been launched in early 2021 and its services are available now with manufacturing-grade process design kits (PDKs) 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 PDKs and the emphasis on quality reduces the risk for businesses embarking on PIC-enabled product development. JePPIX pilot line provides product development with the foundry tools for both small-series production and volume manufacturing.
WP1 - Project Management: The Sustainability and Exploitation Advisory Board - comprising the CEOs and directors of PhotonDelta, Smart Photonics, Fraunhofer HHI, and III-V Labs - reviews the performance metrics and business plan to ensure the project is delivering a sustainable model for foundry services with a European industrial supply chain, guaranteeing manufacturing for customers beyond the project.
WP2 - Communications and dissemination: Promotion of pilot line services has been streamlined, a video was published in February 2021. WP2 activities are coordinated with WP9 in order to generate a number of promising leads.
WP3 - Operations management: The operational flows have been implemented and are now being validated within the InPulse project. The development of processes and procedures for quality assurance across complex value chains is now underway with the use of advanced digital platforms for quality control.
WP4 - Design acceleration: 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 wider interoperability.
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. Upgrades to accommodate RF measurements and automated part handling are also in under way for high throughput test and measurement.
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 control (SPC) for process optimization. Optimizations are monitored through process capability indices (Cpk) and improved building block parameter tolerances. The new buried heterostructure PIC platform at III-V Lab is in development and preparations are in place to create a PDK 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 manufacturing-grade PDKs. Richer data allows tolerance information to be presented to the developers in these advanced PDKs using commercially maintained design tools.
WP8 - Validation, and show-cases: Known good die (KGD) selection criteria are being addressed as a customer-specified quality gate for production. By using real-world PIC requirements for data communications and fiber optic sensing, the foundry processes and tools are validated, and show-cases for sensing and communications are in advanced development. Customer-driven quality management aspects are identified for integration into the operational flow.
WP9 – Open Calls & Demonstrators: Support of pioneer businesses interested in developing InP-based projects is ongoing and opportunities for off-radar businesses are being identified. Application notes to raise awareness of possible application areas and technology prospects among designers and interested parties have been published. The Open Call for participation in the demonstrator program has been launched.
WP10 – Pilot line exploitation: To realize a sustainable exploitation of the pilot line, the business plan has been developed. The JePPIX Pilot Line has adopted the open access foundry model supported by PDKs. The open access model allows businesses of any size and from any market to develop their own products and create their own supply chain to bring in the required expertise and manage business risk. The cost model provides a breakdown of costs to be expected by the customer when going from proof-of-concept (TRL4) to pilot production (TRL7).
The JePPIX pilot line connects leading-edge photonic design and test tools and foundries to new and emerging markets, accelerating the innovation cycle and technology maturity. This will turn Europe’s lead in open access research to a lead in open-access manufacturing capability.
The pilot line product has been launched in the early 2021 and the Open Call for participation in the Demonstrator program will run continuously until mid-2022. The JePPIX pilot line is now ready to enable businesses with prototypes to move into the pilot manufacturability phase of product development and then seamlessly to production.
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. Communications equipment using energy-efficient InP devices provides an important route to sustainable energy use in the internet infrastructure.