Centre for Sensors, Instruments and Systems Development

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

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Micro-injection Machine for Photonic Int...

Expected benefits of the PICEO project


Micro-injection Machine for Photonic Integrated Circuits encapsulation with optical performance using thermoplastic materials

Principal investigator

Santiago Royo Royo [+info]


The PICEO Project:
Integrated photonic circuits (PIC) play a key role in almost any activity. These components are better known as LEDs, fiber optics, etc. Its economic impact is huge since they are present in the industry, health, transport, lighting and many other applications. One of the most important elements of the PIC manufacturing processes is encapsulation. Its function is to protect the active elements, enable connectivity, dissipate the heat and facilitate the operation and installation procedures. The importance of encapsulation is key since their costs represent approximately 60% of the final cost of the component.

At present, the encapsulation of integrated photonic circuits is realized by means of the injection of thermostable plastic by his ease of use and reliability in the manufacturing process. The main drawback is the long processing time of the healing stage of thermostable plastic and its strong influence on the final cost of the component.

A few years ago, the CD6 started a research line to improve the manufacturing processes of optical components, including PICs. Last September, the activities of the project "Micro-injection Machine for Photonic Integrated Circuits encapsulation with optical performance using thermoplastic materials" began with the support of the Government of Catalonia, with the aim of develop a new methodology for the manufacture of PICs with embedded optical elements. This methodology creates two main competitive advantages:

• Simplifies the manufacturing process as it is done in one step, it is fully automated and more economical. It is estimated that this process will bring a 50% reduction in the cost of encapsulation.

• Improves the final product performance (better optical efficiency)

The methodology covers the complete value chain of the manufacturing process, based on the components design, the use of a new process of industrial modeling with thermoplastics, and finalizes with a phase of verification of components.

The proof of concept at component manufacture level has already been succesfuly achieved (TRL 3). The current goal is validating the manufacturing technology by developing a pre-industrial prototype of the manufacturing machine that also allows CE marking homologation (TRL 5 and 6).

Challenges to overcome:
Almost every PIC device depends on an optical system in order to have the adequate functionality. These optical systems can be very precise and complex trying to enhance the behaviour of the device, but nowadays their performance is limited due to manufacturing precision and tolerances. As highlighted above, in order to improve this technology regarding costs and features there are three key points in the process of PIC encapsulation that must be faced to overcome current limitations. These points are:
• Automation for decreasing manufacturing positioning errors in the step of adding the corresponding primary optics
• In-line validation of components
• Cost of the curation process and associated logistics

RIS3CAT Strategy:
The project is strongly aligned with the RIS3CAT strategy within the scope of Industrial Systems and considering the Key Enabling Technologies of Advanced Manufacturing and Photonics. The development of the proposal will make possible to generate an advanced industrial facility in Catalonia for high added-value products of mass markets and with a huge expected growth like Photonics is. Thanks to the advantages provided by the process, it will be possible to create proprietary technology capable of compete with Asian companies, with cheaper labour conditions, by means of automation and cost reduced production.

The PICEO project has received a grant from AGAUR (Universities and Research Agency of the Government of Catalonia) through its programme PRODUCTE (2016 PROD 00064). This programme supports the phases focused on obtaining prototypes, valorisation and transfer of the results of the research created by research teams in Catalonia.

CD6 Centre for Sensors, Instruments and Systems Development
Rambla de Sant Nebridi, 10  ·  08222  ·  Terrassa (Barcelona)