Picture this: participating in an informal industry lunch, followed by watching two visionaries sharing their thoughts on the possibilities of photonics, and the opportunity to actually see and put PI’s latest innovation in action. We call them ‘Meet the Expert’ sessions, but they are so much more. At the very least they are an opportunity for us to meet our clients and hear their ideas and needs. And we are grateful for each and every one attending these sessions. Our latest edition was in September, in Eindhoven, covering the industry’s possibilities in photonics integrated circuits.

EPIC: the industry’s challenges

José Pozo kicked off this Eindhoven session. José Pozo is director of technology and innovation of EPIC, the European Photonics Industry Consortium. EPIC aims at creating an eco-system for the photonics industry, where companies can help each other grow. The fact that EPIC grew from 65 to 330 members in only 3 years strongly suggests that there is a need for such an eco-system.

According to José Pozo, the photonics industry supply chain is 20 to 30 years behind the IC supply chain. He sees huge opportunities for data centers, the automotive industry (mainly through Lidar) and the medical industry (through OCT). However, in meeting the demands for these kinds of high-volume production, the main challenge lies in the lack of PIC-specialized packaging companies. As long as there is a gap in this area, the industry’s growth will be held back. 

Time is on our side

Our very own Scott Jordan, head of PI’s Photonics Market Segment, flew in from the US to talk about the powerful FMPA (Fast Multichannel Photonics Alignment) system that PI recently developed. It allows the fastest alignment - in the world. With devices that nowadays measure only 50nm, and beam profiles being far from optimal, alignment must be extremely precise. The most common bottleneck is working with different inputs and outputs, and alignment is required in multiple degrees of freedom -making (fast) alignment difficult and time consuming. Moreover, sometimes the various channels interact with each other, or steer each other, making the alignment a moving target! The FMPA system however, allows accurate alignment of all inputs and outputs in only seconds (instead of the minutes it normally takes). This meets the demands in high-volume production, and brings a sustainable production of advanced photonic devices within reach.

An eye-opener – for those who don’t blink

Scott Jordan’s statement, on the fastest alignment ever, was not just talk: his colleague Geraint Green had proof in the form of a hexapod-in-function. The ‘Meet the Expert’ attendees of this edition could actually play with this device. ‘By fastest in the world, we mean that it’s fast. Really fast. As in: you blink – you missed it,’ Geraint Green warned.

And there it was: the eye-opening proof of what is possible. For those who managed to catch a glimpse.