US initiative creates roadmap, gains funding and more partners.
The New York State Photonics Board of Officers, which oversees state spending on the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), has approved $81 million in spending for the organization through March 2018, largely for equipment needed to launch a new test, assembly, and packaging (TAP) facility in Rochester, NY.
The investment will also cover operating costs for the program’s administrative headquarters in Rochester and follows $106 million previously allocated by the state, which has pledged $250 million over five years.
Overall, AIM Photonics is set to receive $613 million in funding, with $110 million from the federal government. A consortium of hundreds of companies, nonprofits, and universities, including SPIE, has pledged support totaling another $250 million or so to create a national infrastructure for integrated photonics based on an open foundry model.
“AIM Photonics is hitting its stride in 2017,” John Maggiore, Photonics Board chairman, said in a statement. “The momentum of the institute continues to grow as we get closer to opening the TAP facility, which will build upon Rochester and New York State’s leadership in advanced technology innovation.”
AIM Photonics has already begun the hiring process for engineering jobs in Rochester and Albany, and CEO Michael Liehr announced two more “Tier 1” partners to the program, General Electric and Mentor Graphics. GE is working with AIM on a large project involving integrated photonic sensors, with a significant portion of the program set to take place at the Rochester TAP facility.
Mentor Graphics will be working on enhanced design tools to help with future integrated photonics design and to help the multi-project wafer program run smoothly.
AIM Photonics is one of nine public-private partnerships in the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation program. Led by the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) in New York, the primary AIM Photonics team includes faculty from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), University of Arizona (UA), and University of Rochester (UR).
Other industry partners include Intel, HP, IBM, Cisco, Infinera, Corning, Mentor Graphics, Synopsys, Cadence, GE, United Technologies, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.
The organization released its 400-page Integrated Photonics Strategic Roadmap in late March.
Also in March, the AIM Photonics Academy held a workshop on strategies for 2025 at MIT, opening with a call for manufacturers to work more closely, to build new tools and a unified platform for producing photonic integrated circuits (PICs). About 150 experts from academic, industry, and related fields attended.
Plenary speaker for the "manufacturing industry dynamics" session was Ira Moskowitz, director of advanced manufacturing programs at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
"Advanced PIC manufacturing is complicated," Moskowitz said. It involves more than a dozen functional areas, "in which some tools do not exist yet, and must be integrated and managed."
Moskowitz told delegates that non-traditional skills and structures are increasingly required in the workforce, and that significant management skills were imperative. "Manufacturers will need to collaborate more across the ecosystem," he added.
Continuing on the theme, Randy Kirchain, a principal research scientist at MIT's Materials Processing Center, noted: "With such complex and demanding high-precision technologies such as PICs, various private-sector companies are compelled to work together in a spirit of ‘co-opetition'."
"Yes, you lose some opportunity, but the goal is to enlarge the pool of resources for everybody," Kirchain said.
Covering new applications, Young-Kai Chen, senior director at Nokia Bell Labs, said: "with RF signal processing in a PIC, there are a lot of interesting things you can do, beyond telecom applications, such as high-security transmission."
A promising note was sounded by Cyrus Bamji, a partner hardware architect at Microsoft, who said: "With time-of-flight technology, they were very worried about the theoretical problem of laser speckle, and spent countless hours modeling for it." But in experimental practice, Bamji reflected, the anticipated problems did not materialize.
Spanning frontiers in design, Brett Attaway, director of electronic-photonic design automation solutions at AIM Photonics, had an invitation: as the manufacturing effort seeks to rapidly build up a library of process design kits (PDKs), he said, "if you have ideas for good useful PDK components, let us know."
Attaway added that the methodology is currently much more rigid in the world of electronic chip design, whereas the photonics realm is typically much more dominated by academics, and is less disciplined than what would be found in the far more mature electronics sector.
And Stefan Preble, of the Rochester Institute of Technology, suggested that the emerging sector take inspiration from the electronics world and define standards, thus moving away from a research perspective.
"We need to focus much more on photonic chip design," Preble said. "To fully characterize a transceiver, you need to do automated testing."
Milos Popovic from Boston University said that a goal for him and Preble was to design a course that was not just about photonics, but about electronic-photonic design, and which enabled "tight" simulation of electronic and photonic devices together.
Other speakers included Lionel C. Kimerling, executive director of the AIM Photonics Academy; Richard Grzybowski, director of R&D at MACOM and chair of the MIT Microphotonics Center Industry Consortium; and Charles Fine, director of the technology supply chain research project at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
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