last update: May 31st 2019

Berlin brings together three years of preparatory work in photonics roadmapping

Peter van Arkel (photo right) is a consultant on technological innovation, strategy and funding for Berenschot. As the coordinator of IPSR-International activities, he explains what’s happening now to merge several initiatives in time for WTMF-3.


Background: Why roadmaps work

Today, we take it for granted that extremely complex technologies fit in the palm of your hand. Most of that is possible today thanks to careful technology planning in the past four decades by international groups like the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS).

Manufacturing of an integrated circuit requires a series of operations. This includes chip design, mask set manufacturing, wafer manufacturing, photolithography, various wafer processing steps, metal deposition, on wafer testing, dicing, dice testing, chip packaging and chip testing. In the beginning industries developed their own manufacturing processes covering all those steps. As the industry evolved, companies started making use of specialized machines built by different commercial companies to their own standards. But this specialization made it difficult for the semiconductor industry to advance with the speed dictated by Moore’s law. One company could not successfully mass produce a new product if essential components and systems were not available around the same time.

A technology roadmap can help to solve this timing and parallel development problem by signalling when a certain capability or performance will be needed. Then each supplier can target this date for their piece of the puzzle. The ITRS grew into a trusted technology assessment network. It worked because it was always independent of any commercial interests pertaining to individual products or equipment.

Why an international roadmap for Photonics Systems is needed.

In 2016, a meeting between Ton Backx (Institute of Photonic Integration, Eindhoven) and Lionel Kimerling, (AIM Photonics Academy at MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts) led to a discussion about the growing need for an international roadmap for photonics development. They jointly agreed that a global approach to mapping was essential, if the photonics industry was going to successfully scale up in a similar way as semi-conductors. Shared manufacturing platforms and underlaying standards for photonic integrated circuit design are key to scalable, cost-effective, high-volume manufacturing. This is going to be needed by emerging industries like 5G Telecom, next generation datacentres and smart industries, and a wide variety of smart “connected” sensors, more commonly known as the Internet of Things.

But eighteen months ago, there were many roadmap developments. Two key, but very distinct photonics roadmaps were:

  • From Eindhoven University of Technology, there was the Joint European Platform for the Integration of Photonics Systems and Circuits. The JePPIX eco-system includes many businesses spread across process development, chip fabrication, packaging, software development, design and training. Since 2012 it has grown to become a trusted network of several hundred international users. The JePPIX community focussed on the highly complementary technologies of high-performance Indium Phosphide (Eindhoven area) and low-loss dielectric Si3N4 based (TriPleX) waveguide technologies developed in the Twente region of the Eastern Netherlands. The latest JePPIX roadmap was issued in 2018.

  • Meanwhile, the AIM Photonics community in the USA had established the “Integrated Photonic Systems Roadmap (IPSR)”. This is a collaborative program organized by the International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative and the MIT Microphotonics Center and funded by the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics. The 2017 IPSR roadmap can be found here.

“These groups have built comprehensive roadmaps for their respective technologies. But when the first WTMF started in 2017, both parties realized that a combined, coherent international strategy for integrated photonic system manufacturing is what the market is asking for. Future customers need a common sense of where the technology of integrated photonics is going.”


The current status of roadmap integration

A lot of work goes on in-between the annual World Technology Mapping Forums. There are online working group leaders’ meetings which are held every two weeks.

All the various roadmaps and WTMF input have now been merged together into one document. Several people in working groups created at previous AIM Photonics and WTMF meetings are now in the process of going through the documents. This involves “cross technical workgroup validation” which means the working group leaders check each other’s work to check for accurate alignment and consistency. That is a very difficult and time-consuming process, but the devil is in the details.

Once the cross technical working group has completed their validation process, The IPSR-I office needs some time to arrange the document into a new layout. The final draft was published on May 31st 2019, just under two weeks before the start of the WTMF. Those who have registered have received the link by email.

Which Technical Working Groups will be held at this year’s WTMF?

That's quite difficult to determine exactly until just before the meeting. Although there is a rough split between telecom related TWG's on Wednesday June 12th and sensor applications TWG’s on Thursday June 13th, these workshops are very dependent on interaction and the expertise sitting around the table. You cannot achieve much if it is simply all researchers, for instance.

We're fortunate that several leading experts from industry and research see the need to collaborate with a truly global effort. Although the initiative was started by European and North American photonics communities, we are delighted by the commitment made by colleagues in Asia as witnessed at the recent winter roadmap discussions in Tokyo. We're hoping that those who have since participated in these regional discussions will also join us in Berlin.

And what do you expect to achieve by the Friday morning June 14th?

“I hope that this year we can continue to more finely match the technology developments with the expected product needs. On Friday morning we traditionally have a wrap up from each of the working groups and a plenary discussion about unresolved challenges. In effect we are setting the mandate for the fall, winter and spring regional meetings for 2019/2020. Berlin will be an important milestone. But the work doesn't stop there.”

“We update the “best of class specifications” with each iteration of the roadmap. Now it is a matter of selecting which performance points need to be optimized for which application and to clearly state how different applications will meet a wide range of product needs”.

“I hope that with growing industry involvement we will be able to establish a separate foundation to keep the roadmap current and relevant. IPSR-I needs professional organizational support because the work in-between the meetings is just as important as the gatherings themselves. Remember this is an active working forum not a conference about photonics.”

“We welcome more involvement from companies providing equipment for the end users. We have some contributors on Agro Food for instance, but this group is mainly on the research and development side. Likewise, in automotive, understanding the specific opportunities for integrated photonics requires a broad range of expertise to get the required high-level input. “