OSA Industry Member Profile – PHIX Photonics Assembly
By Samantha Hornback, Research & Program Development Coordinator, OSA
Located in the Netherlands, PHIX Photonics Assembly provides assembly services for all major photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology platforms. This “one-stop shop” is a growing global business that specializes in hybrid integration. OSA reached out to CCO Jeroen Duis to discuss the company’s successes and future goals.
What market does PHIX serve?
We are focused on the packaging of PICs for various customers. These photonic integrated chips can be used for lidar systems as well as for data communication, COVID-19 sensing, cancer diagnostics and more. Some companies are really focusing on one application, but PHIX acts as a packaging foundry. The applications of PICs are numerous, but we are really focused on development and scaleup manufacturing with packaging solutions that are suitable for our customers.
Where do you see PHIX going in the next 10 years or so?
Our ambition is to become the number one packaging foundry globally for photonic chips. The biggest breakthrough that we are expecting in the near future is really about the scale up to volume. Over the last year, we saw lots of prototypes made through the use of Multi Project Wafer (MPW), and now all these prototypes are scaling up toward volume production. That’s the critical part and where revenue is being generated.
PIC technology has been around for quite some time, but the technology and building blocks were not ready. Now that the technology is maturing, it’s really about driving the applications. Telecom and datacom have been early adopters of this technology, but other markets have a much higher potential for volume scaleup. That’s what we will be seeing in the next three to five years.
Can you talk a little about the “core competencies” listed on your website?
They are a whole set of different processing steps that we have available: Product Design, Assembly Process Development and Equipment Management. What we see from our customers is that when they scaleup, they can buy a machine, but they still don’t have a process for how to operate it. Next to this they need multiple assembly steps where they only utilize a fraction of their capital investment.
That is actually a gap that we are filling. We develop the processes so that our customers don’t need to spend the time, have the in-house expertise, or wait to use their machine. So, when they have an idea for an optical module, they can get the chip designed at a design house, manufactured at a photonics PIC foundry and packaged at PHIX so they can really focus on the application, rather than worry about the small steps in between.
PHIX recently formed the PIC Open Development Infrastructure for Universal Markets (PODIUM) with local partners. Tell me more about PODIUM.
PHIX is active in a number of consortia already, including Horizon 2020 research-based funding projects and with industry partners. PODIUM has been set up to actually allow customers to come and scale up from prototype to process development, and to find a packaging partner that can help them out in the series. If you want to do volume production, you have the choice to either buy a machine yourself and work with an equipment partner or you can stay with us to do the photonics packaging. We are collaborating jointly to perform the acquisitions. By bringing in customers and working closely with them, we really act as a solutions provider.
What’s the best decision that PHIX has made to date?
I think the most important decision is actually spinning off from LioniX International—a silicon nitride solutions provider. At a certain point in its scaleup, LioniX required packaging scaleup for their customers. On front-end manufacturing this was rather straightforward, but back-end scaleup requires a different production skillset. So it spun off PHIX to really do the automation part: scale up manufacturing, work on the yields, scale up production and therefore reduce the price of the devices. LioniX assisted us in setting up the company and was our first customer, which provided a revenue stream from the beginning.
Being open and getting additional investors onboard enabled PHIX to grow quickly and become truly independent as a stand-alone packaging foundry.
Can you tell me about your early career and how you came to PHIX?
My education background is in physics with a specialty in optics. My professional photonics career actually started during my time in secondary school, which provided me with a strong photonics base at a young age. After finishing at university, I started my professional career at TE Connectivity. I worked there for 16 years through various positions, and that’s where I got acquainted with integrated photonics as well as the chips that it requires.
TE ended its operations for fiber optics, so I went to SMART Photonics. SMART Photonics is the indium phosphide foundry in the Netherlands. They perform the scaleup for front-end manufacturing of indium phosphide PICs. Then, I got in touch with PHIX, which was more on the back-end packaging, similar to my experience at TE. Now, we are doing packaging for indium phosphide, gallium arsenide, silicon and silicon nitride, in addition to hybrid integration to take the best of each technology.
What’s your favorite part of your current position?
My favorite part is getting to talk to and work with many people across the globe. Everyone has their own application, which is wonderful! I am still surprised by all of the different applications that I see popping up every day.
One application in particular is for a new type of sensor for the food-security industry—we are now working on a sensor for the fish-farming industry that can be used as an alternative to PCR testing. This sensor is much easier to use as you don’t need to bring your water to the laboratory anymore to measure the fish-farm health. Instead, you can do it at the fish farm itself and obtain an immediate read out like you have with a pregnancy test. Also, applications related to lidar systems are hot right now as they relate to security or autonomous cars.
What is the value of the OIDA Membership?
We are being connected with industrial partners across the globe. Lots of collaborations are already initiated and being able to connect to decision-making experts within the network is currently our biggest benefit.
Posted: 15 March 2021 by Samantha Hornback, Research & Program Development Coordinator, OSA | with 0 comments
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