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AIM Photonics wafer hub poised for mid-2018 start

10 Oct 2017

Start date pushed back several months from initial plan, but officials confident of future impact.

by Ford Burkhart
With construction now under way, AIM Photonics says that photonic integrated circuit (PIC) production at its wafer facility in Rochester will begin in mid-2018.

Officially known by its full name the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics, the organization added that its 30,000 square-foot test, assembly and packaging (TAP) center in upstate New York will launch in two stages.

Laboratory and cleanroom space is slated to begin operations in the first quarter of 2018, with tool installation now scheduled for the second quarter. Initially, AIM officials had planned for laboratory space to be open by July 2017, with cleanroom activity by October 1.

The hub is awaiting delivery of nearly $40 million worth of processing, test, and metrology tools that are said to be in the pipeline, while new offices at the Rochester site are set to open next month.

Open foundry
Once complete, the site will represent the world’s only open foundry capable of producing PIC devices on a state-of-the-art 300 mm wafer diameter platform.

AIM Photonics is a public-private venture led by the US Department of Defense, and New York was unveiled as the main location of the $600 million project in summer 2015, to much fanfare. In late 2016, an ON Semiconductor production site in Rochester was selected as the location for the TAP facility.

Ed White, recently installed as chairman of the US National Photonics Initiative and AIM Photonics’ executive for corporate outreach, described the TAP facility’s laboratories as “major components” of the wider initiative's efforts. With everything in place, he said, AIM Photonics will “expect interest to continue to grow from members of the photonics industry who will be able to leverage AIM's cutting-edge resources and know-how.”

Once operational, its capabilities will be available to members of the AIM Photonics consortium, as well as partners, using the initiative’s unique process design kit (PDK) and an approach that enables multiple types of PIC device to be made on a single wafer (known as MPWs, or multi-project wafers), White said.

PIC ecosystem
Based at the 1200-acre Eastman Business Park, formerly known as Kodak Park, at its historic “Building 81" on Lake Avenue, the TAP’s cleanrooms and lab will be leased from owners ON Semiconductor. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, it makes a wide range of semiconductor devices, including high-specification image sensors used by the likes of NASA.

Building 81 is connected to the Kodak Research Laboratories, adjacent to more than 50 acres of industrial, office and residential land with room for significant expansion, AIM Photonics said.

AIM Photonics’ backing includes commitments of $250 million from New York State, $110 million from the US Department of Defense, and $250 million in private support.

The goal is to create the first national PIC “ecosystem”, with the capacity to manufacture, package and test the cutting-edge devices fabricated on 300 mm-diameter silicon wafers.

Potential benefits of those PIC devices are expected to include reduced energy consumption in data centers, higher-capacity optical “backhaul” networks to support next generation (5G) wireless communications, and miniaturized lidar sensors for potentially widespread deployment in future self-driving vehicles.

AIM Photonics added that the TAP facility would “secure Rochester’s position as a critical hub for photonics and part of a growing and thriving innovation zone.”

About the Author

Ford Burkhart is a freelance writer based in Tucson, Arizona.

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