For Silicon Photonics in 2024, macroeconomic headwinds and war jitters push back against tides of opportunity driven by rapid adoption of PIC technology in applications far afield from its launching pad of the data center: LIDAR for autonomous vehicles and new classes of weaponry, wearable technologies for health, VR headsets for entertainment and new professional applications, quantum computing and sensing… These are all examples where silicon photonics is an enabling technology, and more emerge every week. But as we have detailed in past AngelTech PIC gatherings, the mainstreaming of silicon photonics means production volumes must ramp by three orders of magnitude in the next few years. Our industry must confront how to scalably build and test the novel devices that will make all this possible. Multiple studies have spotlighted the alignment process as the largest cost contributor for photonic devices, and this has been addressed by novel microrobotic mechanisms now capable of performing multiple complex alignments in a single step, yielding typically 99% reduction of optimization times. Now, a further advancement addresses the one remaining alignment-related time sink: first-light acquisition. Especially in multichannel and I/O chip designs, achieving the first glimmer of throughput has remained a slow process. Device-to-device variability, fixturing indeterminacies and placement repeatabilities all drive this formerly-painful initial process. Now, a breakthrough intelligent algorithm, integrated into a newly broadened spectrum of microrobotic configurations, virtually eliminates the time required to achieve first-light. By further reducing costs and increasing the productivity of test and assembly automation, this new functionality is an enabler for production economics as silicon photonics scales.
Scott Jordan has led the development of the photonics business of the globally active PI Group for the past five years. He lives in Silicon Valley and has been with PI for more than 20 years; he was active as director of NanoAutomation technologies and made a decisive contribution to continued technological development of the company. As a physicist with an MBA in Finance/NewVentures, Scott is well known in the community for his passion and engagement.