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AIM Photonics Catching Its Stride as They Move into 2nd Year

AIM Photonics Catching Its Stride as They Move into 2nd Year
by Mitch Heins on 06-02-2017 at 7:00 am

 AIM Photonics held its 2017 Proposers Meetings on May 24[SUP]th[/SUP] in Rochester, NY. The meetings included a review of AIM’s progress and strategic direction by their TRB (technical review board) and a session targeted at PIC (photonic integrated circuit) design for multi-project wafer (MPW) runs. While these discussions were covered under non-disclosure agreements, it’s easy to see from public postings in the news and on the AIM website that significant progress has been made by the institution whose mission it is to “advance integrated photonic circuit manufacturing technology development while simultaneously providing access to state-of-the-art fabrication, packaging and testing capabilities for small-to-medium enterprises, academia and the government”. I’ve pulled together a summary of some AIM PIC design related highlights based upon data publicly available on the AIM website.

 The PIC Design for MPW session was chaired by Brett Attaway, who is the AIM Photonics EPDA (Electronic / Photonic Design Automation) Director. From a posted interview of this session, Brett pointed out that the goal of AIM’s EPDA work is to enable the design community with MPW and eventually TAP (test and packaging) services for PIC designs. This includes the development of AIM Photonic PDKs (process design kits) as well as Electronic/Photonic design flows and methodologies. The first AIM PDK was released in June of 2016 (v0.3). A second release was made in September (v0.5) of the same year and a third release was made early January of 2017 (v1.0). Plans are to make major releases of the PDKs twice per year with v1.5 of the PDKs currently targeted for August of 2017 and then v2.0 and v2.5 being release in January and July of 2018 respectively.

 PDK releases include three variants. These include a variant for passive devices, a variant for active devices and a variant for a photonic interposer. The interposer enables the integration of electrical and photonic ICs as well as lasers into the same package. Per the AIM website, the passives portion of the PDK includes components such as silicon and silicon nitride versions of waveguides, edge couplers, vertical couplers, 3db 4-port couplers, Y-junctions, directional couplers, crossings and an interesting device known as an escalator coupler. The escalator coupler enables designers to move light from layer to layer sort of like a photonic via. The actives portion of the PDK includes components such as digital and analog versions of germanium photo-detectors and Mach-Zehnder modulators. Also included are thermo-optic phase shifters and switches as well as tunable filters and micro-disk switches and modulators. AIM plans to have five MPW runs in 2017, 2 full-flow runs with actives and passives, 2 passives-only runs and 1 interposer run for integration work. MOSIS acts as the AIM MPW aggregator and distributor of AIM PDKs.

AIM PDKs include support for documentation and CAD views enabling schematic capture, simulation, layout and design rule checking for a variety of flows including:

  • Cadence Virtuoso + Lumerical Solutions INTERCONNECT + PhoeniX Software OptoDesigner for mixed electrical-photonic design.
  • Mentor Graphics Pyxis + Lumerical Solutions INTERCONNECT + PhoeniX Software OptoDesigner for mixed electrical-photonic design.
  • Mentor Graphics Calibre for sign-off design rule checking including design-for-manufacturing and simulation of advanced lithographic effects.
  • Synopsys OptSim Circuit + PhoeniX Software OptoDesigner for PIC design. Synopsys component level simulation tools can also be used in conjunction with the AIM processes.
  • Lumerical component level photonic simulation tools + INTERCONNECT for PIC design.
  • PhoeniX Software photonic layout and component level simulation tools + ASPIC for PIC design.
  • There is also an interface between Lumerical Solutions and PhoeniX Software for PIC design.

The AIM Proposers meetings are meant to solicit inputs for next year’s funded AIM projects. Per the video with Brett Attaway, one of the key items that AIM is pursuing is to continue a project started in 2016 to have photonic reference designs that can be duplicated across the supported EPDA design flows. Per a presentation made by Brett at the Optical Fiber Conference in March of this year, the current reference design is focused on an integrated transceiver with PIC and CMOS designs as well as some efforts to try to collaborate on ways to ease PDK creation. Brett mentioned that he would like to see the current project expanded in 2018 to put more focus on the efficient system-level design of photonic systems that would include interface modeling between the ICs (electronic and photonic) and AIM’s interposer technology.

Additional projects were being discussed behind closed doors but it’s a sure bet that the rest of the proposed projects will have something to do with one of four KTMAs (Key Technology Manufacturing Areas)

  • Telecom/Datacom,
  • RF Analog Applications
  • PIC Sensors
  • PIC Array Technologies

or one of the four MCEs (Manufacturing Innovation Centers of Excellence)

  • EPDA: Electronic Photonic Design Automation
  • MPWA: Multi Project Wafer / Assembly
  • ICT: Inline Control & Test
  • TAP: Test Assembly and Packaging

AIM is pushing hard to enable the eco-system and there is much activity in the market place as both members and non-members are taking advantage of the MPW services they are offering now. It looks like AIM is hitting its stride which is good, because not only do they need to enable the ecosystem, but they also must be self-funding by the time their five-year funding from the government expires sometime in 2020.

Time flies when you’re having fun and right now time seems to be flying at the speed of light for AIM Photonics.

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