Cirrex triples facility size

by Mark A. DeSorbo

Bandwidth-hungry applications call for increased production of optical modules

Integrated optical module developer Cirrex Corp. (Alpharetta, GA) completed a three-month expansion project last October that tripled the size of its existing facility by 45,800 square feet, more than 600 square feet of which was designated cleanroom space.

Although the in-house project hit a few snags due to long lead times on material deliveries, Cirrex installed wafer-scale manufacturing and packaging equipment to support automated photolithographic functions, planar lightguide circuit processing, multi-chip bonding, automated advanced packaging and assembly capabilities. To beef up yield, the company installed three cleanrooms—a 100-square-foot ISO Class 5 (Class 100), a 500-square-foot ISO Class 6 (Class 1000) and a 60-square-foot ISO Class 7 (Class 10,000)—at a cost of $100,000.

“Our product development is proceeding on schedule and we need more space as we move to the manufacturing phase and prepare for initial product shipments,” says Mike Wach, president and chief executive of Cirrex.

Cleanroom facilities have been designed for the development and low-level production of Cirrex's integrated optoelectronics modules, says Kirk Urmey, general manager of operations.

Cirrex cleanroom personnel don suits, booties, hoods, gloves and face masks to enter cleanrooms. Face shields are used when handling chemicals. Cirrex cleanrooms have several capabilities, including metalization, photolithography, wet processing and surface metrology.
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“The cleanrooms will also play a key role in developing manufacturing processes for future production,” he adds, noting metalization, photolithography, wet processing and surface metrology. “Cleanroom technology is critical to Cirrex because we are developing components with features that are sub-micron in size. The small feature sizes associated with the components require the advantages of cleanroom technology: sub-micron particle filtration, humidity control and temperature control.”

For equipment and components, Cirrex cleanrooms utilize analytical, detection and test systems from Perkin Elmer Corp. (Wellesley, MA). Cleanrooms also have mask aligners and other microelectronics equipment from the Karl Suss Group (Munich), process controls from KLA-Tencor Corp. (San Jose, CA) and Johnson Controls (Detroit); and transport carts, furniture and storage cabinets from Leatherwood Plastics (Lewisville, TX).

HVAC, air handlers and chillers from Carrier Corp. (Farmington, CT) were installed, while a central vacuum system and air compressor were purchased from Kaeser Compressors (Jakarta). Cleanrooms were also outfitted with a de-ionized water system from US Filter (Palm Desert, CA).

The temperature in the cleanroom is maintained at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, ±2 degrees, while humidity is 45 percent, ±5 percent. Airflow is positive throughout, while air is combined with recirculated and outside air.

“All chemicals are routed to chemical treatment tanks, neutralized and then disposed,” Urmey says. “Cleanroom personnel wear suits, booties, hoods, gloves, face masks and face shields when handling chemicals.”

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The force behind the technology that Cirrex develops is telecommunications network bandwidth speeds. Hybrid optoelectronic modules integrate fiber-optic networking; reducing complexity in network design, while supporting bandwidth increases between 100 and 1600 times a T1 network speed of 1.5 megabits per second.

In May 2000, Cirrex received $6.5 million in venture capital. HIG Ventures led the financing with participation from Lucent Ventures Partners, the venture capital arm of Lucent Technologies. Including early funding from Atlanta-based Imlay Investments, the company has attracted $8.2 million of equity financing to date.

“We are excited about Cirrex's innovative and patented technology for building integrated [optical] devices which will allow the implementation of low-cost solutions down to the access networks,” says Tony Tamer, HIG managing director. “This will enable local exchange carriers to greatly expand bandwidth in a cost-effective manner, to accommodate the exploding demand for high-speed Internet access.”


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