IMAPS optoelectronics Report

IMAPS Opto provides data and community

By Kathleen Peterson

At the IMAPS Advanced Technology Workshop on Optoelectronics Packaging (October 11-14, 2001, in Bethlehem, Pa.) the mood was upbeat and the technology quite innovative. Technical chair Bill Heffner (Agere Systems) kicked off the event with a spirited talk, reminding participants that the purpose of the event was not just to share and learn, but also to form and foster a community.

More than 120 attendees represented a balanced mix of academia, industry and government laboratories. While many local organizations were represented, there were also many attendees from companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, including a contingent from abroad.

A Look Back and a Look Forward

The keynote address, entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Photon,” was presented by John Pittman, vice president of manufacturing for Agere. Pittman provided an historical perspective of the optoelectronics industry, tracing its route from the initial principles being proven by the Standard Telephone Company (London) in 1960, through the 1970s and 1980s with the advent of OC3 and the first use of lasers, to the early 1990s, when the proliferation of e-mail started tying up a system that was designed to carry voice rather than data. In 1997, there was widespread investment in capital equipment to support optical networks. And in the first quarter of this year, nearly all optical component suppliers were operating at maximum capacity, often taking several times the number of orders they could actually ship.

As we all know, however, supply eventually found itself ahead of demand and overcapacity stopped the industry in its tracks. Pittman referred to this experience as the “cliff we all fell over but never really saw coming.”

The good news – and there's plenty of it – is that many people are working hard on new and promising opto technologies. Traffic on the network continues to grow steadily, so the need for materials will not wane and the demand for equipment will eventually stabilize as well.

Now that an upturn is in sight, it's time to make a wish list for the industry. Pittman and many others are wishing for advances in design technology. They're also wishing for higher yields, sophisticated packaging methods, complete discrete component assembly, the elimination of burn-in, better process integration, improved and standardized fibers and connectors, standard handling methods, automated test equipment, and revolutionized wafer-level testing. Yes, it's a grand-daddy of a wish list, to say the least.

Emerging Technologies and Promising Solutions

Because there are so many types of optoelectronic products (optical detectors, optical transmitters, receivers, optical power amplifiers, optical switches, dispersion compensators, connectors, couplers, displays, MCMs, MEMS switches, and other multiplexing components), the possibilities for advancement are quite vast. Several technologists suggested that revolutionized polymers that make good light pipes might be a good place for the industry to start its rebirth.

Aicha Elshabini of the University of Arkansas reiterated many of these thoughts, and added to the list of critical objectives the following: lower cost, robust infrastructure, higher bandwidth, low crosstalk and controlled impedance, and stringent alignment tolerances. She went on to discuss the challenges of thermal management and improved substrate materials, and presented a detailed and informative discussion on the building blocks for opto devices.

Ajay P. Malshe, also of the University of Arkansas and the High Density Electronics Center (HiDEC), engaged the group in a talk about MEMS and related microsystems packaging, imploring listeners “not [to] look at packaging as just a last step that you must do to get your product to the customerellipseRemember – wafer-scale and chip-scale packaging are going to be very important for your business.”

Malshe also talked about emerging technologies, such as MEMS optical switches and bioMEMS, and ended his presentation by suggesting that we all “start thinking toward nanotechnology.” Like much of the discussion at the workshop, Malshe's presentation was forward-looking and optimistic, but paid heed to the work that lies ahead.

Clark D. Boyd of Luna Innovations (Blacksburg, Va.) provided detailed data about fiber optic sensors, particularly extrinsic Fabry-Perot interferometers, long period grating fiber optic sensors and fiber Bragg gratings. Sensors are an increasingly complicated technology – Boyd remarked that “For 25 years, the optical fiber was little more than a fancy telephone wire, but manufacturing engineers, materials researchers and scientists around the world are starting to turn up the heat and the pressure.”

Other notable advances presented at the workshop were a 14-pin clamshell opto package design with integrated fiber sealing from Kyocera America Inc., adhesives curing methods from EXFO Photonic Solutions and BTI Photonics, and optical leak testing technology from NorCom Systems.



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