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PHIX Photonics Assembly targets automated manufacturing

Start-up PHIX Photonics Assembly has raised a first round of investment from Dutch regional development agency Oost NL to build and develop a facility for volume production of photonic integrated circuit (PIC) modules for datacom, telecom and medical applications.

PHIX is a sister company to integrated photonics provider LioniX International, which focuses on the design and prototyping of PICs based on its proprietary TriPleX technology, a silicon nitride platform with ultra-low losses. PHIX plans to provide the complementary services of test, assembly and packaging of PIC modules, enabling the transition from prototype to mass production.

While the technologies for integrated photonics are well established, the manufacturing processes are not mature and suitable for industrial-scale production (see Integrating Europe’s silicon photonics supply chain). PHIX’s ambition is to gradually grow into a company for fully automated assembly and mass production of photonic microchips.

PHIX established its assembly and packaging production line in April 2017 with operations at the High Tech Factory, a production facility and start-up incubator at the University of Twente in Enschede.

Albert Hasper, director of PHIX BV, said: “With this first investment round, led by Oost NL, we can accelerate the construction of our assembly line and present us as a world player in the field of photonic assembly. We are pleased to receive support from the province of Overijssel, Twente Innovation Fund, Saxion University College, Twente University and the photonic companies, such as LioniX International, with a unique position and reputation in a range of application markets for photonically integrated circuits. "

PHIX will work in close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Project Center on packaging standards for high-volume manufacturing of integrated photonics modules, and with PhoeniX Software on developing the appropriate photonic design kits, dedicated to assembly and packaging.

Hans van den Vlekkert, CEO of LioniX International, who helped to established PHIX, emphasised the need for a strong regional ecosystem for integrated photonics, where education, development, production and volume production go hand in hand.

“We have seen accelerated growth of integrated photonics market over the past year, especially for the demand of devices that are based on our low-loss TriPleX platform. We have delivered many prototypes to international customers and anticipate that volume demand for the PIC modules is starting, which requires an efficient organisation, such as PHIX B.V., where the infrastructure and production flow are tailored to achieve cost-effective assembly and packaging of PIC modules.”

Oost NL is a shareholder of LioniX International and closely involved in photonics initiatives in the region. Pieter Rhemrev, manager capital business unit at Oost NL said: “Within Europe, photonics is one of the most important innovative technologies. Through the knowledge at the universities of Twente and Eindhoven, the Netherlands is the world's leader in photonics. If you bundle those forces, you can be international leader in that area.”

The start-up expects to create dozens of jobs.

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