18 August 2020
CompoundTek and STAr collaborating on high-volume silicon photonics wafer test
Singapore-based silicon photonic (SiPh) foundry services provider CompoundTek Pte Ltd and reliability test system and probe-card supplier STAr Technologies Inc of Hsinchu, Taiwan have formed a strategic collaboration to develop standards and solutions for cost-effective high-volume SiPh wafer test.
Addressing the growing need for consistency and reliability across all applications of SiPh technology, the SiPh Wafer Test aims to spearhead the development of more standard processes and facilitate wider industry adoption and innovations from design through to test and inspection.
Currently, the integration of optical components on a chip creates a host of new challenges in wafer-level probing of SiPh devices, as large volumes of device performance data are required to carry a design from concept to qualification and subsequently into production.
“To accelerate the market for wider adoption of wafer-level silicon photonics test, cost and efficiencies must be improved,” says CompoundTek’s CEO Raj Kumar. “To do so, we believe it is necessary to take a holistic approach by establishing partnerships that leverage expertise within the test technology value chain and that of the fabrication process,” he adds. “It is this synergy of measurement instrumentation, positioning and commercialization technologies that will further standardize the way testing is done, the way the chip is laid out for ease of tests, that both CompoundTek and STAr effectively bring to the marketplace.”
Currently, SiPh testing is fragmented, with no recognized standards. Most companies have a homegrown SiPh bench solution, which is good for small-scale engineering characterization during the design verification phase but inefficient for the high-throughput and low-cost test required for testing during the mass-production phase. There is no independent SiPh wafer test service provider with a cost-efficient solution to address this market gap. Availing these capabilities helps the industry to drive down associated product costs from prototyping to mass manufacturing, and accelerate their time to market.
“When you think of working in a lab on an initial prototype, and spending a few hours to set up and align a single device for measurements, it seems feasible,” says Dr Jeffrey Lam, STAr’s general manager & VP of engineering. “It is not the case, however, in high-volume SiPh manufacturing, where time- and effort-intensive methods are not practical, and time-to-market is a critical factor. This has inhabited the rapid adoption of SiPh, a challenge we aim to effectively address with methods and strategies that have a unique relative emphasis on accuracy, throughput and test flexibility through our combined SiPh Wafer Test approach.”
The technology shift in the form of SiPh demonstrates the potential for measurable gains in speed, power efficiency and density. The first wave of the SiPh revolution is poised to roll over to data-centers around the world with optical interconnects that break the barriers set by copper wire, the firms say.
Shipments of SiPh transceivers for data-centers reached almost 3.5 million units in 2019, generating revenue of about US$364m from the development of transceivers for telecom/datacom applications, reckons Yole Developpement in its report ‘Silicon Photonics Market and Technology 2020’. Led by demand from global network traffic such as applications in cloud, video streaming and Internet of Things (IoT), the SiPh transceiver market is expected to reach US$3.6bn in 2025, with 24 million units shipped.
In parallel, the development of SiPh transceivers has resulted in increased demand of cost-effective wafer test solutions, enabling the industry to improve their quality-control coverage at wafer-level, potentially driving down product costs due to failures after packaging.
Since its formation in 2017, CompoundTek has accrued 20 global commercial customers and over 20 research institutes and universities spanning applications such as telecoms, automotive radar, data communications, bio-sensing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and smart sensors.