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Background

Integrated photonics is a digital key-enabling technology in which The Netherlands has a leading position. By integrating photonics on a chip level (Photonic Integrated Circuits, PICs) many new and improved applications can be realised in healthcare, energy transition, automotive, agrifood and IT, in combination with electronic chips. PICs form the heart of the worldwide internet infrastructure. From big sea cables to server racks in datacentres. Photonics is an important measuring principle in many types of sensors. By integrating these chips (PICs) sensors are becoming smaller and cheaper. Therefore, they are very suitable to use in the “Internet of Things” where many data is being collected and combined.

Project definition

The MEKOPP project has a direct impact on making production of PICs sustainable by reducing production defects. There is a potential to save 50% on materials, energy and water usage. Indirectly the results of this project will contribute to market adoption and scale up of PICs. This key technology is the spine of all digital communication from data centres to 5/6G wireless networks. Integrated photonic chips can reduce up to 80% of energy consumption.

The goal of the MEKOPP project is to create a “sustainable economic growth by making metrology equipment market ready for efficient and sustainable production of photonic integrated chips, supporting the digitalization and energy transition”. Integrated photonics (also known as Photonic Integrated Circuits, PICs) is the key enabling technology which consists of chips that work with light (photons) instead of electricity (electrodes). Photons are much more efficient than electrons. The two machines which will be developed (a Photonics Test Prober and a Photonics Visual Inspection Tool) the consortium expects a revenue in 2030 over €100 million a year. That will create more than 400 new jobs in the East NL region.

The state-of-the-art machines which will be developed in this project are the building blocks for smart industry. They use artificial intelligence, machine learning and big-data techniques to optimally perform and improve. These machines will be connected to other machines in the whole supply-chain to adjust production processes to one another. The Netherlands has a leading position in developing machines for the Semiconductor Industry, production of PIC’s and development of products based on PIC’s. In the MEKOPP-consortium these competencies come together via partners to obtain world-wide market leadership of metrology equipment. A market growth is expected of 21% – 31% for PIC’s each year. This growth market is very appealing to the consortium.

Project organisation

To realise the social and economic potential of PICs the MEKOPP consortium the MEKOPP consortium has a main goal to solve the critical bottleneck in the production network.

This is realised through:

  1. Fast and accurately visual inspection of photonic Wafers, Bars and Dies.
  2. Short term simultaneous photonic-electronic testing of Wafers, Bars and Dies.

These solutions will lead to identifying defects in different production steps by PIC producers so only non-defect PICs (known good die) can go through to the next production step. Production processes can be optimized with available measuring data resulting in less defects and an increased yield. In time this will lead to at least a 50% reduction in energy consumption, deduction of machines and waist.

To achieve the MEKOPP consortiums’ goal two dedicated PICs state-of-the-art test machines will be developed:

  • Photonic Test Prober (PTP) which measures chips
  • Photonic Visual Inspection Tool (PVIT) which will do a litho-check.

The PTP and PVIT machines that will be developed within this project can achieve a relative substantial market share in a fast-growing market. The revenue of these first generation will be used for re-investment to further develop the machines to keep our leading position and to expand it. We expect for 2030 €101 million revenue at a 20% margin.

Next to strengthening the machine building industry in NL where e.g., ASM International, ASML, BESI and other equipment builders make use of, also a boost will be given to the Dutch photonics industry. The Netherlands is worldwide leader in integrated photonics with ecosystems around Eindhoven, Twente and Delft. By developing better metrology equipment close to the Dutch PIC companies such as LioniX International, Smart Photonics, PhotonFirst, EFFECT photonics, VTEC and PHIX they will gain advantages sooner. The Dutch photonics ecosystem will receive a boost.

Partners

Cooperation between various partners is key to have a successful result. This emphasises again the gained expertise in Semiconductor market which is now being translated to a new market segment. Together we can cover risks so innovation can take place faster than with our competitors. To achieve the goals and realise results we can profit from our cooperation advantages partners with a variety of expertise are represented in our consortium.

 

IMS > Development activities where high accuracy in positioning is required. Development of mechanics and frame as also all necessary steps to achieve system integration. Production and validation of the end product.  The overall project management. Testing during development in combination with market members and as OEM organise the go to market.


Masévon Technology > Machine production facility specialised int he production of complex machines and machine parts. Their activities range from design to assembly and installation. These machines are used for i.e., Semicon, coating and scientific instruments.


Settels Savenije > Supplier for high tech equipment, systems and components. Activities include engineering, prototyping, low and middle high production series of modules and components applicable to for example cleanroom environments.


Nobleo Technology Nobleo Technology > Realisation of software for automatic inspection of photonic chips (PIC’s).


Technolution > Development of new products, systems and techniques on the basis of electronics, software systems engineering and project management competencies. Technolution provides their customers of a prototype to product, including supply chain management and LifeCycle management. Technolution also develops their own products for defense industry, low-latency video/image distribution for hospitals, AI based sensors for smart cities and smart mobility.


TNO >  National knowledge institute with an expertise centre for Semicon, in which photonics is also represented. TNO’s goal is to bridge low TRL developments to businesses. They do this with research and development commissioned by, or in partnership with projects like MEKOPP.


PITC > Technology institute that is founded by PhotonDelta, TU/e, UT and TNO. Its goal is to bridge academic research and industrial applications in the area of Integrated Photonics. They achieve this by conducting industrial research in partnership with industrial and academic partners and by facilitating access to advanced equipment which is needed for this.


LioniX International > Develops and commercialises silicium nitrate-based waveguide technology (TriPlex) for several applications and is leading in photonics.


Workfloor > Develops and sells software modules that interact with Manufacturing Execution Systems.


Salland Engineering > World-wide leader in Test Technology & Engineering. They specialize in solutions and services to improve efficiency and quality of testing with semiconductor producers.


Berenschot > A consultancy company that supports High Tech NL with grant proposal writing, project management, and facilitates cooperation between companies and growth of ecosystems.


High Tech NL > A nationwide community organisation for the High Tech equipment industry and focussed on semiconductor front- and back-end equipment as also applied markets like Health Care, Agrifood, Automotive and Telecom.