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4th PIC International Conference Achieves Record Growth

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Brussels again proves to be a great venue as more than 700 attend the co-located PIC International, CS International and SSI International Conferences, achieving record growth, global recognition and credibility.

Co-Conference Chairs, Dr Michael Lebby and Dr. Bill Ring both reflect on the fourth PIC International Conference.

"We have just finished the 4th annual PIC International Conference, and again like in 2018, it surpassed everybody's expectations, but what's more, folks are now recognizing throughout the value chain, from wafers to epitaxial growth, devices, packaging, modules and systems, to social media that PIC International is the conference to attend if your interest is Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs). We again filled all of our seats, and like last year folks from CS International and SSI attended the PIC sessions. Our annual PIC awards generated nearly 10,000 online votes and the winners in 6 categories were announced at the end of Day 1 by the European trade association EPIC. In my humble opinion, this was the best PIC International event to date, and achieved not only world class speakers, world class presentations, but also world class networking during the exhibit hours, breaks, and meal events.

The prestigious PIC industry awards, now in their 3rd year and which were voted for by the PIC industry include:

Individual Awards:
1) PIC Lifetime Achievement award - Professor Martin Schell
2) PIC Individual Contributor award - Professor Graham Reed

Company Awards:
1) Best Achievement in PIC development - VLC Photonics
2) Best Achievement in PIC platform - Lightwave Logic
3) Best new PIC-enabled product or achievement in optical-fibered modules - PHIX
4) Best new PIC-enabled product or achievement in non-optical-fibered modules: H2020-Project Cardis http://www.cardis-h2020.eu/


This year, there were over 700 delegates attending two days of jam-packed (and at times standing room only) sessions on photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that focused not only on innovative technology, but how PICs could alleviate major headaches that optical networks, datacenters, telecommunications systems, etc see today. Many talks focused on how PICs could be implemented into novel and innovative applications to move the industry forward, and keep the industry moving forward. As in 2018, one of the biggest drivers for PICs are fiber optic communications for datacentre interconnects. Facebook conveyed huge opportunities for innovative solutions for their datacentres that addressed high speed, low power consumption, innovative packaging (via co-packaged solutions), reliability, and cost effectiveness.


There were also talks that explored PIC based technologies outside of fiber optics, and those areas included bio, medical, sensing, and LIDAR for automotive applications. One of the most promising segments for PICs is 3D sensing, especially face recognition for mobile phones.

In this year's conference we brought together luminaries of the PIC industry to form 2 panel sessions; one on Day 1 to address high volume, high performance PICs for fiber communications, and another on Day 2 to explore the merits manufacturing PICs using shared foundries and pilot lines from all over the world. Panel members represented PIC design and manufacture from Japan, the USA and Europe.

The panel sessions generated interesting themes such as: PICs for datacentres is here and now, PICs for telecom growing quickly, PICs for non-communications markets growing very quickly.

The 1st panel on the 1st day emulated what was being said in the PIC talks: New and innovative solutions to PIC packaging is urgently needed. Co-packaging - a way to co-package PICs with electronics and to bring the photonics closer to the electronics to achieve higher switch capacities on a line card in a datacentre. Today, the popular solution is to use pluggable transceivers mounted into a faceplate. Tomorrow, speakers were conveying solutions to use not only on-board optics but co-packaged optics driven by PIC technological platforms.

The 2nd panel on the 2nd day that focused on PIC foundries and their eco-system. Panelists were questioned on the business aspects of running PIC foundry, the volume needed for sustainability, and the impact on MPW (multi-purpose wafers) or sharing costs so that SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) can participate. Comparisons were made with the silicon industry that has developed a strong foundry model over the past 30 years. In photonics, and in particular PICs, the photonics foundry model is developing and still in its infancy. Panelists discussed the merits of what photonic PIC foundries need to assist in success. One area that was frequently raised during both the panel and in foundry-based presentations was volume. While GaAs VCSEL based PICs are experiencing consumer success and volume activity with the application of structured light for optical sensing, other PIC based applications are not consumer based and the high volumes still have not materialized. Silicon photonics has the potential to drive costs very low with 200mm and 300mm wafers and is still looking for a high-volume vehicle. Indium phosphide PICs are on smaller wafers (75mm and 100mm) and also would like to see high volumes and even larger format wafers at 150mm.