News Article

PI’s Fast Alignment Testing Technology Adds Benefits Of ACS Controls

Fast, accurate and repeatable testing requirements have in the past impeded the rapid roll-out of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and related components at cost-effective, high volume scale. Physik Instrumente has pioneered fast optimization technology and has added new algorithms and alignment-enabled controls from ACS to achieve productivity gains for large-format optic and photonic production processes. By Scott Jordan, Head of Photonics; Senior Director, NanoAutomation; PI Fellow PI (Physik Instrumente)

Physik Instrumente's (PI's) fast optimization technology has proven to dramatically improve production economics in processes as diverse as photonics wafer probing, device packaging, and chip testing and even laser and optical equipment manufacturing. The combination of speed, nanoscale performance and industrial robustness is reducing costs and improving yield worldwide.

Now the flexible combination of PI´s industrial stages and new alignment-enabled controls from ACS address additional tough throughput and yield challenges for photonics production. Large-format production processes can now be addressed, with each mechanism contributing intelligent alignment for test and assembly. This opens new possibilities for hyper-efficient systems architectures.

PI's unique optimization functionality is firmware-based, offers the unique option of parallel alignment across multiple inputs, outputs and degrees-of-freedom, and can improve process throughput by a factor of 100 or more compared to legacy approaches.


Alignment automation emerged three decades ago. In an era dominated by single-mode pigtailing applications, it was an enabler that helped eliminate costly manual submicron-alignment processes during device test and assembly.

The photonics world has advanced, though. Wafer-based photonics now drives the industry. Adoption volumes are orders of magnitude higher than in the 1997-2001 photonics boom, and the devices are quite different. For example, multiple I/Os necessitating multiple degree-of-freedom optimization, with each coupling frequently presenting non-Gaussian multimode cross-sections and interactions across channels, inputs and outputs, and DoFs. While these challenges can often be met with legacy alignment techniques, the minutes-scale times required present serious challenges for production economics.

PI's unique, fifth-generation optimization technology, now well-proven in the field after its 2016 introduction, allows simultaneous alignment across channels, I/Os and DoFs, even when they interact due to optical or geometric crosstalk. The throughput improvement of this parallelism can often exceed a factor of 100, as PI routinely demonstrates in live demonstrations at conferences. So, for example, an array-device alignment that previously took a few minutes can often now be achieved in a second or less.

PI's first implementations of this technology were in fast piezo stages and hexapods. Now its key functionality has been extended to ACS controls, bringing the benefits of ground-breaking productivity to large-format applications as diverse as photonics wafer probing, device packaging, and chip testing and even laser and optical equipment manufacturing.