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SMART Photonics moves from 3-inch to 4-inch wafers

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Image credit: SMART Photonics

The Dutch foundry SMART Photonics has announced that it has significantly scaled its production of photonic chips by transferring its entire production capability from 3-inch to 4-inch wafer substrates. The company says it is one of the first integrated photonics foundries offering 4-inch InP wafer production, and that the resulting doubling of production rate translates to a lower price per chip, accelerating their commercial rollout.

The worldwide demand for photonic integrated circuits is expected to grow substantially for years to come. The main drivers for this growth are telecom 5G/6G applications and datacentre upgrades to 800G and beyond, in preparation for widespread adoption of AI applications. New developments such as LiDAR in the automotive industry, and quantum key distribution as an enabler for advanced internet security, will also play a key role in driving the volumes up.

“Purchasing, installing, testing and qualifying the new 4-inch processing equipment was a huge effort, so we are very excited that we have succeeded in taking this important technological step forward,” said Guy Backner, chief operating officer of SMART Photonics. “It’s not just about the sheer number of wafers produced; the larger wafer substrate will now enable us to better meet the number of optical chips needed in the market, and at a competitive price level that will help to fulfil our ambition of becoming a world-leading player in integrated photonics.”

In July 2023, SMART Photonics secured funding of €100 million from strategic industry and financial players such as chip equipment supplier ASML and chipmaker NXP. The funding included €60 million in public financing as part of the PhotonDelta-approved National Growth Fund project. According to SMART Photonics, this latest round of funding will enable it to accelerate its development, strengthen its Process Design Kit capabilities and extend its manufacturing base.

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