SMART Photonics scaling up to 4-inch wafer production that doubles the production capacity, realising a lower price per chip

25 January 2024

Eindhoven, Nederland, 24 January 2024 – SMART Photonics, the Dutch photonic chipmaker, is taking an important step in becoming the leading foundry for next generation chips. The Dutch foundry has significantly scaled up its production of photonic chips by transferring its entire production capability from 3-inch to 4-inch wafer substrates. Confirming its technology leadership, SMART Photonics is one of the first Integrated Photonics Circuit (PIC) foundries offering 4-inch InP wafer production. The resulting doubling of production rate translates in a lower price per chip, accelerating the commercial roll out of the foundry’s photonic chips.

The worldwide demand for photonic integrated circuits is expected to grow by double digits for years to come. The main drivers for this growth are Telecom 5G/6G applications and Data Center upgrades to 800Gb/s and beyond, in order to get ready for AI (Artificial Intelligence). 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.

In general, 4-inch wafers contain nearly twice as many chips as 3-inch wafers. “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 giant ASML and chipmaker NXP Semiconductors. The funding included €60 million in public financing as part of the National Growth Fund plan PhotonDelta. This latest round of funding enables SMART Photonics to accelerate its development, strengthen its Process Design Kit capabilities and extend its manufacturing base as the company continues to mature.

The 3 to 4-inch transition was made possible as well thanks to the support of the European Union’s Interreg North-West Europe project “OIP4NWE” (NWE 758).

About SMART Photonics

As a foundry for integrated photonic circuits, SMART Photonics offers solutions for data and telecommunication, as well as for sensing – such as Lidar – and medical applications. SMART Photonics aims to be the leading foundry for integrated photonics, creating innovative products that improve people’s lives.
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