Compared to the devices typical of the telecom revolution of two decades ago, today’s typical Silicon Photonics (SiP) devices present more channels, smaller form factors, and exponentially higher production quantities. Transverse alignment tolerances well below 50nm are common, and multi-channel inputs and outputs necessitate at least an additional theta-Z alignment in order to optimize and balance the couplings across the input or output array. Very often the theta-X and theta-Y orientations must be optimized as well, and Z gaps must be set by vision or by contact sensing, or by a waist-seeking approach in lensed applications.
These multiple degree-of-freedom alignments confront the engineer with vexing geometrical interactions, such as de-alignments in X and Y when an angular adjustment is performed about an imperfectly-placed pivot point. And today’s short SiP waveguides often exhibit a steering phenomenon, where adjustments of the input coupling result in deflections of the optimum coupling at the output, rendering the overall alignment a moving target. Together, these properties have traditionally necessitated a looping, iterative approach to converge on a global optimization— a very time-consuming process.
PI’s Fast Multichannel Photonics Alignment (FMPA) engines integrate novel, firmware-based algorithms that allow multiple linear and angular digital gradient search alignments to be performed simultaneously, in parallel. Each gradient search provides efficient, repeatable alignment on its own, but with FMPA, a global optimization across all the inputs, outputs, and degrees of freedom can reduce to one quick step. Alignment-process throughput improvements exceeding 1- to 2-orders of magnitude are commonplace versus previous alignment technologies.
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