Ghent University and Imec release IPKISS design software for integrated photonics

Brussels, Belgium--Ghent University and Imec have launched an open-source photonics software platform called IPKISS, which is a generic and modular software framework for parametric design of photonic integrated components and circuits. The software platform is made available free of charge by means of a GPLv2-licensed code base, a custom developer license, and a custom commercial license.

What is this IPKISS software framework?
IPKISS was originally conceived in 2002 by the Photonic Research Group of Ghent University and Imec as a programmable generator of integrated-circuit mask layouts (in the so-called GDSII format) written in Python, but has since then evolved significantly. Now, its main use is the design of photonic components and complex photonic integrated circuits. In IPKISS, a designer can quickly define photonic components, directly simulate them in electromagnetic solvers, and integrate them in a circuit on a photomask for fabrication. In addition, IPKISS integrates easily with popular third-party simulators.

While currently most applicable to photonics, IPKISS is conceived as a generic and flexible framework. IPKISS can be customized for use (and is already used) in many other domains related to micro- and nan--electronics (microfluidics, plasmonics, MEMS, and so on).

IPKISS is based on scripting in Python, which makes it easy to learn and extremely flexible in use. Through Python scripting, the user specifies in an analytical manner how a component is represented in terms of parameters. Internally, the component knows how to generate its layout, its input/output connections with other components, its internal circuit representations, and such. This ensures a separation between the formal specification of a component or circuit and different representations that can be derived (for example, a mask layout in GDSII, a 2D or 3D model, or a circuit model).

Components can be defined to accept outside technology information provided by the fab, effectively allowing a design that could be fabricated in different locations. Design kits for Imec’s silicon photonics technologies are made available through ePIXfab, a European foundry service for Silicon Photonics prototyping and through Imec directly for customized photonic IC development.

The IPKISS design approach results in a productive design cycle with little margin for copy-and-paste errors -- which contrasts with conventional static design workflows that cannot be influenced by the user, or in which the user is limited to the functionality provided in a graphical user interface. Users of IPKISS will have access to a powerful and flexible software platform that can catalyze their research with a relatively small incremental effort.

This software platform is now made available free of charge to the broad community.

The IPKISS framework is made available under different open source licenses.

--For the community: A GPLv2-licensed code base of IPKISS will allow access to the framework free of cost. The objective of this license scheme is to stimulate the people in developing on the IPKISS framework, so a thriving community can evolve around the framework.

--For the developer: A custom license at a modest annual fee that allows the licensee to develop plug-ins and add-ons for distribution.

--For custom commercial use: This license is targeted as software developers who wish to incorporate IPKISS into a product, and therefore bundle a (modified) version of the code base with their own additions. This license and its cost will be tailored to each individual case.

Further information on the platform can be found on

(Note: The IPKISS platform will be launched at SPIE Photonics Europe 2012 – Exhibitor Product Demonstrations, Tuesday April 17th, 1:30PM.)

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