Photonics manufacturing is at an inflexion point. Demand for high-power solid-state industrial lasers is on the rise driven by their rapid adoption in materials processing applications such as cutting, welding, and drilling. As a result, the unit demand for high-power laser diodes, which are the pump engines inside the solid-state lasers, has multiplied rapidly. Manufacturing of high-power laser diodes in volume brings a unique set of technical and commercial challenges that can be addressed by automation. The need for throughput, flexibility, and precision is of paramount importance. Our cover story this month describes an automation solution for die bonding, which is a key process in the production of high-power laser diodes (see article).
Datacenter, Industry 4.0, and personalized healthcare applications also boost demand for miniaturized and integrated photonic components that offer solutions for sensing, data transmission, data processing, and science. A German consortium called PolyPhotonics has developed a modular technology platform for integrated photonics based on polymer chips with optical waveguides, along with passive and active components. In this issue, our European Contributing Editor Andreas Thoss describes the customized design and simulation procedures, as well as automated manufacturing and alignment systems, that the consortium has developed with its partners (see article). The resulting set of “building blocks” have been applied in systems ranging from multiplexers and transceivers to tunable lasers for terahertz and analytical applications and interrogators for fiber Bragg grating sensor systems.
Also in this issue, Contributing Editor Jeff Hecht lays out the indispensable role of optics in the rollout of future 5G networks (see article). Though the article notes that advances in silicon integrated circuits have steadily decreased the cost per bit for electronics, it emphasizes that the cost per bit of optics has not decreased as rapidly. We also cover trends in femtosecond amplifiers: titanium:sapphire vs. ytterbium (see article), and maximizing cytometer performance with optomechanical stabilization (see article). As always, I hope you enjoy this issue.