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Flexible Optical Injection Moulding of optoelectronic devices
Miniaturized, integrated photonic devices are driving an increasing number of applications, while facing pressure to lower cost and increase flexibility.
Improving the cost efficiency, flexibility and environmental footprint of the complete integrated optoelectronics workflow, can provide European industry with a key tool for excelling in advanced applications and differentiating their products, while keeping production, innovation capacity and key Intellectual Property in Europe.
The production chain for optoelectronic device manufacturing is inherited from microelectronics, which is not appropriate for novel, low cost, high efficiency photonic devices.
FLOIM concerns a new, automatized manufacturing technology for the production of optoelectronic components and the assembly of the corresponding optical system, based on the use of thermoplastic materials and the embedding of all the components into a compact and robust unique device. This technology permits to overcome current manufacturing limitations and magnifies the design possibilities.
The main goal of the project is to develop new, flexible and innovative process chains to handle complex designs that include opto-electronic functionalities, through the development of an integrated functional embedding technology based on thermoplastic injection moulding (IM).
The central concept on which the project rests is the overinjection of optical quality thermoplastic polymers directly on the active optoelectronic component, into a proper cavity that incorporates the geometrical micro and nanofeatures, which provide the polymer surface with the required optical functions.
This concept is grounded in the well-proven technology of IM for high quality plastic optics (and variants like Injection Compression Moulding, ICM), extending the capabilities of the technique to enable a single step optical embedding. This single step process will substitute a number of operations usually required in production of optoelectronics, including microoptics production, handling, optomechanics attachment, positioning, alignment and encapsulation.
As an advanced development, the project will explore the generation of complex optical functions through replication of nanostructured mould surfaces, which can produce controlled diffractive effects -from lensing to wavelength splitting- extending the design space for extraordinary innovation potential and miniaturization. This will also reduce the number of assembled components, as discrete optics like diffusers or gratings could be directly moulded into the part.
The single step optical embedding will be enabled by a series of advances, result of the research activities during the project, which are supported by the solid competences of the consortium partners in their respective fields: tooling technology, injection moulding process development, optical design, sensing, inspection and advanced control.