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Zephyr Photonics eyes high-tech markets


Optoelectronics developer, Zephyr Photonics, has set its sights on datacoms and high performance computing markets as it launches a fab and foundry business, reports Compound Semiconductor.


EARLY THIS YEAR, Zephyr Photonics launched a semiconductor fab and foundry unit. At a time when mainstream epiwafer makers are stream-lining assets and the industry consolidates, why would an organisation that has historically developed military- specification components make the bold move of launching this new business?


The Nevada-based optoelectronics developer will not exactly be turning around wafers in the thousands, like epiwafer powerhouse IQE. However, the company will exploit its ITAR-compliant, ISO:9001:2008 certified manufacturing facility to deliver high performance devices to a range of – hopefully – up and coming markets.


Boasting a ‘growing staff of PhDs’, chief executive Tom Steding says: “Our semiconductor fabrication and foundry services business includes a 10,000 square foot cleanroom, and [will] match the growing demands of fabless semiconductor companies.” So what next?


Defence focus For more than 25 years, Zephyr Photonics - previously called OptiComp - had fabricated InP and GaAs-based photonics devices for the US government. During this time the company developed a vertically-integrated manufacturing facility, honing its III-V MBE growth processes as well as fabricating and assembling harsh environment optoelectronic modules based on proprietary wide-temperature VCSELs.


“We might have used our electron beam lithography to [structure] photonic crystals or lay down a short run of integrated circuit


traces onto a structure to create a 3D stack,” says Zac Clark, director of Fab Services. “So we have this long history of processing independently from the rest of a manufacturing line... to create any kind of device.”


Come 2011, the business had been acquired by Torch Hill Investment Partners, a Washington DC private equity firm that wanted to deliver the company’s products to the wider market- place. Steding, ex-chief executive of software security business, Red Condor, was brought in to head up Zephyr, and now he believes the time has come to ramp up activity on all fronts.


As he highlights, the company has two key streams of revenue, for which its foundry services are crucial. First, its components business includes wide temperature VCSELs, detectors and optical benches, designed for harsh environments. For example, the company claims its VCSELs can operate at 5 Git/s at 150 °C or higher, enabling optical interconnects in applications beyond today’s commercial 850 nm VCSELs. And then the company also uses these components to manufacture sub-system components and modules including active optical cables and transceivers.


“Our foundry services is the factory for the components business,” says Steding. “It keeps us at the leading edge of these technologies, but also supplies these critical components to our module business.”


But where are the growing markets? Looking beyond defence applications, the chief executive believes the high-performance computing industry will primarily fuel demand for its business. As well as focusing on reducing cost per Gbit/s, this sector


Chief executive, Tom Steding, believes high performance computing will be a key market for his company.


22 www.compoundsemiconductor.net March 2013


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