Automated PM-fiber array assembly with high-precision four DOF alignment
Polarization maintaining fibers arrays are key enablers to process high bandwidth data, representing a powerful part within the photonic integrated chip technology. The different channels increase the information density and allow to multiple singles through one fiber bulk at the same time. Due to fiber's small dimensions (ø125 mm) they can be integrated in existing infrastructure easily and are very flexible at the same time. However, the compact design together with the flexible material properties demands for new precise tools and technologies to reach the necessary precision during packing. The Fraunhofer-Institute for Production Technology IPT develops, together with their partners Phix and Aixemtec, new handling and assembly tools, as well as processes as one of the leading companies in this field. In the self-developed assembly cell, the fiber handling tool-head operations automatically to pick up, manipulate and tack single fibers to a glass plate or fiber to chip. Each fiber is moved by a portal robot within the assembly cell with micrometer accuracy but also can be rotated with a repetition accuracy less than 0.01°. Advanced illumination units observation techniques allow to package fibers arrays much quicker and more robust than before. Therefore, additional camera systems and material characteristics are used to develop smart alignment routines. As a result, the observation of the orientation of the PM-fiber core as well as the fiber layout during the assembly process leads to high quality products within fast production cycles. Due to the flexible construction of the assembly call also PIC packaging and fiber-to-chip coupling is possible.