EV Group (EVG), a supplier of wafer bonding and lithography equipment for the MEMS, nanotechnology and semiconductor markets, today announced it has received multiple orders for its comprehensive portfolio of manufacturing equipment and services designed to address the burgeoning demand for wafer-level optics (WLO) and 3D sensing. The market-leading portfolio comprises the EVG 770 automated UV-nanoimprint lithography (UV-NIL) stepper for step-and-repeat master stamp fabrication, the IQ Aligner UV imprinting system for wafer-level lens molding and stacking, and the EVG 40 NT automated measurement system for alignment verification. EVG’s WLO solutions are supported by the company’s NILPhotonics Competence Center, which leverages field-proven process and equipment know-how to support emerging photonic applications and significantly shorten time to market through fast process implementation and optimization, as well as through customized equipment design.
Using imprint lithography and bond-alignment technologies to fabricate microlenses, diffractive optical elements and other optical components at the wafer-level provides numerous benefits. These include lowering cost of ownership through highly parallel fabrication processes, as well as enabling smaller form factors of the final devices through stacking. EVG is both a pioneer and market leader in nanoimprint lithography and micromolding with the largest installed base of tools worldwide.
“We are seeing a steep increase in the demand for equipment enabling wafer-level optics,” confirmed Dr. Thomas Glinsner, corporate technology director for EV Group. “Since the beginning of this year alone, we have shipped multiple systems for lens molding and stacking as well as metrology to major WLO manufacturers for high-volume production. Such orders are further strengthening EVG’s position as the market leader in this area, while creating a wealth of new opportunities in emerging applications.”
Industry-leading device makers have recently announced plans to broaden their business targets in the sensing space to help address customers’ increasingly aggressive time-to-market windows. According to market research and strategy consulting firm Yole Développement, more than a dozen types of sensors are being designed into next-generation smartphones. These include 3D sensing cameras, fingerprint sensors, iris scanners, laser diode emitters, laser rangers and biosensors. Overall, the optical hub is expected to grow from $10.6 billion in 2016 to $18 billion by 2021, showing a compound annual growth rate of more than 11 percent.
Demand for EVG’s WLO manufacturing solutions is driven in part by the need for novel optical sensing solutions and devices for mobile consumer electronics products. Key examples include 3D sensing (essential for more authentic virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) user experiences), biometric sensing (increasingly critical for security applications), environmental sensing, infrared (IR) sensing and camera arrays. Other applications include additional optical sensors in smartphones for advanced depth sensing to improve camera autofocus performance, and micro displays.
“There is undoubtedly a highly sustainable trend emerging in wafer-level optics and 3D sensing,” stated Markus Wimplinger, EV Group’s corporate technology development and IP director. “We foresee even broader adoption of this technology in the near future due to the large number of ongoing customer projects supported by our NILPhotonics Competence Center located at our corporate headquarters.”