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Software gives photonics designers more power

Photonics Spectra
Jul 2012
GHENT, Belgium – A new open source software platform will offer greater power and flexibility to designers of photonic components and complex photonic integrated circuits.

IPKISS, developed by Ghent University and nanoelectronics research center Imec of Louvain, is a generic and modular software framework for the parametric design of photonic integrated components and circuits. It allows designers to quickly define photonic components, directly simulate them in electromagnetic solvers and integrate them into a circuit on a photomask for fabrication. The platform also integrates with third-party simulators and can be customized for other domains related to micro- and nanoelectronics, such as microfluidics, plasmonics and microelectromechanical systems.

Internally, the component knows how to generate its layout, its input and output connections with other components, its internal circuit representations and so on. This ensures a separation between the formal specification of a component or circuit and different representations that can be derived.

Components can be defined to accept outside technology information provided by the fab, effectively allowing a design that could be fabricated in various locations. Design kits for Imec’s silicon photonics technologies are available through ePIXfab, a European foundry service for silicon photonics prototyping, and through Imec directly.

The IPKISS design approach results in a productive design cycle with little margin for copy-and-paste errors, the developers say. This contrasts with a design work flow that is static and cannot be influenced by the user, or where the user is limited to the functionality provided in a graphical user interface.

The software is available by means of a free GPLv2-licensed code base as well as through custom developer and commercial licenses. It was conceived in 2002 by the university’s Photonic Research Group and Imec as a programmable generator of mask layouts written in Python, but it has evolved significantly since its introduction. It was launched at SPIE Photonics Europe 2012 during the exhibitor product demonstrations.



The IPKISS framework is available under three open source licenses:

• For the community, a GPLv2-licensed code base will allow access to the framework at no charge. The objective of this license scheme is to encourage people to develop the IPKISS framework, so a thriving community can evolve around it.

• For the developer, a custom license with an annual fee allows the licensee to develop plug-ins and add-ons for distribution.

• For software developers who wish to incorporate IPKISS into a product and bundle a modified version of the code base with their own additions, there is also a custom commercial license; this license and its cost will be tailored to each individual case.


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