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iPronics Completes First Shipments of Programmable PICs

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Photonic computing company iPronics said it has delivered initial shipments of its programmable photonic microchips. The company, a 2019 spinout of Universitat Politècnica de València, said it completed deliveries of the plug-and-play PICs to several companies in what it called distinct sectors.

Where existing PICs have been fixed-function or application-specific in operation, the iPronics offering is the first-in-class fully programmable photonic chip, according to the company. Compared to custom photonic integrated circuits (ICs), the development time using iPronic’s SmartLight processor can be cut from 18 months to a couple of weeks, iPronics said.

“The programmable nature of this technology unlocks novel commercial applications as it allows the generation of optical functionalities in software, which critically reduces time to market and total costs for system design, prototyping, and production,” iPronics said in a statement announcing delivery of the product.

“The launch of iPronics’ SmartLight processor is a major breakthrough for the field,” said Wim Bogaerts, a professor of silicon photonics at Ghent University and a co-founder of Luceda Photonics, a developer of PIC design software. “The importance of this new technology cannot be underestimated.”

According to Bogaerts, in terms of end-user deployment, iPronics technology shares certain traits with a field-programmable gate array (FPGA) — reprogrammable semiconductor ICs that are commonly used in electronics design. Though the functionality of a photonic processor and an electronic processor are very different, Bogaerts said, the programmability of iPronics processor gives the device an equivalency to an FPGA in terms of how it can be used.

“The comparison with FPGAs should be mostly in the ‘use’ model,” Bogaerts told Photonics Media via email. “Buy a chip, program it (for prototyping or low-volume products), and deploy. This is in contrast to existing photonic chips, which are all application specific and need to be custom designed. This is severely holding back innovation in this space.

“You can compare this to the late 1980s, where the introduction of FPGAs and their like opened up digital electronics prototyping. When you look at the use model, you can see an equivalence.”

Ipronics’ first-generation chips have been dispatched to customers in the U.S. and Europe, including a multinational telecommunications and electronics company, a European-based optical networking company, and a large U.S. technology company.

Photonics Spectra
May 2023
integrated photonicsPICssilicon photonicsiPronicsiPronics Programmable PhotonicsprogrammableICsSoftwareFPGAsdevicesConsumerBusinessEuropeWim BogaertscommercialIndustry News

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