Innofocus: intelligent 3D laser nanofabrication for all disciplines

Frank  Yao, Executive Director and CEO, Innofocus Photonics, InnofocusFrank Yao, Executive Director and CEO, Innofocus Photonics
2021 is another extraordinary year, with pandemic becomes a new norm and many century changes surrounding us, business needs more agility, wisdom and innovation to survive. Located in Melbourne, Innofocus Photonics Technology PtyLtd experienced the record long (>240 days) “lockdown”. Under the special permit for companies in the advanced manufacturing sector, Innofocus’ business experienced least impact.

In fact, the market needs for intelligent laser nanofabrication has become even stronger with continuousordersreceived on NanoPrint3D equipment. In the meantime, the lockdown period allows us to devote more time onconductingR&D activities, growing our capability to delivery higher quality products and services.

In particular, after a couple of years’ intensive research, in 2021, we launched the world first 3D laser nanofabrication device with in-situ refractive index imaging functionality called Holo View 3DRI system. This advancement represents a major breakthrough in laser nanofabrication sector, allowing on-line inspection of the fabrication outcomes and on-site correction of fabrication conditions. It greatly reduces the time span required for photonic device fabrication and characterisation and in the meantime significantly increases the fabrication accuracy and reproducibility.

Knowing the exact refractive index change and their 3D distribution induced by femtosecond pulses ensures the devicefabrication followsexactly the same way one designs with minimum uncertainty. It is particularly advantageous forhigh precision waveguide, fibre Bragg grating(FBG), artificial tissue scaffold and other photonic device fabrication, where refractive index change is the fundamental mechanism. We expect this unique function can significantly accelerate the deployment of 3D laser nanofabrication device in industry photonic device fabrication for communication and sensing applications.

Our Customer Innovation & Practice Centre (CIPC) has been continuously engaged with our customers. In fact, we have been extremely busy developing concepts, designs and fabrications with worldwide researchers and enterprises. The way 3D laser nanofabrication can advance photonics, sensing, energy harvesting, agriculture and biomedical devices have been beyond our imagination.

For example, advanced graphene sensors with unprecedented sensitivity and responsively can be harnessed through crafting nano and microstructures together with material intrinsic characteristics; long-lasting antibacterial and antivirus surfaces can be constructed by encapsulating chemicals inside fabricated nanopatterns and extremely high efficiency solar light harvesting films can be nanoprinted.
The more we work with our clients on these innovative applications, the more we understand how we can better design our equipment and services to serve our customers from various disciplines with minimum needs for pre-knowledge of laser fabrication.

Recently, Innofocushas been participatinga number of large-scale exhibitions and symposiums, including the SPIE Photonics Asia 2021 and the COS Academic Conference 2021 to showcase our advanced photonic fabrication and device solutions. We have received overwhelming positive feedback and product enquiries. In particular, the need for femtosecond laser fabricatedFBG grows very rapidly.

FBG is a common device used in all optical communications, high power fibre laser and multiparameter sensing, featuring a $4b market by 2026 (Fiber Bragg Grating (FBG) Market Report 2021). Traditional FBGs, relying on standing wave method, excimer laser single pulse writing or phase mask method, are complex, expensive, non-flexible and suffer from low stability.Femtosecond FBG has emerged recently as a strong competitor. Itis fabricated byshort-pulsed femtosecond laser combined with precise mechanical control to write the grating point by point. The key advantages are the high stability of the grating under extreme operation environment and the unlimited flexibility of the fabrication method. Basically this method can fabricate gratings of any design in various fibres by controlling the moving speed of the laser. Therefore, femtosecond FBGs promiseenormous applications replacing conventional FBG in communications, sensing, and high power lasers.

Despite the strong market needs, high quality, high throughput and consistentfemtosecond FBG fabrication represents a key challenge owning to the needs for high precision equipment and advanced human expertise. Innofocus’ intelligent3D laser nanofabricationsolves this challenge by fully automating the entire writing process with a one-key operating system and removing human intervention. The system can automatically identify the fiber core and fabrication location, and then track the fiber core location during fabrication, complete the manufacturing process with high precision and efficiency, so as to provide the consistency, simplicity and high yield required for R&D and large-scale industrial manufacture needs. As a result of the dramatic throughput and quality improvement, we expect the high performance femto FBG can take off and replace conventional FBG in some key areas and further deployment is possible with the cost reduction.
  • Innofocus is dedicated to developing products and solutions to enable advanced technology research and enrich happier daily life by continuous innovations.

Another steep growing marketneed is the micro optical elements for highly integrated photonic devices, including micro lens array, free form optics, metaoptical elements and diffractive optical elements. Optical integrated devices, whichcan achieve flexible control of the amplitude, phase, and polarization of incident light,are critical for information communications and computingto control the optical signals. Therefore, it has received widespread attention and has gradually become a popular research direction. According to the Moor’s law, the higher level of miniaturization, the better device integration, which meanshigher speed, capacityand potentially larger bandwidth. However, device miniaturisation requires sophisticated nanofabrication technique, which are expensive, time consuming and requires special expertise. Most important of all, conventional semiconductor fabrication techniques, including E-beam and focused ion beam, do not possess the required flexibility to fabricate3D arbitrarily shaped optical element required for full light manipulation. To this end, 3D laser nanofabrication holds special advantages, including 3D fabrication flexibility, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness. In particular, the ability to fabricate multiple materials with high resolution makes this this method favorable for high throughput, high procession micro optical element industry.

As a young start up, Innofocus is dedicated to developing products and solutions to enable advanced technology research and enrich happier daily life by continuous innovations. Our market is rapidly extending from advanced manufacturing to new energy, new materials, intelligent IoT ecosystem, and green healthcare industries. We look forward to creating greater value for both academia, industry on green energy alternative solutions, and new materials applications.