Marktech Optoelectronics has recently expanded the Silicon-based photodetector design and manufacturing capabilities of its Simi Valley, California, USA-based operations. In this interview, we talk to Barry Jones, Business Unit Manager of Marktech West, about this expansion and what it means for Marktech customers.
We’ve seen in recent industry news that Marktech Optoelectronics has expanded its Simi Valley, California, operations to focus on Silicon-based photodetector design and manufacturing, including Silicon avalanche photodiodes (Si APDs). Tell us, what factors have led to the Marktech decision to increase the West Coast production capacity of your Silicon-based photodetector lines?
Since our founding in 1985, Marktech has been traditionally known for emitters. We’ve gained worldwide recognition for those products and remain proud of that pedigree. At the time of Marktech’s initial expansion into SWIR and upper end infrared detector manufacturing a few years back, we were still sort of operating in customer reactive-mode. Our strategy and focus at that time was exclusively on the design and manufacture of custom SWIR-based detectors to customer exacting standards, versus introductions of a standard “one size fits all” range, or introductions of other technologies, like Silicon.
Upon noticing an increasing number of customer requests centring around SWIR, however, we foresaw both perfect timing and a great match for the introduction of a standard SWIR InGaAs-based detector line. From there, we saw new opportunities in Silicon-based technologies, including Silicon avalanche photodiodes. Also important for us at the time of our expansion into these areas was the fact that –due to many years of successful custom detector development—Marktech had already acquired a certain level of tangible confidence in our capabilities to effectively apply these technologies to standard detectors, as well as to support customers and strengthen the market via off-the-shelf ranges. We knew that we could offer quality products and extensive applications support. The time was right. And here we are.
Marktech Optoelectronics' SWIR Emitters. (Photo courtesy of Marktech Optoelectronics.)
Because of our early successes on the custom detector side, that growth in detectors was somewhat self-sustaining. Custom projects were keeping us plenty busy. Even today, customers come to us for custom Silicon photodetectors that they cannot get anywhere else, including drop-in replacements for various end-of-life products. Our largest market differentiator for Silicon custom detectors remains, even today, that depth and breadth of our R&D and applications engineering expertise. It is truly unmatched, and it’s a real source of pride for us.
Another pull-through benefit for Marktech customers of our enhanced detector manufacturing capabilities is the vertical integration of our supply chain. This allows us to better control detector product quality, lead times, and costs. It also helps Marktech to mitigate any risks of component obsolescence which can come with a buy-and-resell part. As a result, we now have the full in-house capabilities to customize detectors in any size or quantity. This includes smaller jobs and prototype volumes. It also allows us a means of hybridization, where we can mix a detector and an emitter, for example, or otherwise integrate new technologies in different ways. The added design flexibility that such integration affords us now allows us to offer even greater capabilities to our customers.
What types of Silicon photodetectors does Marktech manufacture in-house?
There are several. First, we have Silicon photodiodes and Silicon phototransistors, with spectral sensitivities from 350 nm to 1100 nm, for visible and NIR applications requiring low noise, high speed and high sensitivity. We have a new UV-enhanced version of these products, with improved spectral sensitivities in the 150 nm to 570 nm range. All the Silicon wafers and chips we manufacture are optimized to ensure uniform, consistent performance and high reliability for their intended application. Marktech further offers them with several cost-effective customization capabilities. A few examples include operational voltage selection, wavelength specific band-pass filtering, and hybridization. We also offer GaP Schottky photodetectors, specially optimized for high-accuracy UV photodetection up to the visible spectrum, 150 nm to 550 nm. We manufacture InGaAs PIN photodiode chips, in active area sizes from 0.1 to 3.0 mm, with spectral sensitivities from 600 nm to 2600 nm. And finally, Marktech offers foundry services for the epitaxial growth of high-reliability SWIR epiwafers of 1.0 μm to 2.6 μm cut-off wavelength, with InP material as the base substrate. We offer those in 2", 3" and 4" diameters. Marktech remains one of only a few companies in the world offering SWIR.
Marktech Silicon Photodetectors. (Photo courtesy of Marktech Optoelectronics.)
What are the two biggest application trends in photodetectors that Marktech has seen over the last 5 years? How has Marktech responded to those trends, with new products, capabilities, etc.?
If we had to pick the two biggest growth markets for Silicon-based photodetectors, they’d be security and LIDAR. With our application successes in LIDAR, we’ve seen a lot of manufacturers expressing interest. Factory/industrial automation and robotics are also strong markets for us. Marktech has also been involved in several photodetector projects dealing with biofluorescence, where our products are used to help the customer to identify various chemical compounds and materials.
What are the specific advantages to the customer of choosing Marktech Optoelectronics for the design, manufacture and supply of Silicon-based photodetectors?
With nearly 35 years in this business, Marktech has developed a unique wealth of manufacturing experience. This includes all the necessary in-house design, test and customization capabilities to produce virtually any product, for virtually any application, in virtually any sized volumes. As both a US-headquartered and veteran owned business, Marktech has particularly strong experience in the medical and military sectors, and in design and manufacturing to meet stringent industry guidelines and standards. Industrial controls would be another strong area for us. We’ve found that, because of our pedigree on these types of custom projects, more customers are hearing about us through word-of-mouth and are proactively seeking our expertise.
What type of Silicon photodetector packaging options are offered by Marktech? Which are standard, and which are custom? What are some applications which would call for a more custom package? How do Marktech’s lead times compare for standard vs. custom?
Marktech Silicon photodetectors are typically packaged within a variety of transistor metal case styles, in sizes from TO-46 to TO-5. Any TO metal can is standard. For our surface mount detectors, 0805, 1206, PLCC-4 and PLCC-6 packages are standard. We also offer optoelectronic modules for simplified application integration and evaluation. In terms of something more custom, an example would be our integration of multiple emitter types within a single package. In that scenario, some standard TO metal cans and surface mount types could allow us to use them in combination. Another common customization example for us might be something like a customer asking us to build something unique, such as a surface mount detector with a certain dimensional footprint. Whatever the requirements, chances are, we’ve seen it before and can guide the customer effectively through it.
In terms of standard product lead times, we’re pleased to offer off-the-shelf detector quantities via our global distribution partner, Digi-Key Corporation. Thanks to their fantastic support, a standard Silicon photodetector model in stock can be in a customer’s hands in anywhere from next day to six weeks. Custom Silicon detectors, in pretty much any quantity, are typically available in 8-12 weeks from prototype approvals. Another advantage that our expanded manufacturing affords us at Marktech is the capability to design and manufacture a single piece custom detector prototype, as a customer test sample before larger production runs. Particularly when it comes to higher-volume customization, verifications of actual product performance within the intended installation environment can really translate into time and cost savings for the customer. Scrap and rework costs are immediately reduced, as are the risks of unforeseen customer time-to-market delays due to installed component design and performance issues.
Tell us a bit about your foundry services. How long is the wafer design and production process, and how do Marktech’s capabilities compare to those of other industry foundries?
Marktech’s foundry services, operating from our Simi Valley, California, facility, are for the Silicon-based epitaxial growth and chip processing of Silicon-based detectors, primarily single element. As far as chip processing, I don’t think there’s another U.S. manufacturer who does our sort of smaller volumes, with full in-house design capabilities, at such competitive pricing. Our current capabilities include 4” custom Silicon wafers. We have future plans to expand into 6” wafers, in response to market demand.
How many facilities does Marktech have? How long has the Simi Valley facility been in operation? How do the capabilities of the Simi Valley manufacturing operation compare to those of other Marktech Optoelectronics facilities?
Marktech has three fully dedicated facilities. They are in Albany, New York; Simi Valley, California; and Kawasaki, Japan, respectively. Each facility offers its own specific product expertise, combined with complementary services that support one another operationally.
Our Albany, New York facility is our corporate headquarters, through which all inquiries and customer communication flows. It is home to our sales and marketing, R&D, product design, engineering, testing, application services and warehousing departments. It also contains state-of-the-art optical and electrical characterization equipment.
Our Simi Valley, California, facility, established in 2015, produces our standard and custom Silicon-based detector chips and wafers. The facility supports small-, medium- and large-volume production runs. It further specializes in prototyping, as well as custom component and assembly manufacturing.
Our Kawasaki, Japan, facility, housed in two separate buildings, handles the higher-volume production and manufacturing of both our near-IR components and assemblies, as well as materials. The first building specializes in both emitter and detector packaging. The second building is our wafer lab, specializing in SWIR and InGaAs/InP detectors.
All three facilities work together seamlessly to support the customer, with our corporate headquarters serving as the epicentre for all customer-facing communications. The process typically begins at our New York facility. A customer will first contact our corporate headquarters, either with a new product idea; a way to improve the efficiency of an existing product; or, for assistance with their product design and manufacturing. Our next process step is product prototype conceptualization and development. Once a design is finalized through its customer revision stages, we then send it to the appropriate facility for test sample manufacturing, depending upon technology type. Product samples are then tested by our R&D team and shipped to the customer. Upon approval of prototype samples, virtually any-sized volume runs can be accommodated with competitive lead times.
What other plans does Marktech Optoelectronics have on its horizon for future product line or manufacturing operational growth?
Over the years, Marktech has found that the fruits of our success lie in our capabilities to truly listen and respond to customer needs. As a result, our standard product portfolio is ever-evolving and entirely customer-driven. So, whether those customer needs call for a drop-in replacement for another industry end-of-life product, or perhaps a complex custom detector, our team is highly agile and therefore always ready to introduce new products and solutions to meet those needs.
About Barry Jones
Barry Jones joined Marktech in 2014 with more than 34 years of experience in the design and manufacture of optoelectronic detection and RF microelectronic devices. Barry has overseen the design and construction of several microelectronic production facilities for the optoelectronic industry, including several clean rooms, and has experience in the setup of high-volume microelectronic assembly lines overseas. Before joining Marktech, his positions included CEO, general manager, and board member of Pacific Silicon Sensor, Inc., and production and operations manager at Centro Vision Inc.
About Molly Chamberlin
Molly Chamberlin is the president of Embassy Global LLC, a 100 % woman-owned integrated strategic technical marketing, PR, business development, and management consulting firm. Now in its tenth year, the firm remains exclusively focused in science, energy and technology disciplines, including and especially, sensing, photonics and optoelectronics. Ms. Chamberlin has 20 years of worldwide industry experience as a strategic marketing and growth expert in sensors, photonics and electronic components. Prior to founding Embassy Global in 2008, she was the global director of marketing for PCB Piezotronics, now part of MTS Systems Corp.
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