Quantum X align

3D-aligned nanofabrication
drives innovation in photonic packaging

On fibers and on chips

Optimized hardware and workflow to print on standard or customized fiber arrays and photonic chips

Nanoprecision 3D alignment

Substrate topography measurements and 3D alignment on chips and on fibers with nanoprecision

Optical grade 3D-printing

Sophisticated freeform microoptics with highest shape accuracy and surface roughness down to ≤ 10 nm

Highest resolution 3D printer with nanoprecision alignment system

Quantum X align enhances Nanoscribe’s field-proven 3D Microfabrication technology based on Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP) by adding high-precision alignment capabilities for highly accurate placement of printed structures. Print freeform microoptics directly onto optical fibers or photonic chips with submicron accuracy using this highest resolution 3D printer with nanoprecision aligned 3D printing capabilities. Produce efficient optical interconnects for photonic integration and photonic packaging or miniaturized imaging optics, e.g. for minimally invasive endoscopy.

Front view of our Quantum X align system
Align, print, done

Packaging of integrated photonic circuits (PIC) or miniaturized medical devices requires tedious placement and active alignment of the various microoptical elements to each other. Quantum X align simplifies this process: Optical interfaces on photonic chips or fiber cores and their spatial orientation are automatically detected, and freeform microoptics or diffractive elements are printed directly in place, taking tilt into account. Thus, the complexity of the process chain is reduced and assembly tolerances are relaxed while enabling even more compact devices. The often costly active alignment is no longer necessary.

Align to optical fibers and photonic chips

The automatic 3D fiber core detection system and automatic tilt correction guarantee precise alignment and lowest coupling losses when printing onto single cleaved fibers or v-groove fiber arrays.
Quantum X align also features a confocal imaging module for 3D mapping of substrate topographies and fully automatic 3D alignment to predefined markers or waveguides. This makes Quantum X align the perfect 3D-aligned nanofabrication tool for 3D printing microoptical elements directly onto surfaces or facets of photonic chips and thus for photonic packaging processes in industrial manufacturing.

Align to your ideas

The two-photon lithography systems with nanoprecision 3D alignment, coupled with a powerful and user-friendly workflow, also opens up new opportunities for 3D Microfabrication beyond microoptics. From microfluidics to complex sensor systems or MEMS: Quantum X align is the perfect two-photon lithography tool for high-precision direct laser writing, automatically positioned with highest precision onto complex 3D substrates, even on tilted or angled structures.

 
Technical features in brief
  • High-performance direct laser writing with automatic precision alignment
  • 3D printing on fibers: Precisely aligned printing on the facets of optical fibers based on fiber core detection
  • 3D printing on chips: Precisely aligned printing on the surface or facet of chips based on 3D substrate topography mapping
  • 3D alignment: Automatic detection and compensation of substrate tilt in 3 rotation axes
  • Smart slicing for high-speed microfabrication
 
Printing processes and workflow
  • High-precision 3D printing based on Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP)
  • Easy and robust setup with Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL)
  • Feature size control down to 100 nanometers
  • Aligned 3D printing at predefined positions

Free Space Microoptical Coupling

Free Space Microoptical Coupling (FSMOC) offers a highly robust and efficient light coupling solution for photonic packaging and integration. Freeform microoptics fabricated directly on the optical interface of chips or fibers enable tailored beam shaping and mode field adjustments. This leads to relaxed alignment tolerances between optical elements and eliminates the need for active alignment, e.g. for fabricating optical interconnects. FSMOC is flexible in use and can be easily tailored to meet application specific requirements. Even previous mode field adjustments at the chip level can be transferred to the new 3D printing approach.

  • Cost efficient photonic packaging strategy
  • Relaxed alignment tolerances for passive alignment
  • Achievable coupling losses down to ≤ 1 dB
  • Easy and quick adaption to new requirements and applications

Facts and figures on Quantum X align

  • Key Features
  • Designed for
  • Specifications
  • Downloads
  • High-precision 3D printing of microoptical elements onto fiber arrays and chips
  • Automatic alignment system with nanoprecision in all spatial directions
  • High-precision fiber core detection based on fiber illumination unit
  • Confocal module for 3D topography detection and precise alignment on chip and chip facets
  • Automatic substrate tilt recognition and print adjustment in 3 rotation axes
  • Smart slicing for optimized resolution, precision and speed
  • Substrate holders for customized or standard fiber arrays and photonic chips
  • Automated self-calibration routines for most accurate laser power control and positioning
  • Touchscreen and remote control software ensure high usability

Rapid Prototyping and high-performance small series production of precisely aligned freeform microoptics

  • Lensed fiber arrays for optical interconnects
  • Imaging and beam shaping optics on single fibers or fiber arrays
  • Optical interconnects on integrated photonic chips
  • Beam shaping or light collection on integrated photonic chips

Designed for pioneers and innovators in research and industrial manufacturing in

  • Integrated photonics
  • Photonic packaging
  • Medical instrumentation
  • Optical sensing
  • Quantum technology
Benchmark scores
3D alignment precision 1 down to 100 nm  (xy) / 500 nm (z)
Surface roughness Ra down to ≤ 10 nm
Shape accuracy Sa ≤ 200 nm (ISO 25178)
Feature size control 2 down to 100 nm
Typical processing time 20 min for 8x lensed fiber array
Achievable coupling losses 3 ≤ 1 dB
General system properties
Printing technology

3D printing based on Two-Photon Polymerization (2PP)
Dip-in Laser Lithography

Substrates

Fiber arrays (v-groove)
Single cleaved fibers (single-/multimode)
Photonic chips (unmounted/TO can)
Wafers from 1” to 6” (25.4 mm to 150 mm)
Glass, silicon, other transparent and opaque materials
Further form factors on request

Photoresins

Nanoscribe IP Photoresins (polymers printing)
Open for third-party and custom materials

Maximum print area 50 x 50 mm²

Given values may vary depending on the photoresin and structure geometry.
1 Detection accuracy depends on selected method
2 100 nm feature size control in all spatial directions
3 Best case for typical applications, depending on design, substrate quality and measurement method

Joost van Kerkhof, Chief Operations Officer of PHIX Photonics Assembly

Portrait of Joost van Kerkhof, Chief Operations Officer of PHIX Photonics Assembly
We are confident in Nanoscribe’s new, aligned 3D printing technology for producing lensed fiber arrays and lensed chips with virtually limitless optical designs.

Quantum X align
Align your print job with our software

Simple but powerful workflow

Working with Quantum X align is straightforward. Prepare your print job with our advanced PC software and enjoy the smart user interface. Import your designs as STL files and define which substrate and alignment methods are to be used. Print parameters for standard structures and materials are available out of the box and can be tailored to your application. Evaluate new applications with test runs on plain wafers with parameter sweeps in a very short time.

Easy to set up: Quantum X align provides adaptable substrate holders for cleaved single fibers, fiber arrays and photonic chips. It is possible to load single or multiple substrates. The process itself benefits from the simplicity of Nanoscribe’s Dip-in Laser Lithography technology: The liquid photoresin is applied onto the substrate and the objective lens directly dips into it, without the need for spin-coating or oil-immersion setups.

Start your print job via the touchscreen: The intuitive touchscreen menu of Quantum X align easily guides you to successful printing. Register the starting positions on each substrate, double check using the high-resolution live camera view and start your print job. The system will then automatically perform submicron alignment depending on your configuration.

After printing, the unused resin is removed by simply rinsing with organic solvents. There is no need for thermal treatment as known from other lithography technologies. This ensures maximum compatibility with your existing process chain and avoids adverse effects to the optical devices on your chips.

Stay connected with nanoConnectX: Start and monitor your print job from the office with the remote access software nanoConnectX. The Quantum X system is therefore well equipped for production environments and multi-user scenarios.

Workflow facts

  • Software based workflow
  • Touchscreen
  • nanoConnectX

The software is specially designed for creating complex print jobs requiring nanoprecision alignment tasks. Import your .stl files, select parameters for substrate, printing and alignment methods on fiber, on photonic chips, or any defined topography of your substrate. Print jobs can be transferred to your Quantum X align by network connection.

Key features Benefits
3D CAD model import Intuitive workflow generates suitable print job files from standard STL or OBJ files
Print parameter presets Ready-to-use preset parameters to achieve optimal printing results on fiber arrays or photonic chips
Alignment parameter presets Parameters for standard v-groove fiber arrays, and typical waveguides on photonic integrated circuits are available out of the box
3D print preview Avoid mistakes and get immediate feedback
Smart slicing Print with the resolution that your design requires: Optical grade surface finishes with highest resolution and coarsely written support structures in one print file

Control and monitor the system using the Quantum X align front panel touch screen, the graphical user interface (GUI). It guides you to a successful print in just a few steps. Select your print project, then load your substrate and start printing.

Key feature Benefits
Three live cameras  Monitor the printing process online from three perspectives and always be up to date on the current status of your print job
Stage control in x, y and z direction   Move the stage to any position on the substrate to define your print area
User-friendly print setup Select resin and substrate, and start the print job with just one click
Project list Keep track of the entire print job history
Automatic interface finder Identify the interface of the substrate with submicrometer accuracy
Coarse alignment Register the coarse initial position of the substrate with a tap on the touchscreen, for subsequent automatic alignment

nanoConnectX is the remote access software for the Quantum X systems. It brings all the functions and display capabilities of the touchscreen to any computer connected online.

Key feature Benefits
Remote access to the system Connect Quantum X align to your computer, no matter where you are
Use all features of the touchscreen Prepare, control and monitor your print jobs from any location
Upload and download print jobs and reports Take advantage of a direct access from your computer to print-related files

Check out how
3D-aligned nanofabrication comes about...

How does aligned printing on the facet of optical fibers work?

With the fiber illumination unit, the fiber core can be easily located using the Quantum X align touchscreen. First, the print field on the fiber array is defined by manual coarse alignment with a double-tap on the touchscreen. Then, Quantum X align automatically detects the position of the fibers with submicron accuracy and also corrects for the tilt of the substrate in all spatial directions.

For this, the autofocus routine first detects the surface of the optical fiber. Next, the system identifies the illuminated fiber core and marks the center of the core as the origin of a virtual coordinate system to which the print object is aligned. The virtual z-axis and its orientation in space is determined by moving the substrate downwards and identifying the position of the fiber core on multiple positions along this vertical movement of the stage. As a result, the optical axis orientation is detected and set as the virtual z-axis for a tilt compensated printing of microoptics with submicron precision.

aligned printing on the facet of optical fibers

What role does hardware play in the fiber printing workflow?

To support the fiber printing workflow, Quantum X align is equipped with a red LED fiber illumination unit. Up to 32 individual fibers with standard PC or APC connectors can be plugged into this unit. The specially designed fiber substrate holder secures single fibers or fiber arrays and can load up to four fiber arrays at a time. Once inserted into the printer, the illuminated fiber cores can be easily identified using the live microscope view on the 18.5-inch touchscreen of Quantum X align. A double tab on the screen allows the stage to be moved to any position within the 50 x 50 mm² print area. A crosshair can be activated to facilitate the rough alignment on the screen, and intuitive gestures let you zoom in and out on the screen.

How can complex objects with optical quality surfaces be printed at the highest speed?

The new workflow can load multiple .stl or .obj files and merge them to one single print object. This enables the user to set individual print parameters, such as slicing, hatching, laser power or scan speed, for each individual part of the print object. As a result, support structures can be printed faster with coarse parameters, whereas optical parts such as the surface of a lens can be printed with finer settings that result in a surface roughness (Ra) of 10 nm and even less. Of course, predefined print parameters are available out of the box but can also be customized to fit the design and specific requirements. The individual parts are then merged to one print project and uploaded to Quantum X align.

Adjusting print parameters to the functional requirements of the print object saves valuable process time and enables Quantum X align to process an 8x V-groove fiber array in less than 20 minutes.

groove fiber array

Why is a confocal unit used for automatic topography alignment?

Quantum X align features a high precision confocal imaging module for 3D mapping of substrate topographies. This module is integrated into the beam path of the near-infrared printing laser. The laser beam is scanned over the sample surface and the back-scattered light is confocally detected by the system. High resolution 3D topographies are recorded by moving the stage vertically and repeating surface scans multiple times along the z-axis. A spatial filter pinhole in front of the detector ensures that only light from the focal plane is detected, resulting in a lateral detection accuracy down to 100 nm. Thus, the confocal module measures real 3D topographies and is more precise than image-based measurements using the system camera.

SLR1 automatic topography alignment

How are optical components aligned and printed onto a photonic chip?

The 3D alignment of the print object is based on the high-resolution 3D topography mappings by the confocal unit. For the precise alignment of optical components on a photonic chip, smart software algorithms automatically identify predefined markers and topography features. Thus, the exact position and orientation of the waveguides on the chip can be determined. A virtual coordinate system is then set to the exit of the waveguide, perfectly aligned with its optical axis and orientation. The desired optical components are printed with respect to this coordinate system, ensuring best optical performance and minimizing coupling losses. This enables efficient light coupling by Free Space Microoptical Coupling (FSMOC).

how optical components are aligned and printed onto a photonic chip

How does Quantum X align overcome the challenges of printing on the facet of photonic chips?

Printing onto a chip’s facet from top, i.e. perpendicular to the substrate surface, is a challenging task and requires not only a precise positioning system but also smart solutions to overcome the “shadowing effect”: When printing onto a facet, a substantial part of the intensity in the focal point of the printing laser is lost, because the light is partly blocked by the edge of the substrate. Close to the substrate wall the shadowing effect is more prominent and requires higher exposure doses. Quantum X align automatically compensates for this effect using a patent-protected process and dynamically adjusts the exposure conditions during printing. This results in microoptics and other print objects written onto the facet of a substrate with submicron shape accuracy.

how Quantum X align overcomes the challenges of printing on the facet of photonic chips

What range of different substrates can be used?

Nanoscribe’s substrate holders guarantee a precise fixation and enable to print on the facet of single fibers, fiber arrays and photonic chips. Furthermore, standard substrates such as microscope slides and wafer formats from 1” to 6” can be easily processed. The advanced interface finder of Quantum X align includes two complementary modes for reflection and fluorescence detection of the substrate surface. In combination with the Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL) configuration, a wide range of reflective (e.g. silicon wafers), transparent and opaque substrates (e.g. glass and polymer substrates) can be used.

lensed fiber array from PHIX

What are the unique advantages of the proprietary Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL)?

Dip-in Laser Lithography (DiLL) is the standard printing configuration of Quantum X align. Nanoscribe invented this technology for 3D Microfabrication with the highest precision and the lowest aberration on the market. In this configuration, the objective lens is immersed in the photoresin, which also serves as an optical immersion medium. The refractive index matching between the focusing optics and the print material guarantees ideal, aberration-free focusing with the highest resolution in 2PP-based 3D printing. Furthermore, the writing laser is not focused through the substrate (e.g. oil immersion configuration), but writes the print object directly onto the substrate. Consequently, the working distance of the focusing optics does not limit the height of the 3D-printed object, which is especially beneficial for printing macroscale objects.

Why is it so easy to integrate Quantum X align into production environments and multi-user facilities?

The advanced autofocus system reliably finds the interface of any substrate with maximum accuracy and repeatable print results. Three live-view cameras facilitate process control and monitoring. An automatic dispenser applies the correct amount of photoresin onto the substrate, reducing workload and enabling remote operation. To simplify switching between hardware configurations, the Quantum X align automatically detects the printheads and substrate holders. Quantum X align software controls and monitors print jobs in real time and supports intuitive operation through an interactive touchscreen control panel, or remotely from the office via the remote access software nanoConnectX. This remote access also simplifies the work of entire user groups, e.g. members of a research group or a department, with a single or multiple systems, each of them accessing the Quantum X align from their own computer.

Man working remotely with Quantum X align

What site conditions do our devices need for optimal operation?

Quantum X align is the ideal tool for high-speed 3D Microfabrication of objects with submicron feature sizes, surface roughness profiles of 5 nm and less and nanoscale precision. This highest precision in 3D printing can only be exploited to the maximum by taking some precautions with regard to the system itself and the installation site. Quantum X align should have its fixed place in a room with stable room temperature and humidity. The printer comes with a heavy granite base to reduce the influence of vibrations and temperature fluctuations of the environment. Nevertheless, it is important to install the high-precision printer in a location that minimizes external vibrations. For the handling of the UV-sensitive photoresin outside the printer, we recommend to equip the room with yellow light and to meet basic requirements of a chemistry lab to handle organic solvents for the print development process properly.

If you would like to get an idea of how the Quantum X align work environment can look like, contact us and visit our Microfabrication Experience Center here at Nanoscribe or book your online tour.

Quantum X align
Connect to the photonic world

Aligned 3D printing.


We would be pleased to prepare a customized offer for you.
For this, please clarify the details with our sales experts.

Nanoscribe's Quantum X align system

Interested in validating our technology and products for your projects? Schedule a Quantum X align product demo (available from April 2022) or book a feasibility check of your design (check printing on fibers available from February 2022, check printing on chips available from October 2022).

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