Optical sensing and imaging are becoming central to consumer and automotive applications. In this context, the optical element market was worth $4.7B in 2018 for these two applications as described in our Light Shaping Technologies for Consumer and Automotive Applications 2019 report. They are expected to be worth $8.8B in 2024. Emerging in the 1980s within Philips, Anteryon has developed various optical technologies, relying on glass, polymers, adhesives, micro- and nanotechnologies, and mechatronics. Alexis Debray, Optoelectronics Technology and Market Analyst at Yole Développement, had a chance to sit down and talk with Marno Panis, Development Lead at Anteryon B.V., about the opportunities and challenges from these new applications, technologies, and from globalization. Read on to find out more.
Alexis Debray (AD): Can you please tell us about the history of Anteryon? Where does the company come from?
Marno Panis (MP): Anteryon’s roots are within Philips, where in the 1980s Compact Disc (CD) players were developed. These complex opto-mechanical systems require very precise laser spots and hence high quality, or diffraction limited, aspheric lenses. Furthermore the high temperatures inside a CD player required stable, glass based lenses. At the time a low cost/high quality technology to produce such lenses was not available. The resulting development was that of the hybrid lens, a glass body with a ‘replicated’ polymer correction layer. This technology and our knowledge of design and assembly of complex opto-mechanical systems are now part of our DNA. Nowadays, the aspheric lens technology is applied in 3D scanning systems, optical encoders and solutions for LiDAR systems.
Since 2001, Anteryon has developed and produced wafer optics, based on the knowledge of replication technology. With wafer optics, hybrid aspheric lenses can be made and packaged on wafer scales. This addresses the increasing need for micro optics like micro lens arrays (MLAs), camera lenses and small projector modules for mobile applications. It is an exciting growth market for Anteryon and a reason the company was in 2019 acquired by WLOPT in which China Wafer Level CSP CO (SHA:603005) is the main shareholder. We now have a strong foothold in China with the headquarters for the industrial market still in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.
AD: Anteryon is mastering optical systems at many scales, from nanometer to macro size, using various technologies. What is the size of the company? What is your business model?
MP: Anteryon employs about 170 people in Eindhoven of which about 30 are in our R&D department. The China facilities are currently ramping up and are expected to be fully operational in Q1 2020. Anteryon provides a one-stop shop for development and production. Co-design with customers results in unique customer-specific devices that are engineered and produced at Anteryon in Eindhoven or Suzhou, China.
AD: Anteryon is a master in wafer level optics and multilayer stacked optical assemblies for image sensors and VCSELs. One of the main applications of this technology is 3D imaging for smartphones. It is expected that the market for 3D sensing units for smartphones will reach 7 billion units in 2024. How do you address the challenge of mass production for this market?
MP: High volume production requires significant investments in infrastructure and equipment. Currently, a 10,000m2 factory with ISO class 5 cleanrooms is being installed in Suzhou, China, very close to WLCSP factories. The aim is to combine wafer-based technologies for producing small modules for 3D sensing and next generation consumer electronics.
AD: Again about wafer level optics, Yole Développement predicts growth for the VCSEL market from 1.3 billion units in 2019 to 3.7 billion units in 2024. In what applications do you see the best opportunities for Anteryon?
MP: The combination of VCSEL light sources and micro-optics create very strong new applications in the field of illumination, structured light for 3D sensing and time-of-flight applications. The key role is for micro lens arrays, creating well defined light output by homogenizing or structuring the light emitted by VCSELs.
AD: Anteryon is performing glass replication. The market for optical elements in augmented reality head-mounted displays (AR HMD) is expected to reach $1 billion in 2024. Is Anteryon involved in this business? What are the other main applications and challenges for glass replication?
MP: Various forms of AR/VR and also Head Up Displays (HUD), a related application, exist. A promising variant is that in which the image is build up using laser light and a 2d scanning MEMS mirror. Before hitting the mirror the laser light needs to be collimated, which requires high quality aspherical optics. Our hybrid lenses are the most cost effective way to achieve diffraction limited lenses in volume.
Another common part in AR/VR systems is the light guide. Micro structures eg. Volumetric Holographic Gratings (VHG) or Surface Relief Gratings (SRG) play a key role in coupling the light in and out of the light guide. Wafer based replication will play a key role in manufacturing these components.
AD: Adhesives seem to be gaining importance in optical assemblies. Could you comment on this trend? What are the materials, trends, and applications?
MP: Indeed adhesives are critical in optical and opto-mechanical assemblies. The main reason for this is the required position accuracy within the sub-micron range. Stability over environmental conditions are key, requiring very stable adhesives. High volume production requires short cycle times, and fast curing adhesive systems.
AD: Our readers are maybe less familiar with opto-mechatronic assemblies. Could you briefly describe this technology and its main applications?
MP: Opto-mechatronic systems are systems in which optics, mechanics and electronics come together. Usually, the core of these systems consist of light sources and detectors, and the mechanics provide the steering of the light beams. Signal processing requires electronics and software, usually integrated in the module. Well known examples are laser scanners, range finders and leveling devices. Future scanners will include 3D and spectral sensing.
AD: Anteryon is automotive qualified. How does it impact the company, both as an opportunity and as a burden?
MP: Making the steps towards automotive qualification raised Anteryon’s quality system significantly, improving not only the operations, but the generic company processes as well. It does not come for free, it takes effort to keep that level but it provides an excellent base for future quality improvement.
AD: China has gained a major position, both economical and technologically. How do you see China in terms of opportunities and threats? What is the actual development status of optical components and systems in China? How can Europe remain competitive in the optical domain?
MP: Anteryon focuses on both industrial and consumer applications. Consumer applications require high volume production capability close to customers. That is where our Suzhou facility plays an important role. Industrial applications are mainly with our customers in Europe. To have development and production on one site is an important strength here. Both locations use each other’s strength to create a world-wide business, and hence a win-win situation. In Europe we can maintain competitiveness by innovation, based on a strong network of universities and institutes, and strong interfaces with industry. In the optical domain, new materials, design methods and production technology can create a strong base for new applications.
Marno Panis, development lead, obtained a MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Twente, the Netherlands. He worked on the development of electro-acoustic transducers for Sonion and later joined TE Connectivity to work on millimeter wave technology and fiber optic solutions. In 2018 he joined Anteryon where his focus has been on opto-mechanical assemblies and hybrid optics for LiDAR applications.
Alexis Debray, PhD is a Technology & Market Analyst, Optoelectronics at Yole Développement (Yole). As a member of the Photonics, Sensing & Display division, Alexis is today engaged in the development of technology & market reports as well as the production of custom consulting projects dedicated to the imaging industry.
After spending two years at the University of Tokyo to develop an expertise focused on MEMS technologies, Alexis served as a research engineer at Canon Inc. During 15 years he contributed to numerous projects of development, focused on MEMS devices, lingual prehension, and terahertz imaging devices.
Alexis is the author of various scientific publications and patents. He graduated from ENSICAEN and holds a PhD in applied acoustics.
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