As currently practiced, packaging of individual optoelectronic components accounts for 40-50 percent of product cost. The development of higher-volume, lower-cost optoelectronic manufacturing technologies must take place in order to accelerate the installation of optoelectronics in lower-speed and shorter-distance networks, such as telecommunications, computer, and video applications for both defense and commercial systems.

The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices and fabrication and packaging described herein were developed by the Boeing Company to address needs for the coupling of single-mode optical components for military and commercial applications. The company has demonstrated for the first time a fully integrated wafer-level processed active fiber-optic micro aligner (AFMA). These MEMS devices are capable of large force and displacements with submicron accuracy. The technology is covered by three patents (Nos. 5,606,635, 5,602,955, and 5,553,182).

Schematic of the Active Fiber-Optic Micro Aligner. Components of the embedded micro-actuator include the X- and Y-counteract springs, and the bimorph.

One of the principal reasons more applications of photonic (all-optical) devices and optoelectronics are not seen in the consumer and business marketplace is the lack of reliable cost-effective and easily implemented fiber optic alignment and bonding to discrete optoelectronic and photonics devices. The problem is the need to align optical components and fiber optics with submicron (<1× 10-6 m) precision in less than 0.1 minute, with the cost per aligned fiber optic significantly less than the device to be pigtailed. This submicron or nanometer precision is even more critical for the more efficient lensed fiber optics.

MEMS-based actuation during the manufacturing of packaged-fiber optically coupled optoelectronic devices would meet the cost-per-alignment requirements. This AFMA technology can satisfy this need short-term while at the same time solving problems associated with the realization of the all-optical photonic system.

Schematic of an Array of Active Fiber-Optic Micro Aligners.

The primary application for active fiber micro-actuators is highly cost-effective in-package alignment and coupling of single-mode fiber optics (single or multiple fibers) to laser diodes in small packages. The process works with lensed or unlensed fibers and is polarization-preserving. Other applications include single-mode fiber optic backplane connectors and a multiple-fiber-optic connector.

The Boeing Company has fully developed fabrication, testing, and packaging methods for the AFMA devices. Currently there are several more active fiber optic components and methods that the company has disclosed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The Boeing Company is currently developing business relationships with companies interested in applying Boeing Co. technologies to their products. If actively interested, please contact Dennis Donahue, Marketing Manager, Licensing; MC 306-1285, PO Box 516, St. Louis, MO 63166; (314) 234-7093; fax: (314) 232-4313; .