Article | Published:

In situ 3D nanoprinting of free-form coupling elements for hybrid photonic integration

Nature Photonicsvolume 12pages241247 (2018) | Download Citation


Hybrid photonic integration combines complementary advantages of different material platforms, offering superior performance and flexibility compared with monolithic approaches. This applies in particular to multi-chip concepts, where components can be individually optimized and tested. The assembly of such systems, however, requires expensive high-precision alignment and adaptation of optical mode profiles. We show that these challenges can be overcome by in situ printing of facet-attached beam-shaping elements. Our approach allows precise adaptation of vastly dissimilar mode profiles and permits alignment tolerances compatible with cost-efficient passive assembly techniques. We demonstrate a selection of beam-shaping elements at chip and fibre facets, achieving coupling efficiencies of up to 88% between edge-emitting lasers and single-mode fibres. We also realize printed free-form mirrors that simultaneously adapt beam shape and propagation direction, and we explore multi-lens systems for beam expansion. The concept paves the way to automated assembly of photonic multi-chip systems with unprecedented performance and versatility.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


  1. 1.

    Baehr-Jones, T. et al. Myths and rumours of silicon photonics. Nat. Photon. 6, 206–208 (2012).

  2. 2.

    O’Brien, P., Carroll, L., Eason, C. & Lee, J. S. Silicon Photonics III Ch. 7 (Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 2016).

  3. 3.

    Lee, J. S. et al. Meeting the electrical, optical, and thermal design challenges of photonic-packaging. IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 22, 409–417 (2016).

  4. 4.

    Pezeshki, B. et al. High performance MEMS-based micro-optic assembly for multi-lane transceivers. J. Light. Technol. 32, 2796–2799 (2014).

  5. 5.

    Tian, Z.-N. et al. Beam shaping of edge-emitting diode lasers using a single double-axial hyperboloidal micro-lens. Opt. Lett. 38, 5414–5417 (2013).

  6. 6.

    Scarcella, C. et al. Pluggable single-mode fiber-array-to-PIC coupling using micro-lenses. IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 29, 1943–1946 (2017).

  7. 7.

    Snyder, B., Corbett, B. & O’Brien, P. Hybrid integration of the wavelength-tunable laser with a silicon photonic integrated circuit. J. Light. Technol. 31, 3934–3942 (2013).

  8. 8.

    Doany, F. E. et al. Multichannel high-bandwidth coupling of ultradense silicon photonic waveguide array to standard-pitch fiber array. J. Light. Technol. 29, 475–482 (2011).

  9. 9.

    Taillaert, D. et al. An out-of-plane grating coupler for efficient butt-coupling between compact planar waveguides and single-mode fibers. IEEE J. Quantum Electron. 38, 949–955 (2002).

  10. 10.

    Taillaert, D. et al. A compact two-dimensional grating coupler used as a polarization splitter. IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 15, 1249–1251 (2003).

  11. 11.

    Snyder, B. & O’Brien, P. Packaging process for grating-coupled silicon photonic waveguides using angle-polished fibers. IEEE Trans. Compon. Packag. Manuf. Technol. 3, 954–959 (2013).

  12. 12.

    Li, C. et al. Silicon photonics packaging with lateral fiber coupling to apodized grating coupler embedded circuit. Opt. Express 22, 24235–24240 (2014).

  13. 13.

    Song, J. H., Fernando, H. N. J., Roycroft, B., Corbett, B. & Peters, F. H. Practical design of lensed fibers for semiconductor laser packaging using laser welding technique. J. Light. Technol. 27, 1533–1539 (2009).

  14. 14.

    Kopp, C. et al. Silicon photonic circuits: on-CMOS integration, fiber optical coupling, and packaging. IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 17, 498–509 (2010).

  15. 15.

    Edwards, C. A., Presby, H. M. & Dragone, C. Ideal microlenses for laser to fiber coupling. J. Light. Technol. 11, 252–257 (1993).

  16. 16.

    Yeh, S.-M., Huang, S.-Y. & Cheng, W.-H. A new scheme of conical-wedge-shaped fiber endface for coupling between high-power laser diodes and single-mode fibers. J. Light. Technol. 23, 1781–1786 (2005).

  17. 17.

    He, M., Yuan, X.-C., Ngo, N. Q., Bu, J. & Tao, S. H. Low-cost and efficient coupling technique using reflowed sol-gel microlens. Opt. Express 11, 1621–1627 (2003).

  18. 18.

    Pavarelli, N. et al. Optical and electronic packaging processes for silicon photonic systems. J. Light. Technol. 33, 991–997 (2015).

  19. 19.

    Fijol, J. J. et al. Fabrication of silicon-on-insulator adiabatic tapers for low-loss optical interconnection of photonic devices. In Photonics Packaging and Integration III 157–170 (International Society for Optics and Photonics, 2003).

  20. 20.

    Modavis, R. A. & Webb, T. W. Anamorphic microlens for laser diode to single-mode fiber coupling. IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 7, 798–800 (1995).

  21. 21.

    Fang, Q. et al. Low loss fiber-to-waveguide converter with a 3-D functional taper for silicon photonics. IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 28, 2533–2536 (2016).

  22. 22.

    Dangel, R. et al. Polymer waveguides for electro-optical integration in data centers and high-performance computers. Opt. Express 23, 4736–4750 (2015).

  23. 23.

    Kawata, S., Sun, H.-B., Tanaka, T. & Takada, K. Finer features for functional microdevices. Nature 412, 697–698 (2001).

  24. 24.

    Maruo, S., Nakamura, O. & Kawata, S. Three-dimensional microfabrication with two-photon-absorbed photopolymerization. Opt. Lett. 22, 132–134 (1997).

  25. 25.

    Deubel, M. et al. Direct laser writing of three-dimensional photonic-crystal templates for telecommunications. Nat. Mater. 3, 444–447 (2004).

  26. 26.

    Malinauskas, M. et al. Femtosecond laser polymerization of hybrid/integrated micro-optical elements and their characterization. J. Opt. 12, 124010 (2010).

  27. 27.

    Cojoc, G. et al. Optical micro-structures fabricated on top of optical fibers by means of two-photon photopolymerization. Microelectron. Eng. 87, 876–879 (2010).

  28. 28.

    Gissibl, T., Thiele, S., Herkommer, A. & Giessen, H. Sub-micrometre accurate free-form optics by three-dimensional printing on single-mode fibres. Nat. Commun. 7, 11763 (2016).

  29. 29.

    Gissibl, T., Thiele, S., Herkommer, A. & Giessen, H. Two-photon direct laser writing of ultracompact multi-lens objectives. Nat. Photon. 10, 554–560 (2016).

  30. 30.

    Thiele, S., Gissibl, T., Giessen, H. & Herkommer, A. M. Ultra-compact on-chip LED collimation optics by 3D femtosecond direct laser writing. Opt. Lett. 41, 3029–3032 (2016).

  31. 31.

    Dietrich, P.-I. et al. Lenses for low-loss chip-to-fiber and fiber-to-fiber coupling fabricated by 3D direct-write lithography. In Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics SM1G.4 (OSA, 2016).

  32. 32.

    Schneider, S. et al. Optical coherence tomography system mass-producible on a silicon photonic chip. Opt. Express 24, 1573–1586 (2016).

  33. 33.

    Wörhoff, K., Heideman, R. G., Leinse, A. & Hoekman, M. TriPleX: a versatile dielectric photonic platform. Adv. Opt. Technol. 4, 189–207 (2015).

  34. 34.

    Lamprecht, T. et al. Passive alignment of optical elements in a printed circuit board. In Electronic Components and Technology Conference 761–767 (IEEE, 2006).

  35. 35.

    Fu, Y., Bryan, N. K. A. & Shing, O. N. Integrated micro-cylindrical lens with laser diode for single-mode fiber coupling. IEEE Photon. Technol. Lett. 12, 1213–1215 (2000).

  36. 36.

    Moehrle, M. et al. Ultra-low threshold 1490 nm surface-emitting BH-DFB laser diode with integrated monitor photodiode. In 22nd International Conference on Indium Phosphide and Related Materials 1–4 (IEEE, 2010).

  37. 37.

    Suzuki, T. et al. Cost-effective optical sub-assembly using lens-integrated surface-emitting laser. J. Light. Technol. 34, 358–364 (2015).

  38. 38.

    Amann, M.-C. & Hofmann, W. InP-based long-wavelength VCSELs and VCSEL arrays. IEEE J. Sel. Top. Quantum Electron. 15, 861–868 (2009).

  39. 39.

    Mack, M. et al. Method and system for a light source assembly supporting direct coupling to an integrated circuit. US patent 8772704 B2 (2008).

  40. 40.

    Preve, G. B. Silicon Photonics III Ch. 8 (Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, 2016).

  41. 41.

    Kowalczyk, M., Haberko, J. & Wasylczyk, P. Microstructured gradient-index antireflective coating fabricated on a fiber tip with direct laser writing. Opt. Express 22, 12545–12550 (2014).

  42. 42.

    Li, Z. et al. Silyl-based initiators for two-photon polymerization: from facile synthesis to quantitative structure–activity relationship analysis. Polym. Chem. 8, 6644–6653 (2017).

Download references


We thank P. Trocha for help with the high-power measurements, M. Hummel for fabricating mechanical setups, O. Speck for fibre preparation, F. Rupp and P. Abaffy for recording SEM images, S. Dottermusch for the absorption measurements, G. Göring and N. Schneider for the AFM measurements, and K. Wörhoff and A. Leinse, both at LioniX BV, for TriPleX chips. This work was supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) Project PHOIBOS (Grant 13N12574) and PRIMA (13N14629 and 13N14630), the Helmholtz International Research School for Teratronics (HIRST), the European Research Council (ERC Starting Grant ‘EnTeraPIC’, # 280145), the H2020 Photonic Packaging Pilot Line PIXAPP (# 731954), the EU-FP7 project BigPipes, the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation, the Karlsruhe Nano-Micro Facility (KNMF) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, 1173). P.-I.D. acknowledges support from the IBM PhD Fellowship Program.

Author information


  1. Institute of Microstructure Technology (IMT), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

    • P.-I. Dietrich
    • , M. Blaicher
    • , I. Reuter
    • , M. Billah
    • , T. Hoose
    •  & C. Koos
  2. Institute of Photonics and Quantum Electronics (IPQ), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Karlsruhe, Germany

    • P.-I. Dietrich
    • , M. Blaicher
    • , I. Reuter
    • , M. Billah
    • , T. Hoose
    • , W. Freude
    •  & C. Koos
  3. Vanguard Photonics GmbH, Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

    • P.-I. Dietrich
    •  & C. Koos
  4. Institute for Automation and Applied Informatics (IAI), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen, Germany

    • A. Hofmann
  5. IBM Research – Zürich, Rüschlikon, Switzerland

    • C. Caer
    • , R. Dangel
    •  & B. Offrein
  6. Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI), Berlin, Germany

    • U. Troppenz
    •  & M. Moehrle


  1. Search for P.-I. Dietrich in:

  2. Search for M. Blaicher in:

  3. Search for I. Reuter in:

  4. Search for M. Billah in:

  5. Search for T. Hoose in:

  6. Search for A. Hofmann in:

  7. Search for C. Caer in:

  8. Search for R. Dangel in:

  9. Search for B. Offrein in:

  10. Search for U. Troppenz in:

  11. Search for M. Moehrle in:

  12. Search for W. Freude in:

  13. Search for C. Koos in:


P.-I.D. designed, simulated, fabricated and characterized coupling structures and devices with help from M.Bl., I.R., M.Bi., T.H. and A.H., supervised by C.K. M.Bl. supplied advanced tools and techniques for 3D printing. M.Bi. and T.H. supported fabrication and measurement of test structures. C.C., R.D. and B.O. contributed to fabrication of test chips elements. U.T. and M.M. contributed InP-based components. Device concepts and coupling schemes were jointly conceived by P.-I.D., M.Bl., R.D., B.O. and C.K. All authors discussed the data. The project was supervised by W.F. and C.K. The manuscript was written by P.-I.D., W.F. and C.K.

Competing interests

P.-I.D. and C.K. are co-founders and shareholders of Vanguard Photonics GmbH, a start-up company engaged in exploiting 3D nanoprinting in the field of photonic integration and assembly. P.-I.D., M.B., I.R. and C.K. are co-inventors of patents owned by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in the technical field of the publication.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to P.-I. Dietrich or C. Koos.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Information

    This file contains details on the determination of surface roughness by atomic force microscopy, coupling experiments with facet-attached lenses, coupling to TriPleX chips, reproducibility and accuracy.

About this article

Publication history





Further reading