MEMS Make It Big?

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One year ago, Xros made a big splash at the OFC conference by unveiling an optical switch that broke the 1000x1000-port barrier for the first time. It later transpired that only a small proportion of Xros's switch was actually operational at the time (see Xros's OFC Splash Was All Wet).

Since then, a large number of vendors have crawled out of the woodwork with similar plans for 1000x1000 optical switches based on 3D MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). But still nobody has been able to come close to demonstrating such a switch in operation, let alone shipping one.

This state of affairs is reflected in the announcements of MEMS-based switch developments at this year's OFC, which were relatively subdued. They included:

  • Agere Systems exhibited the 64x64 MEMS-based switch module it announced in February (see Agere's 3D MEMS Switch 'Not First'). While Agere's demo is clearly ahead of what Xros was able to show, the company won't say who may be sampling the module, nor when it might release something bigger.

  • Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) didn't have the switch on site, but spokespeople told Light Reading that samples of a new 256-port optical crossconnect are scheduled to hit customer labs sometime in the second quarter of this year -- possibly as early as April or May. If Corning lives up to its claims, it could own the largest optical switch module in the world -- that is, if it delivers.

  • Integrated Micromachines Inc. (IMMI) says it hopes to build a 1,000-channel crossconnect switch that fits into a single rack sometime next year. To make this possible, IMMI plans to use a new technique for scaling its switches (see IMMI Claims MEMS Breakthrough). "We integrate electrical drive circuits underneath each mirror," says Steve Walker, IMMI's 3D program manager. He says this design allows each mirror in the MEMS setup to be independently directed by software commands sent over a serial bus linked to the underlying circuits. And since each mirror is separately manipulated, complex peripheral electronics are eliminated.

  • OFC turned out to be a dud for one MEMS switch maker -- OMM Inc., which pulled out of the show several weeks ago, after initially boasting of plans to best Agere at OFC.

-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 8:41:22 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? Hi all,

I believe Lucent showed their 1296 mirror (36x36) MEMS device at OFC. It certainly exists! Take that XRos...

laserboss 12/4/2012 | 8:41:16 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? those companies had working doemo as well. Just wondering about what ohter people thought of it. IMMI has only 1x1 working demo! How could it be a leader in 1k x 1k...is it that easy???
redface 12/4/2012 | 8:41:14 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? The IMMI MEMS technology is magnetically actuated. At OFC, I was surprised to see the size of the die for one mirror. It is probably 2mmx0.5mm. It is pretty huge.
bobbywong 12/4/2012 | 8:41:11 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big?
I have heard several switching technologes: all optical, O-E-O, MEMs and even bubbles.

Speed is most important in switching. Can MEMs which relies on mechanical movement be possibily faster than electronic ckt?

Anyone has any thought on the switching speed comparision between MEM system and O-E-O sytem in similar size and class?

Belzebutt 12/4/2012 | 8:41:09 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? In a router the MEMS switching speed would matter, but for a cross-connect it's more than sufficient.
manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 8:41:05 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? Yep, Belzebutt's got it. MEMs can do route switching and re-arrangement but is not sensitive enough to packet switch a la a router.

y2k 12/4/2012 | 8:41:00 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? "The IMMI MEMS technology is magnetically actuated. At OFC, I was surprised to see the size of the die for one mirror. It is probably 2mmx0.5mm. It is pretty huge." - redface

Was also at the show. Talked with the engineers who were at the IMMI booth. These guys are making very big mirrors, at least 2 mm.

They use single crystal silicon and electromagnetic drive so that they can get less than 3 dB insertion loss that is scaleable all the way from 1x1 to 1Kx1K and they use less than 1 volt drive voltage (instead of 150 volts for electrostatic).

They also said that they are concentrating on MEMS/ASIC integration, i.e., putting ASIC under the mirrors to eliminate all external electronics. That way, they don't have to connect 10's of 1000 of wires to the mirrors. They also said that with ASIC integration, they can greatly reduce the footprint and put two copies of 1Kx1K in one telco rack.

Sounds difficult. Will this stuff ever work? I also didn't see any demonstration of 1Kx1K. May be more smoke than mirrors, may be not.

These guys are definitely worth watching. Anybody else knows anything?

switchrus 12/4/2012 | 8:40:58 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? What are these "big" switches aiming for on insertion loss and switching speed ?
Peter Heywood 12/4/2012 | 8:40:54 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? Manoflalambda - Agere is the name of Lucent's microelectronics division. IE, we didn't forget Lucent, as usual.
manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 8:40:52 PM
re: MEMS Make It Big? The big OOOs are looking at 3-6 dB for the core switch and the loss for whatever terminations, splitters, monitors and combinated surround it.

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