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Micro-transfer printing: boosting large scale integration of diverse materials and devices

Posted on: 02 Jun 2016

Micro-transfer printing: boosting large scale integration of diverse materials and devices

Tyndall National Institute, Cork, Ireland is leading a European consortium, called TOP-HIT, to develop novel technology that will address the challenge of integrating components of different materials in large volumes at the semi-conductor scale. 

The TOP-HIT (“Transfer-print operations for heterogeneous integration”) consortium uses micro-transfer printing (μTP), a technology that allows you to take a set of devices out of one semiconductor wafer and print these sparsely onto another wafer, transferring potentially many thousands of devices in each single transfer operation. 

Schematic view of the micro-transfer print (µTP) process

The following gives an example of how this technique can be used. You may take a small platelet of an expensive material, pick it up with a “stamp” (think of that platelet as being the ink attached to the stamp) and transfer it (“print it” ) with that same stamp  onto a larger surface of another (cheaper) material, and then carry out all the electrical and optical waveguide interconnections on this second material. Or, you may print light emitting devices (such as light emitting diodes or lasers) onto a material that is more suitable for electronic signal processing. It is even possible to print several types of devices onto the same substrate material to combine for example light sources, detectors and signal processing all on the same platform. A “system-on-a-chip”, a complex photonic integrated circuit combining devices made of different materials, can be built up in this way. Printed platelets are typically a few microns thick, and can be printed with a placement precision of about 1 µm. 

Schematic view of an array of coupons ready for pick-up by the printing stamp

Mr. Brian Corbett, Principal Investigator at Tyndall and coordinator of the project explained: “The transfer print process, by combining diverse optical, electronic and other functional materials, opens up an enormous range of possibilities for new devices with embedded functionality. This will lead to more compact chips and systems for a variety of applications, such as telecommunications, smart sensing, biomedical sensing and data storage, but the key breakthrough will be the application of micro-transfer-printing to address the challenge of integrating non-compatible components in large volumes at the semiconductor wafer level, eliminating the need for current inelegant integration processes such as wire-bonding.” 

The TOPHIT project is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme for Smart System Integration: it is to run from 2015 to 2018 and is worth over €5M. 


The partners who are located in several European countries, provide complementary expertise: X-CELEPRINT (Ireland) is a manufacturer of transfer printing equipment and provides the printing expertise. Its equipment is capable of printing many devices simultaneously. IMEC (Belgium) is a large micro-electronics research centre, employing over 1,500 people. It has its own X-CELEPRINT equipment and provides the silicon photonics platforms that form the basis for the photonic products. CALIOPA HUAWEI (Belgium) is a leading photonics company that develops optical components and circuits for telecommunications. The Centre for Integrated Photonics (CIP, a wholly owned subsidiary of HUAWEI, United Kingdom) develops indium phosphide (InP) based components and circuits for telecommunications applications. X-FAB (Germany), the leading analog/mixed-signal and MEMS foundry, will develop new processes to provide wafers with components that can be transfer printed. It will add this capability to its existing portfolio of modular foundry processes. SEAGATE is a leading manufacturer of hard disk drives and storage solutions.  The Seagate facility in N-Ireland ships more than 500 million read-write heads annually. TYNDALL (Ireland) co-ordinates the project, and provides designs and components that can be transfer printed by X-CELEPRINT onto platforms provided by IMEC and X-FAB.

For more information please see the TOPHIT project website at:

About Tyndall National Institute
Tyndall National Institute is a European leading research centre in integrated ICT (Information and Communications Technology) hardware and systems. Specialising in both electronics and photonics – materials, devices, circuits and systems – Tyndall works with industry and academia to transform research into products in its core market areas of electronics, communications, energy, health, agri-food, and the environment. With a network of over 200 industry partners and customers worldwide, it is focused on delivering real impact from excellent research. Tyndall at University College Cork, Ireland, employs over 460 researchers, engineers and support staff, with a full-time graduate cohort of 125 students. The institute generates over 230 peer-reviewed publications each year. It has experts at designing, miniaturising and prototyping products that are driving connectivity in the application of the industrial internet. Tyndall is the lead institution for the Science Foundation Ireland funded Irish Photonics Integration Centre (IPIC).

About IMEC
The Photonics Research Group (PRG) is an associated laboratory of IMEC. IMEC is the Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre, a large (>1500 people) independent research centre with a strong focus on research and development for CMOS scaling (so-called More Moore technologies). In addition to that, IMEC researches a large number of complementary technologies to enhance CMOS functionality (More than Moore). Photonics in general, and silicon photonics in particular, is one of these technologies, and the key efforts of this research line are carried out by the Photonics Research Group, located at Ghent University. In TOP-HIT the PRG will be designing and realizing transfer print based high-aggregate bit-rate transmitters and receivers for optical communication applications.

About X-FAB
X-FAB is the leading analog/mixed-signal and MEMS foundry group manufacturing silicon wafers for automotive, industrial, consumer, medical and other applications. Its customers worldwide benefit from the highest quality standards, manufacturing excellence and innovative solutions by using X-FAB’s modular CMOS processes in geometries ranging from 1.0 to 0.13 µm, and its special BCD, SOI and MEMS long-lifetime processes. X-FAB’s analog-digital integrated circuits (mixed-signal ICs), sensors and micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) are manufactured at five production facilities in Germany, Malaysia and the U.S. X-FAB employs more than 2,500 people worldwide. For more information, please visit

About Caliopa
Caliopa was a silicon photonics start-up created in 2010 out of IMEC and Ghent University (UGent). After successfully bringing its first product to market, the company was acquired by Huawei in August 2013. Caliopa works in close collaboration with IMEC both for its technology development and for its Silicon Photonics component prototyping. Caliopa is developing optical transceivers for data- and telecom applications. Using Silicon Photonics these transceivers have many advantages over traditional optical transceivers. First of all they are smaller and more integrated which contributes to a higher port density in optical network equipment. Secondly, they consume less power, which is key to reducing the operational cost of running optical networks. Within the project, Caliopa is responsible for the design of the optical transceiver circuits which are required for the smart system demonstrators. These circuits will be designed to allow the transfer printing of the active devices developed by the other partners.

About CIP
CIP Technologies ( is a UK-based Photonics organisation based at Adastral Park, Ipswich and is focussed on research and development of InP optoelectronic chips for use in current and future optical communication products. Before the acquisition by Huawei in 2012, CIP Technologies was an early stage contract R&D organisation with origins back to British Telecom (BT) labs, with a reputation as a world-class incubator in fibre optic transmission and carried out world-leading cutting edge research work in this high technology area. Huawei ( is a global leader of ICT solutions. Continuously innovating, based on customer needs, it is committed to enhancing customer experiences and creating maximum value for telecom carriers, enterprises, and consumers. Huawei’s telecom network equipment, IT products and solutions, and smart devices are used in 170 countries and regions.

About X-Celeprint
X-Celeprint ( delivers the most cost-effective and scalable manufacturing technology for integrating microscale devices such as lasers, LEDs or integrated circuits onto non-native substrates. A wholly owned subsidiary of XTRION N.V., X-Celeprint works globally with multiple corporations to adapt its micro-transfer printing technology for their specific applications. X-Celeprint is headquartered in Cork, Ireland, with facilities within the Tyndall National Institute.

About Seagate
Seagate Technology Public Limited Company designs, manufactures, and sells electronic data storage products in the Asia Pacific, the Americas, and EMEA countries. It provides hard disk drives, solid state hybrid drives, solid state drives, PCIe cards, and serial advanced technology architecture controllers that are designed for enterprise servers and storage systems in mission critical and nearline applications; for client compute applications comprising desktop and mobile computing; and for client non-compute applications, such as digital video recorders, personal data backup systems, portable external storage systems, digital media systems, and surveillance systems. The company also provides storage subsystems and high performance computing solutions, as well as data storage services, including online backup, data protection, and recovery solutions for small to medium-sized businesses. In addition, it ships external backup storage solutions under its Backup Plus and Expansion product lines, as well as under the Samsung and LaCie brand names. The company sells its products primarily to original equipment manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Seagate Technology Public Limited Company was founded in 1979 and is based in Dublin, Ireland.