Inphocal has its focus on the laser processing market

Martijn Boerkamp is the CTO of Inphocal and a freelance science journalist at Coolscience.

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With its optical system, Inphocal can take focused laser beams beyond their current limitations. This has caught international attention, with the team picking up an Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The HightechXL startup expects the novel laser beams to reach the market already this year.

Everyone who has ever played with a magnifying glass knows that lenses focus light. They’re used in everyday items, such as the camera in your smartphone but also microscopes and telescopes. The principles behind focusing light are well known and already taught in high school. The knowledge has been with us for hundreds of years, since the days of Galileo pointing a telescope towards the heavens and Van Leeuwenhoek discovering a microscopic world. With its application, however, also come limitations that have to be accounted for when designing a system that makes use of it.

Focused light has a wide range of uses. In the semiconductor industry, it’s being employed to separate chips from a wafer, in a process called wafer dicing. This was previously done with a saw. The rough blade, however, can do a lot of damage and to prevent this, there needs to be sufficient space in between the chips. The wasted space means fewer chips fit on a wafer and, with the global chip shortage hitting us hard, more is of course better than less. The yield can be increased using lasers, which can be focused to a very small spot on the wafer. But even this has its limitations, with the laser spot reaching a bounded small size, better known as the “diffraction limit.”

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