A unique new academic-industrial alliance between UCF and ficonTEC, a global leader in photonics manufacturing, is expected to bring a boost to the region and provide access to sophisticated industry production tools for students and faculty researchers.

ficonTEC, a German-based company with locations in Europe and the Far East, is expanding to Central Florida — joining UCF’s Business Incubation Program as a Soft Landing client and opening an Applications Lab on UCF’s main campus, inside CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics. The new lab will serve as a research and development manufacturing facility for ficonTEC, and will also be open to UCF students, faculty and local industry partners. The lab is expected to open in March.

Torsten Vahrenkamp, ficonTEC’s CEO, says the move started as an answer to interrupted global supply chains and growing demand for their products, in particular in North America where there is greater adoption of integrated photonics. The partnership with CREOL offers the added benefit of teaming up ficonTEC systems and engineers with  UCF’s faculty experts and leaders in the field.

“We could not have hoped for a better environment from which to re-launch our USA activities,” Vahrenkamp says.

CREOL students and faculty regularly produce prototypes and theoretical devices but are limited in their ability to create a functional model. ficonTEC’s Application Lab will bring the precise, advanced equipment needed to fabricate the finished prototypes that attract investors.

“This partnership brings a new dimension to CREOL’s established photonics R&D groups and in the United States as a whole.” — David Hagan, dean of the College of Optics and Photonics

“This partnership brings a new dimension to CREOL’s established photonics R&D groups and in the United States as a whole,” says David Hagan, dean of the College of Optics and Photonics. “It provides UCF students an unmatched opportunity to learn the techniques of photonics integration.”

ficonTEC’s expertise lies in the creation of assembly and test machine systems for the production of photonic components. Their intellectual property is founded on roughly 1,000 operational production systems located globally, and in applications that include communications, smart mobility, sensors for IoT, sustainability, clean energy and others. Applications include 3D facial recognition,  mapping sensors in modern smartphones and the LIDAR assembly that self-driving cars use to scan their surroundings.

“Like many other companies before them, ficonTEC looked around the country and chose Orlando for its U.S. headquarters because of the assets we have built at UCF and our photonics incubator,” says Carol Ann Dykes Logue, site manager for the UCF Business Incubator. “This is a significant accomplishment to house this at our facility and in our community, and it should be a keystone for this industry for years to come.

CREOL offers graduate degrees in optics and photonics and a bachelor’s degree in photonic science and engineering. In the first months at UCF, ficonTec plans to  work with photonic integrated circuits in CREOL labs as well begin training students on virtualized assembly systems.

FiconTEC is the fourth company to join UCF’s Photonics Incubator within the CREOL facilities, and the first and only to offer its own manufacturing capabilities. The incubator is also home to LC Matter Corporation, Plasmonics and Olkin Optics. Companies in the Incubator may use CREOL laboratory facilities, benefit from collaborations with faculty and graduate students, and access UCF’s business development resources.