UMC partners with Metalenz, bringing semiconductor manufacturing to the optics industry

Misha Lu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0


Metalenz, a leader in metasurface optics, announced on June 26 its partnership with United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC). The partnership is expected to bring the scale and precision of semiconductor manufacturing to the optics industry. The announcement also marks the launch of metasurface optics on the open market for the first time.

Metalenz, founded in 2016, is the first company to commercialize meta-optics. Its metasurface technology provides complex, multifunctional optical performance in a single semiconductor layer, relocating large-scale production of optics to semiconductor foundries—printing lenses like computer chips. Following the successful June 2022 debut of its metasurface optics in time-of-flight systems for the consumer electronics market via a partnership with STMicroelectronics, and a US$30 million series B funding round led by Neotribe Ventures announced in October 2022, the company continues to grow with millions of its metasurface optics now in market

"After initially designing meta-optics in partnership with one of the leading suppliers of 3D sensing solutions, we are now engaged with OEMs directly to bring the benefits of metasurface optics to their 3D sensing applications. By partnering with a world-class foundry like UMC, we gain the manufacturing capabilities, expertise, and global reach to serve customers interested in adopting our meta-optics technology," said Rob Devlin, Co-founder, and CEO of Metalenz. "This will further accelerate our growth as we are becoming the leading provider of precision optics for 3D sensing solutions."

"Our state-of-the art 12-inch facilities and decades of experience in semiconductor manufacturing has made us the foundry partner of choice for some of the most advanced fabless semiconductor companies in the world. Our expertise and scale will enable Metalenz to effortlessly scale up production to meet the growing demand for its meta-optics products," said Raj Verma, Associate Vice President of Technology Development at UMC. "In the more-than-Moore era, UMC is focused on strengthening our specialty technology leadership to enable a wide range of 5G, IoT, and automotive applications. This collaboration will enable UMC to expand our offering into meta-optics and play a pioneering role in delivering this disruptive imaging technology to market."

The partnership between Metalenz and UMC is expected to yield significant benefits for both companies and their customers. Metalenz has already won several 3D depth sensing designs for its metasurface optics with leading OEMs in Asia. With the manufacturing capabilities provided by UMC, Metalenz will be able to accelerate the development of its meta-optic products and bring them to market more quickly as a direct supplier to OEMs.

Meanwhile, UMC has released Metalenz's metasurface manufacturing process to production in its 12-inch wafer fab in Singapore. The first designs to go through the newly established supply chain will be for Chinese OEM, DiluSense.

"As one of the most innovative suppliers of 3D sensing systems for IoT devices and consumer electronics we have been looking for better optics for years. We are excited to work with Metalenz, as their metasurface technology enables new optical form-factors and performance that will further differentiate some of our most advanced 3D sensing AI solutions." Hu Lei, DiluSense Founder and CEO