Quantum computing could be boosted by 3D printing via Nanoscribe, a subsidiary of Swedish bioconvergence startup BICO (BICO.ST). At this year’s Photonics West Expo (January 25-27), Nanoscribe is unveiling the Quantum X align, a 3D printer specifically designed for self-aligned printing on fiber optics and photonic chips.
Not to be confused with quantum computing itself, the Quantum X product line launched in 2019 is a micro 3D printing platform. More recently, Nanoscribe has released several versions of the machine, suitable for a variety of specific applications. These include the Quantum X shape, announced last fall, and designed for life science applications (especially microfluidics). Then there was the Quantum X bio, announced last December. This system is intended for use in bio-printing, a primary purpose of most BICO-related entities.
The latest addition to the Quantum X series, the align, has been designed precisely for applications in the field of photonics, which is of particular importance to the quantum computing industry. One of the most important differences between quantum and classical computing concerns the chips involved in building the respective systems. While quantum computers can and are built using conventional electronic integrated circuits (“microchips”), much research in the quantum realm – especially during the quantum computing mini-boom of recent years – focus on exploring the viability of integrated photonic circuits (PICs).
PICs are based on a similar premise to traditional microchips. Photonic computing has been discussed for years as the basis of classical computing and the most serious quantum computers are not photonic computers. However, the Quantum X alignment could be a notable development, not only for the quantum computing industry, but also for 3D printing.
“Alignment” here refers to the need for each small element of a PIC to be located with the greatest possible precision. Any tiny irregularity in the placement of the optical lens on the chip can lead to disproportionate processing errors. Usually this consideration is addressed via a technique known as active alignment, which involves centering the shims on a chip, then replacing the shims with the lenses, and finally using an adhesive to lock the lens in place, once it has been correctly positioned.
Active alignment is extremely expensive and time consuming. Alignment, on the other hand, deploys the other major method of centering and tilting lenses on microchips, the use of imaging modules to print focusing optics directly onto the optical fibers of each chip: d ‘ where the name ‘auto-align’.
This represents a perfect example of the unique solutions achievable when applying 3D printing to an industrial problem. 3D printing here offers significantly improved automation and precision in the production process compared to other methods that achieve the same result.
Moreover, it sums up a theme that I often mention, the collaborative and interdependent nature between all the different facets of “Industry 4.0”. It’s a theme that BICO Group seems to grasp as well as any other company in the market. Moreover, not only is the company correct in suggesting that the alignment could increase the efficiency of producing PICs for quantum computing purposes. It could also help achieve enough precision to eventually make quantum computing scalable, which right now is the major goal for those in the industry who are serious about commercializing the technology.
Images courtesy of Nanoscribe