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About Silicon Line

 

Munich, Germany-based Silicon Line (www.silicon-line.com) is the unchallenged world leader in developing and providing innovative ultra-low-power optical link technology that enables the use of thin, long, lightweight and very high speed ‘active’ optical cables for a wide array of consumer electronics products – including TVs, set-top boxes, video game consoles, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets and related devices – as well as commercial and industrial applications. ‘Active’ refers to powered electronics integrated within the cable.

Clear evidence of Silicon Line’s global leadership in ultra-lower-power optical technology can be seen not only by its steadily evolving line of leading-edge and industry-first products – with more than 25 different products now in use – but also in its pivotal role within the HDMI Forum, where it has successfully led efforts to enhance support for active optical cable technology standards in the latest specification, HDMI 2.1.

Founded in 2005 as an outsource integrated circuit (IC) design house, Silicon Line quickly developed proven expertise in ultra-low-power, analog and mixed-signal chip design. Billions of ICs based on its designs have been used in products of major brand-name manufacturers.

Building on its core competencies, Silicon Line soon began to develop its own products with the aim of providing the world’s most power-efficient and best-in-class ICs for optical data transport, specifically targeting applications in consumer electronics. Silicon Line now has a wide portfolio of physical layer ICs plus associated serializer/deserializer (SerDes) ICs for multi-gigabit optical links, and it holds multiple patents associated with these products. In addition to HDMI technology, Silicon Line technology is employed in optical links for devices using DisplayPort and USB 3.1 connections.

Most recently and marking a major new stage in its evolution, Silicon Line has developed proprietary technology and manufacturing methods for optical modules (the tiny circuit boards inside cable connectors), resulting in a dramatic reduction in production cost, so that optical cables are affordable to consumers for use with 4K and 8K TVs, AR/VR headsets and other very high bandwidth applications.

 

Optical Interconnect Technology: A Rapid Growth Market

The importance of optical link technology to the future of consumer and business electronics truly cannot be overstated. The optical interconnect market, by some estimates, will reach $7 billion by 2020. As bandwidth demands grow, it will be impractical if not impossible for copper cabling to meet signal transport requirements, especially for distances greater than even one meter.

The proliferation of battery-powered devices – phones, tablets, AR/VR headsets – puts a premium on small, lightweight interconnects which minimize power consumption and also minimize susceptibility to and sources of electromagnetic interference (EMI). Additionally, specialized camera applications in healthcare, scientific research, national defense and other areas – as well as weight and size considerations in products such as automobiles and aircraft, where weight savings alone provides a recurring benefit in reduced fuel costs or increased payload capacity – are driving adoption across an expanding spectrum of industries and applications.

Long, low-power, flexible and lightweight active optical cables are already beginning to replace copper cables in many high-speed applications. Silicon Line is playing a key role in the transition to optical cables by making available both ICs and modules which allow rapid, low-cost, high volume manufacture of active optical cables.

In the process, the company has been first-to-market with several products:

  • Optical HDMI interface (10.2 and 18 Gb/s)
  • Optical DisplayPort interface (40 Gb/s)
  • Optical MIPI D-PHY interface (CSI-2, DSI) for cameras in AR applications
  • Optical USB 3.1 interface (10 Gb/s)

Silicon Line world’s smallest optical engine

A Silicon Line HDMI module

The company also expects to be the first to market a 48Gb/s optical HDMI interface (for HDMI 2.1 devices), due for introduction in 2019.

Silicon Line is privately held and employs more than 40 people. In addition to its Munich headquarters, it operates an optical subassembly (OSA) factory in Hasselt, Belgium, and maintains offices in China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the U.S.