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Case Study

Rockley Photonics Improves Verification Capabilities Using Ansys Lumerical on Amazon EC2

“The capability to run large-scale physical simulations using the mature and approximation free FDTD method gives us a new level of confidence at tape-out.”

— Yi Zhang, PIC lead at Rockley


Rockley embraces the ever-growing trend towards increased complexity for photonics circuits. Many effects integral to the operation of the circuit still need to be considered during design and verification, such as stray light interference or impacts of nonuniform temperature or stress fields in the photonic integrated circuit (PIC). 

To date, conventional engineering know-how has provided engineers with a way to work through a solution to generate layouts. This approach is no longer practical as layout complexity grows, necessitating large-scale physical simulations of the entire photonic circuit. The growing cost of fabricating and packaging today’s devices and raising time-to-market demands warrant efforts to improve verification. The impact of letting design errors slip through the cracks is significant. If a fault makes it to silicon, the cost of a re-spin will be expensive. More importantly, the increased time to market can have an immeasurable impact on market share and brand reputation.

Engineering Solution

Rockley considered several HPC solutions to accelerate large-scale simulations, but in the end, the company decided to go with a CPU based cloud solution on Amazon Web Services (AWS) powered by Lumerical’s FDTD. This decision was driven by the accuracy and runtime performance of Lumerical’s FDTD coupled with its amenability to HPC computing, as well as the cost-effective flexibility of Amazon’s cloud solution.


The Emirates Team New Zealand is able to scale up on-demand to many times the simulation throughput when using Ansys Gateway powered by AWS, when compared to their internal cluster. Emirates Team New Zealand engineers can specify a cloud-based cluster and always choose the most advanced hardware, effectively upgrading their hardware every day instead of making an investment in new hardware every four years. For an organization that’s defined by both speed and innovation, one of the greatest benefits of Ansys Gateway powered by AWS, is that Emirates Team New Zealand engineers can work in a limitless environment, where computing capacity is never an obstacle to their creativity. They can investigate greater numbers of very complex problems. They can minimize their risk of overlooking any single aspect of yacht performance that could ultimately be the difference between winning and losing, because they have the luxury of running as many simulations as they want. They don’t need to shortchange investigation or sacrifice analytic rigor as they race to the next design milestone. Emirates Team New Zealand has always been recognized for its sophisticated simulations and its engineering leadership. Now, backed by the speed and power of Ansys Gateway powered by AWS, this team is truly in a class of its own. Lumerical’s HPC solution using Amazon EC2 provided Rockley with a solution that is scalable, cost effective, and flexible. Rockley was able to confirm the correct functionality of its large-scale photonics devices, thus reducing the risk of re-spin and time-to-market delays. Without Lumerical’s solution, this level of verification would not have been possible as the runtime on conventional hardware would be unreasonably long. Further, the cost of procuring dedicated hardware would not be justifiable for a task needed only intermittently for a small portion of the design cycle.

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