There are similarities between the Silicon Photonics industry and the young semiconductor industry of the mid-1980s. Today, you can build a fab just by issuing purchase orders, but that was not the case 35 years ago. Consequently, the players of that era--such as IBM, which dominated the semiconductor industry--built their fabs around bespoke tools constructed by systems integrators who were often captive or internal.
The situation is similar in Photonics today. There have not been enough toolmakers to satisfy demand, and there has been little incentive for them to progress beyond legacy automation principles dating to the short-lived Photonics boom of 1997-2002. That boom was driven by one dominant end application: long-haul telecommunications, supplanting satellite-based approaches. That is quite unlike today’s broadly diverse end-application base, which sees exponentiating data consumption spanning needs as diverse as social networks, personal health, Big Data, the Internet of Things, and even selfies. Still, the painful memories of that era linger and have contributed to hesitation by potential new toolmaker entrants. That is finally starting to change with entrants like FormFactor with its groundbreaking Cascade wafer probers and Tegema with its Integrated Photonics Assembly tools, but it has meant that Photonics players and their contract manufacturers have often chosen to design and build their own production tools, just as IBM did in the ‘80s.