Optical fibers replace cable spaghetti
SCHOTT Communications Technologies Inc. (SCT) in Southbridge (Massachusetts, USA) produces fiber management components and optical connection technology. “Optical shuffles”, as flexible optical cabling systems are known, are an elegant replacement for complex cable harnesses. “They boost our customers‘ switching and routing systems, enabling their optical connections to reach new heights of efficiency at the high bit rates of several gigabits per second that are currently required”, explains Dr. Andreas Zenz, Head of Business Development and Marketing at SCT.
As the data flow in optical networks around the world increases, the number of channels and connection ports for servers, routers and control boxes – all requiring interconnection – is skyrocketing. Both the tangled masses of copper wiring that have been used to date and the combination of many separate fiber connections are highly susceptible to faults, costly because of the quantities of material and work involved and wasteful of precious space on central connector boards. “We offer a compact, cost-effective solution to this problem by developing light guides using only a small number of plug connectors, that customers can easily plug into the ports they need to meet their individual requirements”, says Alexander Hagemann, CEO and President of SCT. SCT has now moved into production of other components such as optical fanouts that support the industry‘s hottest topic: switches based on tiny, movable micromirrors (MEMS). SCT‘s products are used for high-precision optical connection of up to several thousand channels in an area of only a few square centimeters with an array of signal processing boards. In addition, SCT‘s future developments will address optical connection needs for massively parallel data transfer, for example in servers or in direct chip-to-chip communication.
Secret coating process
Laser diodes for data coupling
U.L.M. Photonics GmbH has also developed sophisticated methods of applying multiple wafer-thin coatings. SCT is the main investor in this start-up company, founded at Germany‘s Ulm University. An expert team of scientists and engineers at U.L.M. use the molecular beam epitaxy process to develop special semiconductor laser diodes. These components, known as VCSEL (Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser), are used as light sources to transform electrically stored information into optical signals. “Data is transferred to the optical cables by switching a laser diode on and off – and we produce those diodes”, explains Dr. Burghard Schneider, Managing Director of U.L.M. Photonics.