Despite their high-tech image, fiber-optic components get assembled largely by hand. New automation promises to bring their production into the 21st century. A computer simulation of a laser welding system from Adept Technology Inc., San Jose, shows dual high-precision four-axis laser-pointing mechanisms that put two weld beams on packages to within ±5µm. Fiber pigtailing is one of the primary application areas. It's not a pretty picture. Estimates are that some 50 million fiber-optic components will be in production within two years. They will go into mass-produced telecom and computer gear that is expected to be an engine of economic growth. But today, the vast majority of fiber-optic parts are put together by hand through methods appropriate for one-of-akind research gear, but which are uneconomical for volume production. No question that manual assembly methods hike manufacturing costs and slow throughput. One side effect, say experts, is that production yields for photonic components are typically 80% at best. A typical assembler scraps as many as three units daily that cost an average of $1,000 to $2,000 each. Savings could amount to a half-million dollars yearly for each such assembler that automated methods replace. Moreover, economies from reduced scrap and more-efficient assembly dwarf those available from taking labor out of the production process, say automation suppliers. Estimates are that assembly represents 65 to 85% of the cost of most photonics products, compared to less than 10% of costs for products in mature industries. It is for such reasons that manufacturers of automation equipment have taken aim at photonics. One indicator of progress so far came this past September: Robotic system supplier Adept Technology Inc. revealed some of the results it has gained from five years of research into photonics assembly. Adept says it concentrated on operations that combine motion control, vision, and high-precision alignment
Products & Services
Fiber Optic Test Sources
Fiber optic test sources review the performance of a system by injecting light through the fibers.
Fiber Optic Circulators
Fiber optic circulators are nonreciprocal devices that direct a light signal from one port, via a fiber optic line, to another sequentially.
Fiber Optic Cleaning Tools
Fiber optic cleaning and splicing tools are used to connect, adapt, polish, repair, fiber and fiber optic cables. This area includes fiber optic consumables such as polish, swabs, wipes, etc.
Fiber Optic Filters
Fiber optic filters allow only specific wavelengths to pass into a larger fiber optic system.
E-Hub Assembly allows users to create and program robotic workcells for small part assembly, electromechanical assembly, pick & place and material handling applications.
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