802-379-1130 wkachmar@focenter.com

Looking back at the fiber optic cable industry over two to four decades, I notice the trend, as in everything, is to make each device smaller and more feature-filled.  This is true in connectors, cables, transceivers etc. Perusing my collection of old fiber optic equipment, I am amazed that some of the early systems were even considered viable for field use.

 

Over the Years

My collection includes a circa 1980 optical cleaver that used three hand micrometer stages to position and cleave an optical fiber.  The unit is about the size of a large laptop and three times as thick.  Additionally, a 1980’s Deutsch connector, about the size of a typical phone jack, resides in this collection.

These items would be inconceivable in today’s world as they take up too much room and require far too many specialized skills to operate.  On average, it would take about 30 minutes to strip and cleave a fiber and about 60 minutes to connectorize and test one.

Over the years, we have steadily improved all the components of optical communication to levels not thought of in 1980.  Today we have connectors that can be installed in 1 to 2 minutes and cables that are approximately 800 times denser than in 1980.  This typically follows the semi-conductor curve and should be expected.

 

Size Matters

However, as we continue this shrinking of the technology in handling, we run into some new concerns. Much like our copper cousins in communications, size matters.  In handling these connectors and sharing larger fields on the interconnect plane, we now must take into consideration the ergonomic fact that we humans are not shrinking in size.  In making the fiber optic communications patch panel a standard piece of telecommunications hardware, we now face the issue that there will be less trained personnel working with these smaller devices.

We need to understand the human factor as we shrink the real estate of our equipment to accommodate the ever-growing demand for information exchange.  The information exchange can be

  • between people
  • between people and machines or
  • between machines in the ‘internet of things’ (where we do not even see the machines exchanging information with each other on our behalf)

Therefore, the question comes down to: Can we continue to shrink our equipment and still allow humans to handle, configure or change it?

 

Considering Rapid Repair Needs

The aerospace and military use of optical fibers systems have specifications about the accessibility of their systems for rapid repair. I believe that it is time we consider a similar tool set, either software or hardware, that can mimic the requirement for our network systems. As several recent weather events have shown us we may need to rapidly repair networks and need to be aware that accessibility and the ability of intuitive repair processes for less familiar or trained personnel needs to be added in the mix of our next level of design. The goal should not be to limit next generation concepts but rather to include the lessons learned from previous experiences. The use of soft Virtual reality systems only works if the systems can work independently of the damaged network. The same is true of proprietary interconnect systems and schemes.

 

Conclusion

While there are many competing systems and ideas that all have merit. We need to consider a common repair methodology as we continue to improve, add features and shrink our technology.

 

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Wayne Kachmar

About Wayne Kachmar

Wayne Kachmar has been in the optical cable industry for over 37 years. He has participated in many innovations and seen the maturing of the industry. Over the years, Wayne has been involved in many unique projects to provide optical cable in diverse environments such as the underwater ROV that penetrated the Titanic, as well as cable that is in service sensing sub-atomic particles in the Antarctic ice. Wayne developed a number of unique concepts and products using optical fibers as both information carriers and sensors where the cable became the sensor. These have included fiber laser ring gyroscope components and distributed acoustic sensors for terrestrial and underwater applications. As a principal investigator for many government sponsored projects, he has developed methods that push the state of the art in optical cable design and manufacture. Over his career, Wayne has been able to fuse this state of the art knowledge with conventional fiber cable design to significantly cost reduce both materials and processes. With over 50 granted patents in fiber optic cables, connectors and tools and over 60 patents published or in process, Wayne’s path to TE Connectivity started when he founded and ran Northern Lights Cable, Inc. in 1988. He sold the company to Prestolite Wire in late 1997 continuing as division CEO until 2000. In 2000, Prestolite Wire was packaged with other holdings of the owner to become GenTek (a publicly held company), which also acquired Krone that year. Wayne’s position transitioned to Director of R&D, managing the RD&E center. In 2004, all Krone divisions were acquired by ADC who itself was acquired by TE in December 2010. In 2012, Wayne was named a TE Fellow in electro-optic engineering based on the length and depth of his technical knowledge and accomplishments. This is the highest technical title within the TE structure with less than 20 persons worldwide out of 8000 scientists and engineers within TE. In 2015, Wayne incorporated his consulting company Technical Horsepower Consulting, LLC. and joined Fiber Optic Center, Inc. as their Optical Cable Technical Expert.