Fraunhofer IPT presents platform for automated precision assembly of polarized optical fibers

Press Release / 27.6.2019

The assembly of bundled optical fibers with plug connections, which are used in information and communication technology, is still difficult to automate today: Fibers with fixed polarization must be aligned with great precision in the connector, and their handling and bonding also require maximum accuracy. Together with the Dutch University of Twente and the industrial partners Aixemtec GmbH from Herzogenrath and Phix B.V. from Enschede, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT from Aachen presents a modular system for the automated assembly of polarization-maintaining fiber arrays at the "Laser – World of Photonics" trade fair from 24 to 27 June 2019 in Munich.

© Fraunhofer IPT

After the bonding of the individual fibers, a lid component is aligned with high precision and bonded to finalise the assembly.

© Fraunhofer IPT

The alignment of the fiber is precisely captured by the image processing for closed-loop-alignment.

With so-called single-mode fiber arrays, the precise arrangement of the individual fibers is crucial. Up to 32 light-conducting fibers are mounted in several layers in one connector – today, they are usually still glued manually and individually in the connector, since the correct alignment of each individual fiber determines whether the component can perform the desired data transmission.

The assembly system can now take over this complex and thus costly task: The system automates all of the essential process steps for manufacturing the connectors – from storage and feeding of the fibers to rotary and translational alignment, gluing and hardening of individual fibers through to final assembly of the entire system into a linear fiber array.

Today, the system can already assemble connectors with up to 16 fiber connections autonomously. Further developments now aim not only to increase the number of fibers processed, but also to improve the handling of the non-rigid fibers and thus further accelerate the entire production process.