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8 May 2012 Design and fabrication of advanced fiber alignment structures for field-installable fiber connectors
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Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) networks have been adopted as a potential replacement of traditional electrical connections for the 'last mile' transmission of information at bandwidths over 1Gb/s. However, the success and adoption of optical access networks critically depend on the quality and reliability of connections between optical fibers. In particular a further reduction of insertion loss of field-installable connectors must be achieved without a significant increase in component cost. This requires precise alignment of fibers that can differ in terms of ellipticity, eccentricity or diameter and seems hardly achievable using today's widespread ferrule-based alignment systems. Novel low-cost structures for bare fiber alignment with outstanding positioning accuracies are strongly desired as they would allow reducing loss beyond the level achievable with ferrule-bore systems. However, the realization of such alignment system is challenging as it should provide sufficient force to position the fiber with sub-micron accuracy required in positioning the fiber. In this contribution we propose, design and prototype a bare-fiber alignment system which makes use of deflectable/compressible micro-cantilevers. Such cantilevers behave as springs and provide self-centering functionality to the structure. Simulations of the mechanical properties of the cantilevers are carried out in order to get an analytical approximation and a mathematical model of the spring constant and stress in the structure. Elastic constants of the order of 104 to 105N/m are found out to be compatible with a proof stress of 70 MPa. Finally a first self-centering structure is prototyped in PMMA using our Deep Proton Writing technology. The spring constants of the fabricated cantilevers are in the range of 4 to 6 × 104N/m and the stress is in the range 10 to 20 MPa. These self-centering structures have the potential to become the basic building blocks for a new generation of field-installable connectors.
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Jürgen Van Erps, Michael Vervaeke, Alberto Sánchez Martínez, Stefano Beri, Christof Debaes, Jan Watté, and Hugo Thienpont "Design and fabrication of advanced fiber alignment structures for field-installable fiber connectors", Proc. SPIE 8428, Micro-Optics 2012, 84280I (8 May 2012);

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