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network quality and driving down network operating costs, according to Wells.

Keep it clean One technology that has already captured attention at the company is expanded beam, which is designed to provide robust transmission in harsh environments. Te biggest markets for expanded beam connectors are broadcast, such as live news events and golf tournaments, aircraſt (i.e., fly-by wire systems, in-seat entertainment systems) and military battlefield command-and-control systems. All of these environments are prone to very high costs should the systems fail. Te expanded beam connector is a type of

non-contact connector that, as the name implies, uses a lens to expand and collimate the light from the tiny, 9-µm-diameter core of singlemode fibre to a beam several tens or hundreds of microns across. Te larger interface makes the connector less sensitive to dirt, dust and alignment, and many people consider that this type of connector does not need cleaning. ‘Even the expanded beam people say you

shouldn’t have to clean it but it turns out that you do have to. When there’s a military vehicle

in a dust storm and they’re trying to get the communications to work then they need to clean,’ said Jones, adding that ‘they’ve designed a connector that’s almost impossible to clean, but we can clean it.’ Existing fibre cleaning tools were simply the

wrong shape to remove liquids and particulate matter from the lens and the socket of an expanded beam connector. In contrast, the

They’ve designed a connector that’s almost impossible to clean

material in a Sticklers CleanStixx EB tool is shaped into a geometry that fits gracefully over the lens of the connector. Te ‘ears’ on the sides of the tool make it possible to clean the total surface of the lens. ‘Making a tool like this that’s only one millimetre in diameter is quite an engineering feat,’ said Jones. Te expanded beam connector is just one example of how MicroCare has designed new

@fibresystemsmag |

cleaning products and processes for new connector designs. ‘We have samples of a new connector in our laboratory that’s half the size of the current LC connectors – and we can clean it,’ said Jones. ‘No other company can do that. If the manufacturer does decide to commercialise that connector, we will have the tools ready to keep it clean.’ Recognising the need to keep pace with the

rapid changes in the industry, MicroCare has employed an industry specialist for its fibre-optic product line whose primary role involves charting what the industry is expecting and the direction it’s moving in. Tis ensures the company will have the technologies and products in place as soon as they’re needed. Wells concluded by saying he believes the

fibre-optic industry is at the same tipping point the electronics industry faced in the 1970s. ‘When we look back, decades from now, we’ll see this as just the beginning. Te ramp up of capabilities that will emerge in the next 20 years is truly going to be eye-popping, and the message behind us is that if customers want to make it, then we’ll find a way to clean it.’l

Beth Harlen is a freelance science writer based in Cambridge

The Push-fit People


The World Leader in Push-fit Solutions.

John Guest push-fit fittings have been specially designed and manufactured in the UK for the telecommunications market, for use in local loop, network and customer box applications. The extensive range of push-fit connectors is available to cover both blown fibre and cable pressurisation systems.


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