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  • Inching Toward Fiber Alignment

Photonics Spectra
Aug 2001
Brent D. Johnson, Senior News Editor

When the growing telecommunications industry faced the challenge of optical broadband data transmission, nanorobots became a practical reality.

Burleigh had been developing Inchworm technology since 1974 for active optics, positioning and alignment. Two years ago, the demand for ultraprecise nanometer alignment combined with multiaxis robots became an imperative for fiber optic communications equipment manufacturers.

Inchworm motors exploit a property of a material made of ceramic combined with lead zirconate tita-nate -- it changes shape incrementally with voltage. Applying 25 mV produces a movement of 1 Å. This resolution is critical to producing a variety of dense wavelength division multiplexing components.

Serdar Yeralan of DigiLens uses Burleigh's Freedom 1500 Nanorobot to align fibers to waveguides. Before acquiring the device, DigiLens used traditional stages to align fibers on either end of the waveguide. However, "if you're doing more than one channel, it becomes nearly impossible," Yeralan said. Manually aligning the fibers would take hours, but the Nanorobot accomplished the task in only minutes.

Systems comparison

Yeralan had seen demonstrations of some other systems in the same price range as the Burleigh instrument. In fact, his company uses a Hexapod Alignment System from Polytec PI Inc. of Tustin, Calif., for products that are based on free-space optical components. It chose the Hexapod for that application because it provided the required flat, open alignment in all six axes.

For planar waveguide structures, which do not need alignment in so many axes, the Freedom Nanorobot is well-suited. Yeralan said that, because the device is modular, it can be configured to different needs. For example, DigiLens plans to reconfigure the system to accommodate roll about the Z axis by substituting a manual alignment fixture for either the pitch or yaw alignment axes and by using the motorized pitch or yaw axis for roll.

He added that the Nanorobot is useful in research and development.

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