The methods described are used with existing fiber optic technologies, and are based on several patents and on disclosures now before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patents are No. 4,755,037 ("Fiber Optic Coupler," 1988); No. 4,765,816 ("Method and Apparatus for Making Optical Fiber Couplers," 1988); No. 4,834,493 ("Method of Terminating an Optical Fiber," 1989); and No. 5,381,506 ("Flat to Spiral Polymer Light Waveguide," 1995).
The 1988 patents listed above address methods and manufacturing techniques that can be used to improve coupling between optical fibers by obviating alignment problems. Essentially, two fibers are laid side by side, stretched, and fused into one robust glass conduit. During this process, the optical cores are moved closer together until good optical coupling is achieved.
This technique produces a joint that is more rugged than commonly achieved with well-known alignment and joining methods. The process lends itself to fast, permanent, efficient coupling as may be required in OEM applications and field repairs. Patent 5,381,506 facilitates right-angle couplings. Fibers are gathered from an optical backplane, compacted into a bundle, and prepared for use in a connector or optical subcomponent. Patent 4,834,493 offers a simple, effective method for eliminating unwanted light reflections from an optical fiber lead.
Other methods and components currently being developed and disclosed include a method of soldering fiber optics, a fiber optic holder that assists in the positioning and bonding of multiple single-mode fibers, and a metallized fiber optic feedthrough device used to carry electrical signals along with optical signals. The metallized fiber optic feedthrough enhances current fiber optic systems by reducing the connector parts count and cable weight. Also being developed is a method for coupling fiber optics via machined edge egress. This method eliminates shearing of fibers during milling operations.
The Boeing Company has fully developed the methods based on the above patents. Currently, there are several fiber optic components the company has disclosed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The methods and components covered by the above patents can be used anywhere to enhance current fiber optic systems. The technology could be applied to existing communication and sensor fiber optic networks.
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