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Optoscribe in volume production with OptoArray™

2x12 glass MT Ferrule Insert

Earlier this year, Optoscribe launched OptoArray™, its new range of best-in-class precision fiber alignment structures, which can solve many of the challenges with the drive for high density optical connections. OptoArray™ is now in volume production with a major player in the optical switch market and is gaining traction with other major customers in the Optical Cross Connect (OXC) switches, Wavelength Selective Switches (WSS) and optical connector markets. OptoArray™ solutions can be used in a wide range of applications including multi-fiber connectors, arrays for interfacing to optical switching hardware such as reconfigurable optical add drop multiplexers (ROADMs), and interfacing to other free-space optical systems. 

Optoscribe’s high speed laser-induced selective etching process provides full 3D flexibility in the patterning of arrays and enables the creation of high precision, controllable microstructures in glass. It is a novel two-stage microstructuring process in glass that uses a focussed ultrashort pulsed laser to induce subsurface material patterning, localised to the focus of the laser beam. By rapidly scanning a 3D shape within the glass, regions of enhanced etch rate are created, such that upon exposing the substrate to a wet chemical etch, the irradiated regions etch preferentially. 

Where laser-induced selective etching primarily differs from silicon patterning is in its adaptability, a crucial factor in a rapidly advancing industry. For example, because silicon patterning relies on existing MEMS technology and fabrication facilities, the tools used to manufacture 2D arrays can only produce standard silicon wafer thicknesses, typically 650 microns thick. Given 2D arrays require thicknesses of several mm to provide the mechanical rigidity and integrity to hold the optical fibers in place, three silicon-patterned 2D arrays are often stacked and bonded together to produce the required thickness. This not only creates an additional unnecessary processing step and cost, but also introduces a potential new stackup misalignment error. In contrast, laser-induced selective etching can be performed on substantially thicker glass substrates, such as 2mm. 

Another important feature highlighting the adaptability of laser-induced selective etching is the technique’s freeform control of hole shape throughout the volume of the substrate. Freeform 3D control also means the hole entrance can be modified to any desired shape. Though silicon patterning can produce a flared hole to allow simple fiber insertion, the flare must be a standard-sized cone shape. Laser-induced selective etching can yield curved or conical flares of various lengths depending on requirements. A crucial advantage of freefrom 3D control is the ability to form holes at arbitrary angles to the surface of the glass and the opportunity to minimise back-reflections. These capabilities are not possible with silicon patterning. 

For more information on the Optoscribe’s OptoArray™ range of solutions, visit https://www.optoscribe.com/products/precision-fiber-alignment-arrays-optoarray/

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