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MCAP DEVELOPS THE WORLD’S FIRST INDUSTRIAL CONNECTOR WITH EXPANDED BEAM OPTICAL FIBER

How nice it would be if an industrial hybrid connector with power, signal and optical fiber would be suitable for connecting and disconnecting on a daily basis. That’s what one of MCAP’s customers thought at the beginning of 2019. A year later it’s there, developed by MCAP in collaboration with ODU and Fibreco.

“As a specialized cable assembly company, this customer is regularly asking us to repair the fiber optic connections in their industrial connectors”, says Martin van Aperloo of MCAP. “Of course we like to repair, but something starts gnawing with us. A better solution had to be found, in which the fiber optic tips are no longer as vulnerable, and where it is possible to connect and disconnect for years every day. Because we like challenges, we started looking for possibilities.”


VULNERABILITY OF OPTICAL FIBER

“The industrial connectors from ODU’s MAC series used by this customer contain fiber optic connections that make physical contact, just like regular SC connectors do. These are sensitive to dust and dirt, which means that they have to be cleaned every time they are connected. In practice, this happens too little, which could damage the fiber optic connection and make it unreliable. In addition, these connections can handle around 250 mating cycles, which means that our customers must have the fiber optic connectors replaced every year.”

THE SOLUTION: EXPANDED BEAM

“We have therefore started looking for a compact, high-quality fiber optic connector that doesn’t make physical contact with the opposite connector. We found that in Fibreco’s Mini Expanded Beam series, a fiber optic connector for harsh environments such as military applications. We have been Fibreco’s official assembly partner for years and have had particularly good experiences with this type of fiber optic connectors. Expanded Beam connectors contain lenses that prevent the connector tips from making physical contact with each other, so contaminated connectors don’t damage each other. As a result, the light beam is enlarged around 2000 times, so a small amount of dirt doesn’t block the signal. Simply rinsing and drying the connector is sufficient for a long-term reliable connection.”

DEVELOPMENT OF SPECIAL INSERT

“However, such an Expanded Beam connector does not yet fit into an ODU connector, so we have brought Fibreco and ODU together and developed a new aluminum insert with them. With this we can now create 2 Singlemode or Multimode fiber optic connectors, so 2, 4, 6 or 8 fibers, in one single insert. And because a multitude of different inserts fit into the extensive MAC range from ODU, such as power, signal, optical fiber, but also coax, liquid or gas, the possibilities are endless.”

PRACTICAL TEST

“Our customer can start testing in April with the first production versions. Their vehicles with advanced equipment on board drive in all weather conditions. The cabling that connects to the equipment in the vehicle must be able to withstand all weather conditions and be reliably connected and disconnected on a daily basis. The results with our prototypes were already promising, because with this development the mating cycles improves from 250 to 5000 times. That is 25 years! This is a development that we are quite proud of.”

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