Specialty Fiber About to Blossom?

ElectroniCast says there's going to be a big increase in the use of fiber-based optical components

July 11, 2003

2 Min Read
Specialty Fiber About to Blossom?

Although the market for Erbium Doped-Fiber Amplifiers (EDFAs) and Fiber Bragg Gratings (FBGs) may be in the doldrums, the market for the speciality fiber used in such components is about to put on a spurt of growth.

So says ElectroniCast Corp., which has just released a report that forecasts sales of specialty fiber increasing sixfold over the next five years (see Specialty Fiber to Grow 28% in 2003).

36580.gifElectronicast says one reason for this is that a lot of research into fiber-based components is coming to fruition. "Lots of these new fibers have been in the works for years in university labs, but we're just now starting to see them go into commercial development," says Stephen Montgomery, ElectoniCast's president.

New specialty fibers include those doped with substances, such as ytterbium, bismuth, and tellurite. In fact, some ytterbium-based fiber components have already been announced (see IPG Claims Laser Output Record and SPI Breaks Laser Power Record).

Right now, some of the more esoteric specialty fibers are very expensive -- tellurite-doped fiber costs $900 a meter -- but that has to be weighed against the fact that only short lengths (inches) of it are needed in the average component.

Other specialty fibers are already used in disperson compensators. In a nutshell, their optical characteristics have been engineered to reverse the tendency of light signals to smudge as they travel over long distances, for a variety of reasons.

While more than 50 vendors are aiming at this space, a few seem likely to stand out in their bids for market share in the near term, Montgomery says. These include large companies that have long had specialty fiber divisions, such as 3M Company (NYSE: MMM), Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW), INO, OFS, and Sumitomo Corp.

A range of smaller players are aiming for a piece of the action as well, including Australia's Nufern and Finland's Liekki Oy, which specializes in erbium-doped fiber. Liekki CEO Per Stenius says the current market is challenging, but he confirms ElectroniCast's sense of an upturn. Revenues in several areas are up, he notes, and he's "excited" about the next six to 12 months.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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