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TeraXion Trots Out FBGs

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
11/21/2001

A lot of companies can make fiber Bragg gratings (FBGs), but very few of them can churn out these components in quantity, according to TeraXion, Inc., a Quebec-based startup that claims to be one of the few that can meet the manufacturing challenges.

Tomorrow, TeraXion is due to open a new manufacturing facility, bringing its total operating space to 30,000 square feet. "We've established what we consider to be the minimum manufacturing capacity to make us interesting to large customers," says Martin Guy, TeraXion's CTO.

Also tomorrow, the startup plans to announce a loan warranty from Investissement Quebec to back an $8 million loan granted by a Canadian bank, the Movement Desjardins. This brings TeraXion's total funding in equity and loans to $25 million since it was founded in April 2000.

Top of the list of investors in TeraXion are strategic partner Sumitomo Corp. and a silicon valley-based bank, Robertson Stephens. The other investors are Business Development Bank of Canada, Innovatech Quebec, RBC Capital Partners, Wynnchurch Capital, and LBG Capital.

So what's got them so excited?

FBGs are essentially filters, created by shining ultraviolet light onto the core of an optical fiber. Basic FBGs can be used to break out one wavelength from a bunch of wavelengths in a DWDM system (see FBGs: Key to DWDM's Future?). More advanced filter shapes can be made that are suitable for tasks like Chromatic Dispersion and Polarization Mode Dispersion (PMD) and gain-flattening (making sure the gain is constant across different wavelengths) in Erbium Doped-Fiber Amplifiers (EDFAs). That's where TeraXion is focused.

"Using fancy software you can design just about whatever [filter] you want," says Guy. "The difficult part is turning a design into a product."

To be able to translate a design into a product, there are two important things, he says. The first is to have very high-quality phase masks -- silica plates with ultra-precise scratches on them. Light is shone through the mask to transfer the desired pattern into the core of a fiber positioned beneath it. TeraXion makes its own phase masks using a special writing technique that makes it possible to write very long gratings -- which equates to greatly improved accuracy, it claims (see TeraXion to Make Masks).

The second part of the equation is to be able to package the gratings effectively. "A bare grating isn't worth that much," says Guy. It's important to isolate the FBG from fluctuations in environmental conditions, he adds, noting that TeraXion does its own packaging as well.

Having all these competencies under one roof is what sets TeraXion apart from other FBG vendors, Guy contends.

In fact, competition in FBG technology is quite fierce. In the Quebec area alone there are several vendors, including Bragg Photonics Inc., which makes gratings and StockerYale Inc. (Nasdaq: STKR), which makes phase masks. Quebec is also home to Innovative Fibers, an FBG startup bought by Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) in June 2000 (see Alcatel Buys Fiber Filters). One reason this cluster exists in Quebec is because fiber Bragg gratings were invented there, by Ken Hill in 1978.

However, Guy says the main competition to his company's products comes from JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU), Australian vendor Redfern Photonics Pty Ltd., and Southampton Photonics Inc.

It's worth pointing out that Southampton Photonics doesn't use phase masks to make its gratings. Instead, it uses a direct-write technique, shining a laser beam directly on the fiber, and moving it to create the desired pattern. The company claims that this method speeds up production, since there is no wait to get the masks made (see Fiber Bragg Gratings on Speed).

In addition, a couple more startups targeting high-end FBGs have sprung up this year. These include the U.K.'s Indigo Photonics Ltd. and Denmark's Ibsen Photonics A/S (see Startup Brag(g)s About Its Gratings and Ibsen, Act II).

— Pauline Rigby, Senior Editor, Light Reading
http://www.lightreading.com

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dwdm2
dwdm2
12/4/2012 | 10:28:00 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
Ampman writes: Those of you who snub FBG's are missing out on a technology that may just improve your DWDM and amplifier products. They are here to stay and there is a large market here.
-------------------

I'd like to learn a bit more about FBGs. How do they compare with AWGs for higher channel count application? That is how many channels can be cascaded in a single box? I presume they need to be cascaded like the TFFs. In addition, don't they need circulator or similar other device to work?

BTW, are you from AMP? Do they have any FBG program?

Thanks.
bigturtle
bigturtle
12/4/2012 | 10:28:00 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
Depends on price. TFF price has dropped to US$30/channel for 100 GHz system and depress US$10/channel system. TFF production is labor insentive. There are several operations in China. 50 GHz TFF has been proposed and close to become a reality.

For FBG to compete with TFF, they have to be mass produced automatically. None of existing player so far as I know is in this position.
lightfax
lightfax
12/4/2012 | 7:32:14 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
As it is a open secret in FBG business that couple of products like wavelength locker and DWDM filters have become commodity products. Dispersion compensators based on FBG is not very suitable at 40gig or at 10gig for that matter. I wonder as to why VC still pumping money in not so promising technology as it was touted to be. Am I missing something here?
uvlight
uvlight
12/4/2012 | 7:32:13 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
Lightfax,

Here's what you might be missing...

1. Low insertion loss
2. High coupling efficiency
3. Small footprint
4. Low error function
yeti
yeti
12/4/2012 | 7:32:12 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
You're missing a lot more!

The're is a new generation of FBG essentially without GDR (group-delay ripples) making them very likely candidates for dispersion compensators. Filters suitable for 10Gbs and 40Gbs have indeed been developed with very small dispersion within the useful bandwidth. A couple of companies are in a good position to supply such filters today.

I'd be careful, your comments are not up-to-date on the state of this technology. They are a real threat to thin film filters for high density networks and gain equalizers as well.

Cheers
yeti
yeti
12/4/2012 | 7:32:12 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
You're missing a lot more!

The're is a new generation of FBG essentially without GDR (group-delay ripples) making them very likely candidates for dispersion compensators. Filters suitable for 10Gbs and 40Gbs have indeed been developed with very small dispersion within the useful bandwidth. A couple of companies are in a good position to supply such filters today.

I'd be careful, your comments are not up-to-date on the state of this technology. They are a real threat to thin film filters for high density networks and gain equalizers as well.

Cheers
LightBeating
LightBeating
12/4/2012 | 7:32:11 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
Lightfax,

Totally agree. FBG's are a commodity. Teraxion, and Southampton Photonics for that matter, bring nothing new to this technology that wasn't there 5 years ago. But Canadian VC's are always late by a generation or two when it comes to technology...

LB
LobsterBoy
LobsterBoy
12/4/2012 | 7:32:11 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
Lightfax, it is an open secret that you have no clue what you are talking about. IGÇÖm sure VCs are well aware of the current market malaise and the risks inherent. If they are investing money in this technology maybe they are aware of something that you are not?

IGÇÖm sure your vast amount of personal experience with bragg grating products has helped you to form these well thought out conclusions of yours.

I for one wouldnGÇÖt be so quick to cast judgment on this technology.
yeti
yeti
12/4/2012 | 7:32:11 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
LightBeating!

Your comment very conspicuously demonstrate that your own understanding is 5 years old.

Come on - educate yourself!
yeti
yeti
12/4/2012 | 7:32:11 PM
re: TeraXion Trots Out FBGs
LightBeating!

Your comment very conspicuously demonstrate that your own understanding is 5 years old.

Come on - educate yourself!
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