Testing Gear Breeds Speed
Test gear on the drawing board at Exfo Electro-Optical Engineering Inc. (Nasdaq: EXFO; Toronto: EXF) and other companies will streamline the process of making optical components, sources say. And that in turn will boost the entire optical networking industry.
Experts agree on the need for these kinds of testers. In an interview with Light Reading last year, ex-JDSU CEO Kevin Kalkhoven said: "The one great thing about photonics is that you can make one of anything... The real issue... is how do you make 10,000 of them a month?" (see Kevin Kalkhoven ).
EXFO, which makes a variety of test kits for fiber optic gear, says up to 60 percent of the cost of making optical parts is the test and measurement that's required to get the job done. It plans to slash component production time by integrating its automated test system for passive DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) components with fiber-alignment tools from Burleigh Instruments Inc., a company it acquired in December (see EXFO Completes Burleigh Buy).
EXFO plans to create a system that automatically tests the quality and alignment of DWDM parts, shortcutting the laborious process of checks and rechecks that exists today. The company hopes to have the product ready within 24 months.
EXFO isn't alone. Another maker of fiber optic testers, Newport Corp. (Nasdaq: NEWP), is taking a similar tack. Newport recently puchased Kensington Laboratories Inc., a company with expertise in sub-micron motion control and fiber optic alignment. When the deal was announced in December, Newport cited the importance of Kensington's role in helping Newport in "development of next generation automation for aligning and packaging fiber optic devices."
Rumor has it that Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) also is on track to announce automated test tools for component manufacturing this spring.
Component manufacturers also see the need for test equipment. Earlier this month, JDS Uniphase Inc. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) announced its investment in Avantas Networks Corp., a privately held test gear vendor. Spokespeople say plans call for technology integration: "The main intent is not for JDSU to resell Avantas gear but to form a partnership which leverages both Avantas technology with... JDSU optical technology," writes Giovanni Forte, vice president of product management for Avantas, in a note to Light Reading.
-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com