Top Promising Innovation – Fiber Flex Foils

As data center speeds get faster and faster, the center itself needs a compact design. CommScope has an innovation for exactly that, as Paul Schneider talks about with our latest Promising Innovation.

Top Promising Innovation Fiber Flex_smallNote: Last year, we unveiled our top 40 innovations made by CommScope or one of its acquired companies. This recognition was part of our 40th anniversary celebration. We are proud of all our innovations—past and present. Now, we look to new innovations that we hope will become the essential building blocks for the networks of the future. In a series of blogs, we will introduce you to our Top Promising Innovations in the world of wireless and fiber optics. We believe these innovations have the potential to have significant impact on the industry, much like some of the others from our past.

Fiber Flex Foil

Definition: A fiber flex foil is a sub-assembly of multiple fibers routed into an adhesive layer on a flexible plastic foil. It is covered with a flexible coating material. It has the capability to make high count fiber routing patterns.

Year of Innovation: 2009

What is the innovation that CommScope was first in creating?

While this innovation was first created at TE Connectivity in 2009, it remained behind closed doors due to trade laws. The technology itself isn’t new, but the application is unique. The team created the capability to place fibers on a flexible substrate with state-of-the-art fully automated equipment. It is incredibly accurate and fast to route the fibers.

What was happening in the market that this innovation was needed?

We like to say that history was repeating itself. In the past we moved in the electrical domain from discrete copper wires to printed circuit boards (PCB). We now can say that fiber flex foils are the predecessor of the fully optical PCB, which still is under development. Increases in data and fiber density required us to come up with this technology.

How does this innovation benefit customers and the industry?

Fiber flex foils enable us to build very compact designs for high density data center applications. In addition, the manufacturing automation it enables has improved the quality and performance of our microcassettes, the first product that uses the technology.

What are some of the early marketplace successes for this innovation?

Besides the micro cassette project, flex foils have also been applied to a number of MPO products.

What is the significance of the innovation for CommScope?

Fiber flex foils change how we design and implement fiber routing products, enabling more manufacturing automation, smaller footprint designs and improved optical performance. In the future, the technology could be used in combination with integrated photonics and to connect optical components in a high density environment.

Does innovation follow any established industry standards or do you believe it might set a precedent for its own?

We have a number of patents surrounding the fundamental flex foil technology, and we are continuing to use the technology to create new and improved fiber optic products.

How do you see this innovation evolving?

It will be used initially in high fiber density applications. Additional processes are under development to enable automated connector assembly to a fiber flex foil. This will be another step in the direction of full automation for fiber products. The technology will evolve to support new fiber types such as WBMMF fibers and 80 micron fibers.

The next likely usage for the technology will be with silicon photonics, where fiber flex foils will enable the interconnection of multiple silicon photonic devices using high speed fiber optic pathways.

CommScope’s Willy Rietveld contributed to this post and owns two patents around this technology.