For reasons of bandwidth, EMI immunity, distance, future-proofing, passive sensing, security or safety; fibre is finding its way into ever more ruggedised applications.
This increase brings potential issues for system integrators and end-users, especially if they’re not prepared, or have had solutions designed that are not suited for the application or environment of the end-users.
Guidelines and challenges for each industry
Each harsh environment industry is at its own stage of evolution at being capable of managing, maintaining and installing fibre optics into its systems. This is often related to the duration and proliferation of use of fibre optics. In addition, each industry and application has its own set of challenges to overcome, be it the environment, the end-users, the product itself, or a combination.
Avionics systems using fibre for data and HD video
Some industries, for example aerospace, already have stringent guidelines for installation, specification, cleaning, maintenance, equipment, and training; following standards such as ARINC, SAE, EN and BSI. Regardless, downtime can still be experienced due to training and ensuring technicians and installation engineers follow the specifications, which is often neglected.
For applications where this balance is more heavily weighted towards the product itself to provide less risk of failures in the field; technology can play a big part in prolonging fibre installations and making them less prone to contaminants during use. This results in easier end-user maintenance, lower training requirements, less or zero tooling for cleaning, and higher durability in the field.
A particular technology well-suited to this method of approach is expanded beam, which is used extensively in military field deployable systems, broadcast, top-side oil & gas, and mining applications. The trade-off is a connector solution which has slightly higher insertion loss when compared with a physical contact connector, but with most modern fibre networks, these losses can be accommodated and even multiple “daisy-chain” deployments can be used.
Most rapid increase in oil & gas
Other applications where fibre has seen the most rapid increase of uses is oil & gas. With the increase in processing power, data collecting and a drive for efficiencies and cost reductions, fibre offers the perfect medium for high bandwidth communication, high temperature downhole passive sensing, and communication over very long distances. For applications where fibre connectivity is needed in explosive environments and zoned areas, there’s ATEX/IECEx certified fibre connectors, some of which also employ expanded beam technology. This rapid introduction of fibre optic solutions over the past five years, however, has resulted in the industry being prudent and ensuring investment is made in cleaning, testing, and maintenance kits. These are necessary to support their installations and equipment, evident of an industry where down-time results in considerable costs.
PEI-Genesis provides fibre optic interconnect solutions
With this increase in industries and applications implementing fibre optics comes an increase in manufacturers developing new connectivity solutions, cables and maintenance equipment to support the growing needs. Early engagement with a connector and cable specialist is critical to ensure the correct solution is specified, while considering the environment, durability, system requirements, and most importantly, the end-user.