UPDATE ? Market Trends:
Harsh Environment Fiber Optic Components & Devices
Stephen Montgomery, President ? ElectroniCast Corporation

            The consumption value ($, Million) of selected harsh environment fiber optic components and devices, used in communication applications, will continue to maintained steady growth.  Harsh environment components typically are ordered only for committed use; therefore inventory fluctuations are minor.

            Harsh Environment Defined         Harsh Environment (HE) is defined, by ElectroniCast Corporation, as environment beyond the limits normally encountered by commercial telecom, datacom and intra-equipment fiber data links; extremes of

Temperature; above or below (-40 to +75) degrees C
Shock and vibration
Tensile strength (e.g., for fiber-guided missiles, tethered sensors, etc.)
High electromagnetic or radio-frequency (EMI/RFI/EMP) interference
Corrosive and/or solvent surroundings
Atomic and other RadiationExternal pressure extremes
Rough handling during installation/deployment

Rough handling during installation or deployment also qualifies as a gharsh environmenth.

            The use of fiber optic systems to carry digitized voice, video, and data is the norm. In military qualified applications, the requirement to provide deliver an increasingly volume ever of information at faster speeds, immune from RFI/EMI, light-weight and several other factors are pushing a wide range of retrofit and new fiber optic programs. For example, the fly-by-light flight control systems may someday replace fly-by-wire systems with cabling which are lighter, smaller and safer. Several manufacturers are in the business of providing solutions covering the area of tactical fiber optic solutions.

            The global consumption value of harsh environment fiber optic components as defined for this period, will climb from $1.16 billion in 2003 and $1.60 billion in 2005 to $2.87 billion in 2009, as illustrated in Figure 1 (source: ElectroniCast).  Active Harsh Environment fiber optic components include: transmitters/receivers, optical fiber amplifiers, semiconductor optical amplifiers and gotherh active components.  Passive Harsh Environment fiber optic component include: cable assembly/harness, optical backplanes, Photonic switches, filter modules and gotherh passive components.

                                                                    Figure 1

Global Consumption Value of Harsh Environment Fiber Optic

 Components (Active versus Passive), US$ Million

            Commercial/Industrial Dominated POFLinks       The market value is dominated by Military/Aerospace qualified-components, with a 76 percent relative market share in 2005, eventually expanding to 83 percent or $2.39 billion by 2009, as shown in figure 2 (source: ElectronicCast). The commercial/industrial fiber optic component consumption, in turn, is dominated by plastic optical fiber (POF) links.  The military/aerospace applications of fiber optics addressed in this report are entirely glass optical fiber (GOF) based. POF component vendors have a strong interest in penetrating the military aerospace market, and substantial related development efforts are proceeding, but the interest of system contractors in venturing into POF use is still tentative.

             Automotive              Substantial further development, now in process, must be demonstrated, evaluated, then designed into systems, which in turn must be funded and contracted.  The utilization of POF components in harsh environment commercial and industrial applications, however, has already developed a major market, especially in automotive applications.

            Glass Fiber Based Components will Continue Dominance                The consumption value of harsh environment fiber optic components is dominated by glass optical fiber based cable assemblies and the associated transceivers. While plastic optical fiber has gained impressive penetration into relatively low data rate applications such as automotive data links, military/aerospace applications will be slow to develop.

Figure 2

Harsh Environment Fiber Optic Components

Global Consumption Value Market Share, by Major Application Type

            Devices and parts are Major Value Added         The active and passive devices and parts that are consumed in the production of harsh environment fiber optic components are a major part of the components value. The global consumption of these devices and parts will expand, 2003-2009, to reach $2.87 billion by 2009. The active device share of total devices and parts value will expand from 41 percent to 45 percent, 2003-2009. The increasing necessity of using radiation-hardened opto ASICs is a key factor in this, along with the trend of increasing integration of opto and circuit functions.

            Specialty Devices and Parts for Harsh Environment       Harsh environment fiber optic components typically require non-standard packages, connectors, jacketed fiber cable, semiconductors and other parts and devices. The cost of these is typically 3x or 10x the cost of comparable-performance commercial items, but can be even higher for small ?quantity items developed for a single, unique application.

            Wide Variation in Applications      Harsh environment rated fiber optic components are used in a much wider range of applications than commercial telecom and datacom, and accordingly require a much wider range of environment compliance. For military/aerospace applications, in particular, numerous environmental variables must be met, but not all of them in all applications, and not with the same limits. Environments that are specified, outside the range typically listed for commercial telecom/datacom include one or more of the following:

                    Temperature (minimum and/or maximum)
                    Corrosive liquid or atmosphere
                    Pressure, ranging from vacuum (space) to extreme (deep ocean)

                    Tensile force
                   Flexibility (continuous flexing)
                    Atmospheric contaminants
                    Electromagnetic, radio interference (EMI, RFI, EMP)

                    Rough handling in installation/deployment

            The specifications of these environments also vary widely, beyond commercial specifications, depending on applications. A high temperature requirement of 85 degrees C for military/aerospace, instead of 75 degrees C commercial is most common, but there are 1000 degree C environments; 100G shock, 1500 rem/hour radiation, etc. that can be required of fiber optic components

            Some Commercial Telecom and Datacom Links are Included              Although military applications, plus non-military aerospace, dominate the market value of harsh environment fiber optic, communication links, commercial telecom and datacom links sometimes must withstand, and operate during, stress beyond typical specifications. Telecom cable installed in sewers is an example and also RF signal (on optical carrier) links installed on antenna towers.

            A significant concern of copper signal cables is the vulnerability of the signals to interference caused by radio signals, sparks of arc welders and motor brushes, and engine cylinder ignition. As fiber signal link costs continue downward, and as transmitted data rates continue to increase, fiber increasingly will displace copper in automotive, factory and numerous other applications. While conventional glass fiber cable and optoelectronics are immune to EMI and RFI, plastic optical fiber (POF) is equally immune, is more resistant to other harsh environments such as shock/vibration and rough handling during installation, and permits lower cost fiber links in high volume automated production.

            To a large extent, harsh environment fiber optic components are designed to meet specific project specifications, rather than being semi-standard, suitable for a number of different applications. Fiber cable and connectors are exceptions; most harsh environment fiber cable assemblies use connectors and cable that are standardized and available from several vendors. Transmitter/receiver modules, optical backplanes, WDM modules and most other components, however, are designed, or modified to meet unique system applications. They are produced in quantities from a few dozen to a few hundred, per year, resulting in much higher unit prices (including amortization of R&D and tooling costs) compared to similar optoelectronic performance COTS components.