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Vytran™ Automated Glass Processors with Integrated Cleaver
Glass Processor with Built-In Cleaver
Fiber Holder Top Insert
Graphite Filament Assembly
Glass Processor Workstations, Filaments, Inserts, and Accessories All Sold Separately
Build Your System
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False Color Temperature Overlay During Taper Draw Process
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Real-Time Image of Fiber Splice Process Using Hot Camera Imaging
Thorlabs' Vytran™ Optical Fiber Glass Processors are versatile platforms designed for fabricating splices, tapers, couplers, terminations, and combiners using optical fibers. The glass processors sold on this page feature a patented precision cleaver integrated into the splice head (US Patent: 9,377,583 B2) and real-time process monitoring via the hot imaging camera, as well as automated pre-splice alignment for the XY position of the fiber edge and rotational orientation of the fiber core. This combination of features allows users to cleave and splice polarization-maintaining fibers and specialty fibers with microstructured cores on a single station, while maintaining the capability to fabricate fiber tapers and terminations in a wide variety of fiber types. The GPX3800 glass processor is compatible with fibers up to Ø1.25 mm cladding while the higher power GPX3850 can process fibers up to Ø1.7 mm cladding.
These glass processors incorporate a filament-based furnace assembly that provides a uniform and precisely controlled, high-temperature heat source. Because filament material and size can be interchanged easily (9 different filament options are available below), a wide range of fiber cladding diameters and specialty fiber types can be accommodated using the same system. Precise control over fiber position and orientation enables a number of advanced fiber processing applications from low-loss splicing in dissimilar fibers to the creation of adiabatic fiber tapers, fiber terminations, or fused fiber couplers (please see the Applications tab for examples).
The fiber cleaver integrated into the splice head uses the same "tension-and-scribe" process as the LDC401 Series Fiber Cleavers and is compatible with fiber cladding diameters up to 400 µm. As seen in the image to the right, tension is applied along the length of the fiber followed by an automatic scribing process utilizing a diamond cleave blade. After the blade scribes the fiber, tension is maintained, causing the scribe to propagate across the fiber width and complete the cleave.
True Core Imaging and Hot Image Camera
Through ND filters integrated into the camera system, users can obtain real-time images of fibers during the splicing/tapering process (see the images to the right). This advanced imaging feature provides instant feedback on splice/taper quality, allowing users to quickly develop processes and optimize parameters for their application.
Options and Accessories
Several optional add-ons are available for these systems to enable specialized applications. The GPXWCS Liquid Cooling System helps cool the furnace assembly when the filaments are used for extended heating times and is recommended for customers interested in creating long fiber tapers. It comes included with the high-power GPX3850 and can be purchased as an add-on for the GPX3800. Additionally, Thorlabs offers a Fiber Taper Software Add-On and Taper Handling Fixtures (sold below), which include software application files and fixture upgrades that enable high repeatability when fabricating and handling microtapers, nanotapers, fused fiber couplers, or wavelength division multiplexers. The software add-on and fixtures can be purchased separately or together as a kit.
Replacement blades for the fiber cleavers in the glass processing workstations are also available below.
Fiber Holder Inserts Selection Guide
Fiber Holder Inserts, which are designed to hold various sized fibers within the glass processors, must be purchased separately. The bottom inserts have V-grooves to hold the fiber, while the top inserts each feature a recessed, flat surface that clamps the fiber against the V-groove in the bottom insert. Each top and bottom insert is sold individually, as the fiber outer diameter clamped by the left and right holding blocks may not be the same. At least two top inserts and two bottom inserts are required to operate the glass processor.
The table below indicates the maximum and minimum outer diameters that can be accommodated by different combinations of top and bottom inserts. It also indicates how far offset the fiber will be for recommended combinations of top and bottom inserts. Note that this outer diameter may be the fiber cladding, jacket, or buffer. If one side of the fiber is being discarded, it is preferable to clamp onto the cladding of this section except in special cases (such as non-circular fiber) where the coating or buffer may be preferable. Sections of fiber that are not being discarded should always be clamped on the coating or buffer in order to avoid damaging the glass. This may require different sets of fiber holder inserts to be used in the left and right holding blocks. In this case, it is important to minimize the difference in the offsets introduced by the left and right sets of inserts when attempting to produce high-quality splices.
Each V-groove can accommodate a range of fiber sizes.
Fiber Insert Selection Chart
Each glass processor workstation is shipped with a PC and monitor pre-installed with the GUI software for operating the glass processor. An abbreviated library of splice process files, listed to the right, is included for common splicing and tapering procedures. The GUI and splice library software enables users to create their own splice files for new processes or to customize existing files as necessary. Additionally, an add-on software package is available that includes application files for specialized applications that can be purchased separately below. Please contact Tech Support for inquiries regarding your specific application.
The sections below illustrate several fiber splicing and tapering applications that can be programmed through the software GUI.
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Figure 1. Screenshot of PM Fiber Alignment Configuration Window
The end-view alignment process is initiated by pulling the fibers back so that an end-view mirror can be inserted between two fiber end faces. An LED illuminates the fiber cladding, allowing the software to image the fiber end. Then, the image of the fiber end face is displayed and used to automatically align the cores of the two fibers. PM alignment parameters can be set for each fiber type as shown Figure 1 to the right. This window consists of four parameters: diameter (fiber cladding), fiber type, and two PM geometry parameters for both the left and right fiber. If these parameters are not known, it is possible to directly measure them using the displayed image of the fiber end face.
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Figure 2. Screenshot of Taper Geometry Customization Window
Fiber Taper Customization
During the tapering process, three different regions are created. Initially, the fiber is elongated and tapered under constant heating creating the "down taper" region where the fiber diameter is decreasing. Once the fiber has been tapered down to a desired diameter, a constant rate of elongation is applied so that there is a region with a reduced, but constant diameter, known as the "waist" of the fiber. Finally, the pulling force on the fiber is reduced until finally it is no longer elongating, creating the “up taper.” The filament temperature and pull velocities are controlled to achieve the desired geometry of the fiber.
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Figure 3. Screenshot of Tension Monitor and Control System
Tension Monitor and Control
As an example, a standard 400 to 200 µm taper should be pre-tensioned to approximately 20 g. The desired pre-tension is applied by pulling the fiber in fine steps using one of the fiber holding blocks. Feedback loops can be set during the taper process to monitor the tension in the fiber. For example, if the tension drops to 0 or negative values, the heating should be decreased because the glass has been softened too much. Conversely, if the tension increases beyond a given set point, heating should be increased because the fiber has not been sufficiently softened.
Thorlabs' Vytran™ Optical Fiber Glass Processors are versatile, fully integrated glass processing and fiber splicing platforms for fabricating splices, tapers, and custom terminations with high precision and low loss. Featuring a comprehensive applications library, these processes can be performed for many different fiber sizes and types. Examples of a few fiber splicing/processing applications are listed in the sections below and highlighted in the video to the right.
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Two fibers with dissimilar cores before and after splicing. The dissimilar cores are clearly visible before the cores are thermally expanded.
Fusion Splicing is a process of joining two optical fibers end-to-end using heat. The goal is to fuse the two fibers together in such a way that light passing through the fibers is not scattered or reflected by the splice while ensuring that the splice and the region surrounding it should be almost as strong as the original fiber. The glass processors use a resistive graphite or iridium filament shaped like an upside-down omega to provide the heat necessary for fusion.
Once the two fibers to be spliced are aligned, the splice head is repositioned so that the filament is centered under the fiber ends. Power is then applied to the filament to raise its temperature to a level hot enough to fuse the fibers together, typically about 3000 °C. Because the filament would oxidize if it were brought to such a high temperature in air, high-purity argon gas is used to purge the splicing chamber of oxygen during the filament fusion process. In order to keep the fibers clean and improve splice strength, the purging gas (not available from Thorlabs) is set to flow over the fibers at a high rate during the fusion process.
Mode Adapters and NA Converters
Fiber Processing Applications
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Ø20 µm core, Ø400 µm cladding large-mode-area (LMA) fiber tapered to Ø125 µm cladding.
Tapering and Drawing
End caps are large-core-diameter, short-length fibers used to diffuse the beam intensity of high-power fibers to prevent damage to fiber end faces. Glass processors are well suited for fusing large-core-silica end caps to the ends of power beam delivery fibers. We recommend using an LDC401 or LDC401A Fiber Cleaver to fabricate end caps with precise lengths.
Couplers and Combiners
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Two single mode fibers tapered and fused together for 50/50 coupling in a glass processor. Spacing between the fiber cores is approximately 15 to 20 µm.
These Vytran™ Glass Processor Workstations feature automatic XY and rotational alignment of the fiber and a diamond cleave blade that is integrated into the splice head. This combined functionality enables users to perform multiple operations on the same fiber without realigning the position and rotation of the fiber after each process step. Additionally, the camera system is equipped with ND filters that allow the user to view the fiber edges in real time while the filament is hot, providing fast feedback on splice/taper quality. The GPX3800 and GPX3850 can splice or taper fibers with outer diameters up to 1.25 mm or 1.7 mm, respectively.
The precision fiber handlers can position a fiber in XY with a resolution of 0.25 µm and rotate a fiber up to 200° with a resolution of 0.02°. Cleaving, splicing, and tapering processes are controlled automatically through the included software GUI. The included fiber holders can translate up to 180 mm along the fiber axis, allowing the filament to heat large portions of the input fiber(s). This extended heating range is ideal for many applications including thermally diffusing core dopants to achieve low-loss splices between highly dissimilar fibers or for fabricating long adiabatic fiber tapers.
The workstation includes the fiber holders, furnace assembly, CCD camera with ND filters for hot imaging, PC and monitor pre-installed with the control software, and mirror tower for side- and end-view imaging. Each processor workstation is fitted with a high-purity Teflon gas line and a gas regulator equipped with a CGA-580 output port; a DIN 477 Number 6 output port connector is also included. Graphite or iridium filament assemblies, as well as the top and bottom inserts for the fiber holders, both of which are required to operate the glass processor workstation, can be purchased separately below.
Installation and training by one of our application engineers is recommended for this system; please contact Tech Support for more details.
Filament Assemblies contain a graphite or iridium omega-shaped resistive heater element encased within a protective shroud. The filaments sold here are compatible with the automated glass processors; those indicated in the table to the right as splice filaments are also compatible with the LFS4100 Splicing System.
A selection of six graphite and three iridium filament assemblies for fibers with claddings up to Ø1800 µm are available. Graphite filaments are capable of achieving the high temperatures necessary for splicing or tapering large-diameter fibers while outgassing less than filaments made from other metals. Alternatively, iridium filaments heat fibers at slightly lower temperatures than graphite filaments, making these ideal for working with soft glass fibers. Although the heating time of a filament is approximately 40 minutes, this can vary depending on a number of factors including argon quality, splice/taper duration, and fiber glass quality.
Filaments are optimized for splicing or tapering applications; this is not restrictive, however, as splice filaments can be used for tapering. Splice filaments have an opening in the top of the assembly body, while tapering filaments are closed off at the top to minimize exposure to contaminants. Different filament bodies are distinguished by the version number (e.g., V2, V6, T3) engraved on the assembly body.
Fiber Holder Inserts, which consist of one top insert and either a bottom or transfer insert, are placed in the fiber holding blocks of the optical glass processor to secure the fiber during splicing or tapering. The inserts clamp the cladding, buffer, or coating of the fiber and can accommodate outer diameters of up to 3.198 mm. Please refer to the Fiber Holder Insert tab for more information on pairing the top and bottom inserts sold here.
Two types of top inserts are compatible with the automated glass processors. The VHA standard top inserts come in single-sided and dual-sided versions. These standard inserts can also be used in the LDC401 Series of Fiber Cleavers, FPS300 Stripping and Cleaning Station, and LFS4100 Splicing System. The VHB00 and VHB05 top inserts feature an indent for LED illumination from the automated glass processor workstations and are necessary for end-view imaging and alignment of the cores of polarization-maintaining and microstructured specialty fibers.
Fiber Holder Inserts, which consist of one top insert and either a bottom or transfer insert, are placed in the fiber holding blocks of the optical glass processor to secure the fiber during splicing or tapering. Bottom inserts are magnetically held within the fiber holding blocks of the glass processors and other compatible systems. The V-groove machined into the bottom inserts ensures the fiber is centered within the fiber holder; inserts with different V-groove sizes are available (see the Fiber Holder Insert tab for more information on pairing top and bottom inserts).
Three types of bottom inserts are compatible with the glass processors: transfer bottom inserts, standard bottom inserts, and a side-by-side bottom insert. Transfer bottom inserts (indicated with Item #'s starting with VHF) allow for a single fiber to be transferred between the LDC401 Series of Fiber Cleavers, FPS300 Stripping and Cleaning Station, and LFS4100 Splicing System with minimal loss of alignment. For example, a fiber can be placed in a transfer insert and cleaved using the LDC401 cleaver, then the entire transfer insert can be placed in the LFS4100 Splicing System for splicing. This process works because the transfer inserts are precisely located within each Vytran system, and the VHT1 Magnetic Lid (sold directly below) prevents axial movement of the fiber during transport. Transfer inserts are equipped with vacuum holes that provide a small suction force to hold the fiber in place. All of these transfer inserts require the VHT1 Transfer Clamp (sold below); transfer inserts for fiber outer diameters ≤550 µm also require a Graphite V-Groove (sold below).
Standard Fiber Holder Bottom Inserts (indicated by Item #'s starting with VHE) can be used with fibers with large-diameter fibers. These inserts come in single-sided and dual-sided versions. The standard bottom inserts can also be used in the LDC401 Series of Fiber Cleavers, FPS300 Stripping and Cleaning Station, and LFS4100 Splicing System. Unlike transfer inserts, alignment of the fibers will not be maintained when these inserts are transferred between systems.
The VHD250S Side-by-Side Bottom Insert is designed for applications requiring two fibers to be tapered and fused together, such as wavelength division multiplexers or fused fiber couplers. This insert is equipped to hold two Ø250 µm cladding fibers in parallel. The VHA00 or VHB00 top insert should be used for optimal clamping of the fiber.
These Transfer Clamps and V-Grooves are used with the VHF Transfer Bottom Inserts sold directly above to move a single fiber between various Vytran™ systems with minimal loss of alignment. For example, a fiber can be placed in a transfer insert and cleaved using the LDC401 Fiber Cleaver. Then, the entire transfer insert and fiber can be moved to a glass processor for splicing.
The GPXWCS Liquid Cooling System is an optional add-on for our Vytran Glass Processors that helps keep the furnace assembly cooled during extended heating operations. It is highly recommended for customers interested in fiber tapering, mode adapter, or fiber termination applications. This cooling system is also compatible with the LFS4100 Splicing System, but is not necessary for standard splicing processes.
The GPXWCS has a 157 mL reservoir to cycle high-performance liquid coolant (700 mL bottle of coolant included) at flow rates of up to 4 L/min with a cooling capacity of 590 W at 25 °C ambient temperature; click here for a MSDS safety sheet. Tubing and fittings for connecting to a Vytran Glass Processor are included. The cooling system can be powered either through a 12 VDC Molex Connector (via the included computer slot adapter) or externally using the included 110/120 VAC power adapter.
These optional add-ons for the Vytran Glass Processors are designed to aid microtaper and fused fiber coupler processing. The software and fixture add-ons can be purchased separately or together in a kit. The GPXFBT-SFT software package enables finer control over heating and fiber pulling parameters during active FBT processes, resulting in improved yields and high repeatability between runs.
Two fixture add-ons are also available. The GPXFBT-FXTA Adjustable Taper Fiber Gripper fixture provides a stable base for your specific length component, allowing transfer to a packaging station. The fiber gripper can be adjusted to accomodate taper lengths from 0 - 3.15" (0 - 80 mm). The GPXFBT-FXTB Removable Taper Holder Fiber Fixture option acts as a pick-up and removal apparatus for the user to safely and securely transport the fabricated taper or coupler for secondary processing or in situ packaging. The stages included with these fixtures have an x-axis and y-axis travel of 1" (25.4 mm) and a roll and yaw adjustment of ±2.5° and ±5°, respectively. When using the fixture add-ons with the GPX3800 and GPX3850, the cleave head needs to be removed before the fixtures can be installed.
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The blade is shipped in a protective covering.
The ACL83 Diamond Cleave Blade is a replacement blade for the Vytran™ fiber processing systems listed to the right. Each system is shipped with a blade included.
When used with proper cleave parameters, a single location on the blade can provide up to 5,000 cleaves (dependent on the cladding properties of the fiber being cleaved). The blade can be positioned approximately 10 times before replacement (assuming proper cleave parameters and usage that does not cause unexpected damage to the blade). Blade replacement instructions for each system are provided in the user manuals.
Note: Severe damage to the blade can occur if conditions cause high stress perpendicular to the edge of the blade or if incorrect parameters are used to cleave the fiber.
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USC1 with Two Beakers (Included) for Two-Step Cleaning Process
The USC1 Ultrasonic Cleaner is a self-contained, compact device that uses ultrasonic waves to clean small components. It produces waves with a peak power of 22 W and a frequency of 55 kHz. The 530 mL tank is filled with a liquid, usually water. A foot pedal that is plugged into the electrical cord offers hands-free operation.
Please note that the USC1 includes a power cord for US-style outlets and requires 117 VAC to operate. There is no 230 V equivalent at this time.