What Is The Fiber Optic Interconnect Technology Of Aerospace Cables?


What Is The Fiber Optic Interconnect Technology Of Aerospace Cables?

Have you ever imagined how the so delicate yet strong aerospace and military platforms work? They use photonics with its virtually infinite bandwidth, compact size, electrical noise immunity, and increased capacity. These cost-effective photonics are inserted into a number of aerospace and military platforms so that they can handle higher data rates and larger traffic volumes. These increased data rates between various subsystems drive the interconnecting solution to be fiber optics. These aerospace and military fiber optic cables are thus used in the harshest of environments that include shocks, vibration, high temperatures, and extreme pressures – those that are not generally observed in other commercial applications. Miracle Aerospace are the leading cable assembly manufacturers in India who have expertise and experience of manufacturing the finest quality military cable assemblies that can withstand the most rigorous environments.

The military fiber optic cables, mentioned above, are generally manufactured using manual labour, which is a very intensive procedure that requires a very high degree of manual expertise and skill to achieve these stringent performance requirements. In 2001, the Fiber Optic Interconnect Technology, or FOIT in short, was introduced as a Navy ManTech effort at fiber optic cable assembly automation. This phase development program was funded to improve cable performance and reliability by developing and demonstrating key technologies to reduce risks, while automating the cable assembly process. With this program, the life cycle cost for fiber optic insertion into military and aerospace applications is also reduced. The baseline cables used for this program were fiber optic cables that used the MIL-T-29504/4 and MIL-T-29504/5 connectors with ceramic ferrules, PC polish, and Lucent Flightguide Cable to produce F-16 and F-22 optical interconnect harnesses. However, these cables posed a number of challenges for automation. The processes for military and commercial cable assembly manufacturing were then systematically identified, partitioned, and optimized within an automated process flow.

Five process islands were designed and fabricated, namely cable preparation station, connector assembly station, epoxy cure station, and face polishing station, and inspection and testing station.

  • The cable preparation station facilitated the cutting of raw materials to the required length, and then spooling and placing them into a material handling pallet for further processing.
  • The connector assembly station involved the process of stripping and cutting of the cables, stripping of the buffer, and the cleaning and terminating of the fiber.
  • The epoxy cure station cured the pallet loaded cables to a user selected cure profile.
  • The end face polishing station automatically polished the ends of the cables.
  • The inspection and testing station was where extensive performance verification, optimization, and validation took place.

Although so effective, there was one challenge faced when the FOIT developed technology was implemented into the production of military and aerospace fiber optic cables. This was the qualification of the system and processes for flight programs. Proof is required that the new automated process meets or exceeds the performance requirements, which must be approved by the individual program systems engineering prior to insertion into production.