Fibre optic cables are used in both industrial and domestic applications. Domestically, they can be found within broadband and telecommunications systems, as well as in our cars – applications which many of us rely on day-to-day.
The initial fibre-optic data transmission was first demonstrated in 1965, by a German physicist named Manfred Börner. Since then, fibre optic cables have helped people communicate all over the world, as well as being a very reliable method of data transmission for industrial applications.
Fibre optic cables are a bundle of thin strands of glass (each almost as thin as a human hair), which transmit light signals over an extensive distance, through the phenomenon of total internal reflection. The strands of glass are also referred to as optical fibres, and are collectively known as the ‘core’ of a fibre optic cable.
The outer ‘cladding’ of a fibre optic cable is typically made from a durable, yet flexible material. Because fibre optic cables are typically used within industrial environments to transmit important and often relied-upon information between machinery, these material properties are especially essential.
The material used for fibre optic cables can vary, depending on which environment they have been designed for. Outdoor fibre optic cables are typically resistant to UV rays and a range of temperatures. Fibre optic cables used within machinery needs to allow for flexibility, and so polyurethane (PUR) is often used as an outer sheath cladding material.
Industrially, fibre optic cables are used within large machinery, including assembly lines for manufacturing as well as being used within sensory devices. These devices measure and monitor conditions such as pressures and temperatures within industrial environments.
Before the invention of fibre optic cables for data transmission, copper cabling was used to transmit data. This was a much slower method of data transmission, as copper cable is unable to carry as much information as fibre optic. Whilst copper cabling may still be used in some areas today, fibre optic is quickly replacing it.
Fibre optic cables have less attenuation than copper cabling. This means that data can travel much further, with distances reaching into the kilometres for single-mode fibre optics. Attenuation is the reduction of the strength of a signal (over a distance or time), and so it is always best to look for cables with a low amount.
Fibre optic cables are renowned for their reliability, and are immune to electromagnetic interference. With metal cabling, electromagnetic interference is a common issue which cannot be avoided. Fibre optics are also favoured due to the low maintenance required once they’ve been installed within a system.
Fibre optic cabling is also a safer option, especially within industrial environments, as they are not considered a fire hazard. This is due to a lack of an electrical current running through the core of fibre optic cables.
Due to the increasing use and popularity of fibre optic cables, the initial price of installation is slowly lowering. After reviewing the advantages that fibre optic possesses over its data transmitting predecessors however, it is an undoubtedly beneficial investment.