|Title of Invention
"MANUFACTURE OF A ROD-IN-TUBE OPTICAL FIBER PREFORM"
|The present invention relates to an overclad optical fiber preform suitable for setting up at the mouth of a vertical optical fiber draw furnace having an interior hot zone, comprising a core rod; an outer overclad tube having an open distal end that is formed to enter into the mouth of the draw fiimace, and a tube axis; a plug dimensioned to be placed inside the open distal end of the outer overclad tube; means for supporting the plug inside the open distal end arranged to engage a part of said distal end; and the core rod is disposed axially inside the outer overclad tube so that a lower end of the rod is restrained from downward movement by the plug at the distal end of the tube as the distal end of the tube enters the mouth of the vertical draw fumace and descends into the hot zone of the furnace.
|This invention relates to optical fiber preforms, and particularly to such preforms of the rod-in-tube (RIT) variety. The invention also concerns a method of drawing an optical fiber using a RIT preform.
Discussion of the Known Art
Optical fibers for data and information transmission are commonly produced by inserting one end of a glass fiber preform rod into the mouth of a vertical fiber draw furnace, and heating the inserted end of the rod as it descends into a hot zone of the furnace, A soft glass drop is formed at the end of the rod from which an optical fiber is then drawn. The preform rod itself may be produced, e.g., by a modified chemical vapor deposition (MCVD) process by which the rod acquires a refractive core region extending axially of the rod, and a cladding region which surrounds the core region. See U.S. Pat. 4,217,027 (Aug. 12, 1980), all relevant portions of which are incorporated by reference.
As disclosed in the '027 patent, preform rods produced by the MCVD process involve the passage of gases such as SiCI4 and GeCI4 axially through a hollow silica glass tube. The tube is rotated about its axis and simultaneously heated from outside by a torch while the gases pass inside the tube thus causing a layer of submicron sized glass particles to
be deposited on the tube's inner circumference. By moving the torch repeatedly along the long direction of the tube, multiple layers of glass particies are deposited inside the tube. Once a determined number of layers are formed, the tube is heated again until it softens and collapses into the shape cr a solid rod with the deposited glass particles forming the core region and the collapsed glass tube forming the cladding region.
The described MCVD process does, however, impose a limit on the maximum wall thickness of the glass tube. That is, as the wall thickness increases, the rate at which heat is transferred from the outside moving torch to the reactant-containing gases inside the tube, decreases. If sufficient heat transfer does not occur, bubbles or.incomplete sintering can occur in the deposited glass layers. To overcome this condition, the rate at which the outside torch moves is decreased, thereby increasing the overall time needed to deposit each glass particle layer. Yet, the greatest tube wall thickness that a given MCVD process can tolerate still may not be adequate to yield a sufficient amount of cladding on the drawn fiber for certain applications. This problem is overcome by the rod-in-tube (RIT) method.
In the RIT method, a preform rod made, for example, according to a MCVD process is inserted axially within a so-called glass overclad tube. The overclad tube is heated so as to soften and collapse onto the preform rod, wherein the tube glass consolidates with the cladding on the preform rod. An optical fiber having an outer (cladding) diameter greater than that which could be attained from the MCVD preform rod alone, is then drawn from the combined preform rod and overclad tube. This process is also sometimes referred to as overclad during draw or ODD. See also commonly owned US Patent Application No. 09/515,227 filed Feb. 29 2000, and entitled "Apparatus and Method For Making Multiple
Overclad Optical Fiber Preforms and Optica; Fiber Therefrom", a!! relevant portions of which are incorporated by reference.
Accordinc to the method disclosed in the mentioned '22~ application, a preform rod is positioned msice a first overclad tube a^c a second overclad tube is disposed eve: :ne first overclad tube. The pre*"m rod and the overclad tubes are heated under such conditions as to -cause a partial collapse of the tubes at one end of the rod. thus forming a ur;:ary multiple overclad preform rod. The one enc of the overclad rod is :a:er set up for insertion into a vertical fiber draw furnace, and an ODD fiber having a desired outer diameter and core-to-cladding mass ratio is produced as remaining portions of the tubes collapse and consolidate with the cladding on the rod.
The preform rod may also be provided in the form of a solid
glass rod comprised of desired core material only, with the overclad tube(s)
serving as the only source of cladding material on the fibers to be drawn.
Accordingly, the preform rod as described above in connection with the RIT
process will be referred to hereafter simply as a "core rod": whether the rod
is formed to have an outer layer of cladding material, or is comprised solely
of core material. *
A problem that arises when carrying out the known RIT methods concerns the additional heating step prior to fiber draw, wherein the preform comprising a core rod and one or more coaxial overclad tubes is consolidated and sealed at the one end to hold the rod and surrounding tubes together for inseri'on into the draw furnace during start-up. This preliminary step is not desirable since it entails a significant added expense, viz., capital intensive overclad lathes, and heat source and
material handlina eauioment. The step also produces sianificant stress in the preform glass when it cools and is then later re-heated in the fiber draw-furnace. Such stresses create a high tendency for the preform to crack and fracture, and greatly increase repair rates, scrap and waste. Further in an attempt to alleviate the problem, special measures must be implementec such as, e.g.. increasing the insertion time c* the preform in the dra* furnace when drawing fiber.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
According to the invention, an overclad optical fiber preform includes a core rod. and an overclad tube having a first open end and a second open end opposite the first open end. The first open end of the overclad tube is dimensioned to enter into a mouth of a vertical fiber draw furnace. A plug is supported within the first open end of the tube, and the core rod is disposed axially inside the tube so that a distal (i.e., lower) end of the rod is restrained from downward movement by the plug when the first open end of the tube enters the mouth of the draw furnace and descends into a hot zone of the furnace.
According to another aspect of the invention, a method of drawing an optical fiber includes inserting a core rod inside an overclad tube, inserting a plug in an open distal end of the overclad tube, and fixing the plug in the vicinity of the distal end. The distal end of the overclad tube is positioned for insertion into a mouth of a vertical fiber draw furnace. The overclad tube descends into and is heated by the draw furnace until the plug and the tube soften and fuse with one another. The tube then collapses onto the core rod to produce a cop from which an optica fiber having desired properties r ay be drawn.
For a better understanding of the invention, reference is made to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing and the appended claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view in elevation c: a lower person of a rod-in-tube (RIT) preform according to the invention;
FIG. 2 is an elevation view of the lower portion of the RIT preform as seen when rotated 90 degrees about its axis with respect to the orientation of the preform in
FIG. 1, and about to be set up for insertion into a mouth of a vertical fibe* draw furnace;
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view in elevation, showing the lower portion of the RIT preform after descending into a hot zone inside the furnace in FIG. 3, to produce a drop for fiber draw;
FIG. 4 is a diagram showing steps of a method of drawing an optical fiber according to the invention; and
FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view similar to FIG. 1, and showing a second tube in a position coaxial with and intennediate the rod and the tube shown in FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
FIG. 1 shows a cross section cf a lower portion of a roc'-;r-tube (RIT) optical fiber preform 10 accoro:no to the invention. FIG 2 s"
The taper angle T approximates a neck down inclination 13 that is assumed by the lower end 16 of the preform 10 when it softens in a hot zone 15 of the fiber draw furnace 14 to form a glass drop 17, as seen in FIG. 3. A proper choice for the taper an;: e T can maximize the usable axial length of the preform 10 for fiber draw, and may also minimize the size of the drop 17 and thereby facii '.ate the initiation of fiber draw from the preform
A cylindrical plug 22 is supported inside the open distal end of the glass overclad tube 20. The plug 22 is formed, e.g.. from commercially available natural or synthetic fused silica, or equivalent material. Openings 24, 26 are drilled or otherwise formed through the conicaliy shaped wall of the tube 20 at diametrically opposed locations at the distal end of the tube and along an axis 0 ssee FIG. 1) perpenc;cuiar to the tube axis A. Tne cog 22 is fixed with respect to ihe tube 20 by a o
When the assembled RIT optical fiber preform 10 is vertically oriented as shown in FIG. 2 for set up prior to insertion in the furnace 14, a distal (i.e., lower) end 32 of the rod 18 is blocked by the plug 22 from sliding below the distal end of the tube 20. After descending through the mouth 12 of the draw furnace and entering the hot zone 15 as shown in FIG. 3, the dista! end 16 of the preform is heated to a temperature (typically 2100 degrees C. or more) at which the glass softens and the Dlug 22, pin 28 and
tube 20 tube collapse and fuse to one another. Further, the distal end 32 of the core rod 18 and the portion of the tube 2C above the plug 22 soften, and the tube collapses onto the rod to produce the drop 17. Such collapse may be assisted by communicating a partial vacuum of, for example, abcu: -25 inches Hg to the clearance gap G between the rod 1S and the tube 2C a: a~ upper end of the preterm 10 in a manner typically employed when carving out conventional RIT processes. Once the drop 17 is produced, a continuous optical fiber may then be drawn in a conventional manner
In accordance with the invention, the RIT preform 10 is assembled in a relatively simple manner with no requirement for joining a part of the overciad tube 20 to the core rod 18 by a separate heating step prior to fiber draw. By eliminating the prior heating step, manufacturing costs are significantly reduced and the yield obtained from the preform 10 increases. Moreover, various preform sizes and fiber types (e.g., single or multi-mode) can be realized by the present invention.
Typical dimensions and taper angles for the assembled RIT preform 10, given in the following Tables I and II with reference to FIG. 1: show that a wide range of preform sizes may be accommodated.
Dimension Millimeters (typ.)
D1 (O.D. of tube 20 above tapered portion) 60 to 200
D2(I.D. of tube 20) 20 to 75
51 (a.xial length of exposed end of plug 22) 10
52 (axial length of plug 22) (axial length of
tapered portion + S M
P1 (diameter of pin 28) 10 to 16
P2 (axial spacing between bottom of pin 10
bore 30 and distal end of tube 20)
Taper Angle Degrees (apprcx.)
T 24 to 27
FIG. 4 shows steps of a method of drawing an optical fioer according to the invention. In step 50. the core rod 18 is inserted axia;ly inside the overciad tube 20. The plug 22 is inserted and fixed (e.g. cy way of the pin 28) at the distal end of the tube 20T in step 52; so that a distal end of the rod 18 is blocked by the plug from exiting the distal end of the tube. In step 54, the distal end 16 of the assembled preform 10 is inserted into the mouth 12 of the draw furnace 14. The distal end 16 descends into the furnace hot zone 15 and is heated in step 56 until the plug 22 fuses with the tube 20. in step 58, the tube collapses onto the softened rod 18 to produce a drop for initiating a draw of an optical fiber having desired properties.
In addition to the single overciad tube 20, one or more additional overciad tubes may be fixed coaxialiy about the tube 20 so as to initiate a multiple overciad fiber draw process. For example, in FIG. 5 a lower portion of a second or inner overciad tube 60 in an optical fiber preform 10' according to the invention, is shown in a position coaxial with a rod 18' and intermediate the rod 18' and the overciad tube 20. Thus, the tube 60 and the rod 18' are both restrained from downward movement 'elative to the tube 20, by the plug 22.
The inner overciad tube 60 in CIG. 5 has such an inner iiameter D3 as to establish a radial clearance gap (e.g., about 1 mm +/ C 5 nm) with the rod 18'. A partial vacuum may then be communicated to the adial gap between the rod 18* and the inner overciad tube 60 as well as to
the gap between the tube 60 and the outer overclad tube 20. in order to assist the collapse of both tubes 20, 60 onto one another and onto the rza 18' when the preform 101 is heated in the draw furnace 14.
Because it is important that the cce rzz 15 and its asses sted overclad tube(s) be fed together at the same ra:e into :he furnace 14 :w-:-the fiber draw process, it may in some instances oe necessary to pre,:oe means for blockina potential uoward vertical ax:ai mcvemen: or siicpace c-x the rod 18 (or 18') with respect to the ove-ciac tubes.
Suitable blocking means at the top of the preform 10 may act to maintain the top of the cere rod 18 at a constant position with respect to the top of the overclad tubes, and therefore reduce or negate the possibility of preferential feeding. In a presently preferred embodiment, the outer overclad tube 20 is occluded or stepped radially inward at its top so that the inner diameter of the tube is less than the outer diameter of the core rod 18., and the top edge of the rod is in close proximity to the occluding wall of the tube 20 when the plug 22 is fixed at the lower (tapered) end portion of the tube. Thus, the core rod 18 is restrained from axial movement in either downward or upward directions with respect to the overclad tube(s) during the entire RiT fiber draw process, and a constant feed rata for both the rod
and the tube throuah the fiber draw furnace 14 is maintained.
While the foregoing represents preferred embodiments of the invention, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various modifications and changes may be ..made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention, and that the invention includes all such modifications and changes as come within the scope of the following appended claims.
1. An overclad optical fiber prefomi (10) suitable for setting up at the mouth (12)
of a vertical optical fiber draw furnace (14) having an interior hot zone (15),
a core rod (18);
an outer overclad tube (20) having an open distal end (16) that is formed to enter into the mouth of the draw furnace, and a tube axis (A);
a plug (22) dimensioned to be placed inside the open distal end (16) of the
outer overclad tube (20)
means (28, 30) for supporting the plug (22) inside the open distal end of the outer overclad tube (20), wherein the plug supporting means is constructed and (16) arranged to engage a part of said distal end; and the core rod (18) is disposed axially inside the outer overclad tube (20) so that a lower end (32) of the rod is restrained from downward movement by the plug at the distal end of the tube as the distal end of the tube enters the mouth of the vertical draw furnace and descends into the hot zone of the furnace.
2. The perform as claimed in claim 1, wherein the plug is formed of fused silica.
3. The preform as claimed in claim 1, wherein the distal end of the outer overclad tube is tapered radially inward at a determined taper angle.
4. The preform as claimed in claim 3, wherein the taper angle is about 24 degrees.
5. The preform as claimed in claim 1, wherein at least one opening (24, 26) is formed in the wall of the outer overclad tube (20) in the vicinity of the distal end (16) of the tube, the plug (22) has a transverse bore (30), and the plug supporting means
comprises a pin (28) dimensioned so as to engage the opening in said wall and the bore in the plug for retaining the plug at the distal end of the tube.
6. The preform as claimed in claim 5, wherein the pin is formed of fused silica.
7. The preform as claimed in claim 1, wherein the core rod and the outer overclad tube are dimensioned so that a radial clearance of 1 mm is formed when the rod is inserted in the tube.
8. The preform as claimed in claim 1, comprising an inner overclad tube arranged coaxial with and intermediate the core rod and the outer overclad tube.
9. The preform as claimed in claim 8, wherein the core rod and the inner overclad tube are dimensioned and arranged so that a lower end of the inner overclad tube and the lower end of the core rod are restrained by said plug from downward movement with respect to the outer overclad tube.
10. A method of preparing an optical fiber perform (10), comprising:
inserting a core rod (18) axially inside an outer overclad tube (20);
inserting a cylindrical plug (22) in an open distal end (16) of the outer overclad tube;
providing means (28, 30) for supporting the plug (22) inside the distal end (16) of the outer overclad tube (20):
engaging the plug supporting means with a part of the distal end (16) of the outer overclad tube thereby fixing the plug inside the distal end and restraining a lower end (32) of the core rod (18) from downward movement beyond the plug;
positioning the distal end of the outer overclad tube for entry into a mouth of a fumace;
lowering the outer overclad tube with the inserted core rod and plug into the furnace;
heating the distal end of the outer overclad tube in the furnace until the plug and the tube soflen and fuse with one another; and
collapsing the outer overclad tube onto the core rod inside the furnace.
11. The method as claimed in claim 10, wherein the plug supporting means comprises a pin (28), and fixing the plug (22) at the distal end (16) of the outer overclad tube (20) by inserting the pin (28) through the plug and at least one opening (24, 26) formed in the wall of the distal end of the tube.
12. The method as claimed in claim 11, comprising softening and fusing the pin with the plug and the distal end of the outer overclad tube when the tube is heated inside the furnace.
13. The method as claimed in any of claims 10-12, comprising disposing an inner overclad tube intermediate and coaxial with the core rod and the outer overclad tube prior to positioning the distal end of the outer overclad tube for entry into the furnace.
14. The method as claimed in any of claims 10-12, comprising communicating a partial vacuum into a gap between the core rod and the outer overclad tube to facilitate the collapsing step.
15. The method as claimed in any of claims 10 -12, comprising maintaining the outer overclad tube with the inserted core rod and plug free of heat treatment at an elevated temperature prior to lowering of the outer overclad tube into the furnace.
16. The method as claimed in claim 12 comprising drawing an optical fibre from the preform after the collapsing step.
|Indian Patent Application Number
|PG Journal Number
|Date of Filing
|Name of Patentee
|FITEL USA CORPORATION
|2000 NORTHEAST EXPRESSWAY, NORCROSS, GEORGIA 30071, USA.
|PCT International Classification Number
|PCT International Application Number
|PCT International Filing date