How is optical fiber made?

Hopefully, you’re aware of the durability, reliability, and virtually limitless bandwidth capabilities of fiber optics, over which 100% of MetroNet’s customer traffic travels. There’s far less signal degradation, it’s low power, nonflammable, flexible, lightweight…the benefits of fiber optics, especially when compared to other transport mediums like copper and coax, appear to be limitless. Yes, it’s amazing, loaded with benefits, but how is optical fiber made?

Optical fiber is primarily comprised of silicon dioxide (SiO2). There are other minimal amounts of chemicals added in its production for outer cladding, which are the outer shells. Silicon dioxide, commonly known as silica, is most recognizable as quartz and is abundant and found in plants, water, and animals.

The purity of the glass used in fiber optics is what makes it the perfect digital transport medium. That purity is what gives it low attenuation, which refers to the amount of light that is lost between points A and B.

The process of making optical fiber begins with the creation of a round blank, which is made through a chemical process that bubbles oxygen through several chemical compounds. This produces a gas that is sent through a hollow tube made up of quartz or synthetic silica. A torch heats the tube, which transforms the gaseous oxygen into liquid silicon dioxide. While the tube is heated, it’s also spinning, and that centrifugal force evenly disperses the silicon dioxide onto the inner walls of the blank.

The blank lowered into a heating element with temperatures that range from 3,500 to 4000 degrees Fahrenheit. This intense heat softens the silicon dioxide, which slowly rolls down the blank and collects in a molten pool. What’s left behind on the inner walls of the blank is a super thin film of silicon dioxide that quickly solidifies.

The final stage of optical fiber production actually involves more testing than production. The manufacturer tests the cladding, strength, bandwidth capacity, dispersion, performance at different humidity levels and temperatures, and dispersion levels (spreading of the light directed down the fiber).

Once it has been fully tested, the optical fiber is ready to work its magic for your company, employees, family, and friends.