Optical fibre fabrication

The optical fibre fabrication facilities occupy over 160 sq.m of class 10,000 cleanroom space and comprise state-of-the-art fabrication equipment. This includes modified chemical vapour deposition (MCVD) lathes, a glassworking lathe, a 6 metre high double-sided fibre drawing tower for silica optical fibres, and dedicated chemical preparation areas for glass etching and machining. The facility is capable of producing standard preforms and optical fibre to a high quality as well as retaining the versatility to fabricate the huge variety of speciality fibres, including microstructured fibres required for research. There are also two 4.5m tall fibre drawing towers dedicated to compound glass and chalcogenide optical fibres.

The major items of equipment are described below.

Preform Fabrication

We have 2 modified chemical vapour deposition (MCVD) lathes, a glassworking lathe, and dedicated chemical preparation areas for glass doping, etching and machining. We have developed many techniques for doping and fabricating speciality preforms and have developed bespoke equipment such as gas phase deposition for making active doped fibres and in-situ doping. We also have an outside vapour deposition (OVD) system capable of fabricating the next generation of silica based fibres.


Fibre fabrication

We have a 6 metre high dual-sided fibre drawing tower which is suitable for a range of silica-based optical fibres. Preforms up to 60 mm in diameter can be drawn into fibre utilising a unique furnace design. The drawing tower is also designed to accommodate the fabrication and coating of large diameter fibres, up to 1 mm in diameter, as well as ribbon geometries, and forms part of our research into high power (kW) fibre lasers.

Ultrasonic mill and drill

Used for high-precision drilling of silica to fabricate preforms for polarisation maintaining (PM) and microstructured fibres. Also used for machining silica preforms for fabrication of custom geometry fibre. Capable of drilling a range of hole diameters up to 20mm, to depths of up to 200mm.

Hydrofluoric acid etching station

Custom built unit for acid etching of silica performs. Capable of precision etching multiple preforms up to 750mm in length.

Fibre rewind and proof testing

Capable of rewinding fibre up to 500 um diameter and speeds up to 500m/min, with tension control of payoff and take up. The machine also has proof test capability of up to 8kg.

Photon Kinetics PK2600-HP preform profiler.

Provides automated high-resolution refractive index profiling of up to 1m long. We have an additional special feature that enables a 3D “helix” measurements to evaluate refractive index uniformity along the preform length.


Photon Kinetics S14 fibre profiler.

Provides high-resolution refractive index profiling and geometry measurements of a wide range of fibre types up to 500μm in diameter, including D-shaped, microstructured and polarisation maintaining fibres.


High resolution: less than 10 cm, Sensitivity: -110 dBm


UV-VIS-IR (250 - 5500 nm) fitted with Lock-in amplifier and computer-assisted control