Patent number 8616781 is assigned to
The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention relates generally to expanded beam optical connectors. More specifically, embodiments of the present invention concern an expanded beam connector with a gradient index (GRIN) lens.
"Optical connectors have long been used in various applications, such as industrial, military, and telecommunications applications, to interconnect fiber optic cable assemblies. Such connectors are often include mated ferrule-type optical terminations that are positioned in physical contact with one another. Alternatively, traditional optical connectors also include a ball lens arrangement positioned between two terminated fibers so that the terminated fiber ends can optically communicate with one another without being in physical contact.
"Conventional optical connectors suffer from numerous limitations. In particular, prior optical connectors are problematic to use in harsh environments, e.g. where connectors are exposed to moisture or other contaminants. For instance, prior art optical connectors normally require careful cleaning prior to mating of the connectors, particularly when connector ends are exposed to contaminants, so that the mated connectors produce minimal insertion and return losses. Cleaning of traditional optical connectors is time-consuming and typically involves cleaning of multiple connector surfaces. In the event that contaminants are present when prior art optical connectors are mated (e.g., because the connectors were not properly cleaned or because contaminants have migrated into the connectors), such connectors also cause excessive insertion and return losses."
In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "The following brief summary is provided to indicate the nature of the subject matter disclosed herein. While certain aspects of the present invention are described below, the summary is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention.
"Embodiments of the present invention provide an expanded beam optical connector that does not suffer from the problems and limitations of the prior art optical connectors set forth above.
"A first aspect of the present invention concerns an expanded beam optical connector operable to receive at least one terminated optical fiber. The connector broadly includes a housing, a GRIN lens, and an endless sealing device. The housing presents a passage that extends through the housing. The GRIN lens is mounted in the passage and is operable to be substantially axially aligned with the fiber end so that the GRIN lens is configured to be in optical communication with the optical fiber. The GRIN lens presents lens ends and an endlessly extending outer lens surface that extends between the ends. The endless sealing device extends endlessly around and sealingly engages the lens surface. The endless sealing device is positioned within the passage and is in sealing engagement with the housing, with the endless sealing device thereby providing a substantially hermetic seal between the GRIN lens and housing.
"A second aspect of the present invention concerns an expanded beam optical connector operable to receive multiple terminated optical fibers. The connector broadly includes a housing, an optical ferrule, and a plurality of GRIN lenses. The housing presents a passage that extends through the housing. The optical ferrule presents an end-face and multiple fiber openings that intersect the end-face and are operable to receive respective fiber ends of the multiple terminated optical fibers. The optical ferrule is mounted in the passage. The plurality of GRIN lenses are mounted in the passage. The plurality of GRIN lenses are substantially axially aligned with corresponding fiber openings so that the plurality of GRIN lenses and corresponding optical fibers are configured to be in optical communication with one another. The plurality of GRIN lenses are in abutting engagement with the end-face.
"A third aspect of the present invention concerns an optical connector assembly configured to optically interconnect terminated optical fibers. The optical connector assembly broadly includes first and second connectors. The first and second connectors are removably attached to one another in a mated condition to provide optical interconnection therebetween. Each of the connectors includes a housing, an optical ferrule, and an expanded beam lens. The optical ferrules each present an end-face and multiple fiber openings that intersect the end-face and are operable to receive respective fiber ends of the terminated optical fibers. The expanded beam lenses are substantially axially aligned with corresponding fiber openings so that the expanded beam lenses and corresponding optical fibers are configured to be in optical communication with one another. The expanded beam lens of one of the connectors comprises a GRIN lens. The expanded beam lens of the other of the connectors comprises a ball lens. The lenses are in optical communication with one another in the mated condition. A first one of the lenses is configured to direct a light beam from the corresponding optical fiber to a space between the lenses, with the first lens being dimensioned so that the light beam passing into the space is collimated and has a predetermined beam diameter. A second one of the lenses is configured to direct the collimated light beam from the space to the respective optical fiber, with the second lens being dimensioned to focus the collimated light beam with the predetermined beam diameter onto the respective optical fiber.
"A fourth aspect of the present invention concerns a method of manufacturing an expanded beam connector with a housing and an expanded beam lens secured within a bore in the housing. The method broadly includes the steps of applying an endless metallic layer onto an endless surface of an expanded beam lens and/or the bore; positioning the expanded beam lens within the bore; and heating the metallic layer so as to form an endless hermetic solder joint between the expanded beam lens and housing.
"Other aspects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments and the accompanying drawing figures."
URL and more information on this patent, see: Knapp, Greyson O.. Expanded Beam Optical Connector. U.S. Patent Number 8616781, filed
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