FINISAR SHOW PREVIEW: Photonics West 2016

Off again next week to the annual Photonics West extravaganza at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. With over 20,000 attendees, 1,250 exhibiting companies, and 4,700 technical papers on everything from biophotonics, through industrial lasers to display technologies, Photonics West now dwarfs the other major optical communications conferences.

It was not always thus, and in the days of the Telecom Bubble of the late ‘90s, when too many exhibitors was barely enough, OFC was THE place to be if you could even spell “Photonics”. I was reminded of this recently when I unearthed the following cartoon, originally published on in 2000, which sums up the madness of the time quite nicely.
Returning to the present, Photonics West has the usual raft of academic papers in search of the holy grail of optical health monitoring – non-invasive glucose monitoring. There is a great backgrounder on just how much time and effort has been spent on the pursuit of this noble, but highly elusive, goal, in the e-book The pursuit of non-invasive glucose: “Hunting the deceitful turkey” by John Smith. If you have any interest in this area whatsoever, this book is highly recommended.

From the Finisar perspective, we’ll be showing how you can generate fully-controllable psec and fsec pulses or pulse trains using our WaveShaper 1000/SP for 1µm in conjunction with the psec fiber laser from Southern Photonics and an A·P·E Autocorrelator. To quote Prof John Harvey, CEO of Southern Photonics, “Finisar’s WaveShaper 1000/SP product provides a definitive solution for the growing requirements of ultra-fast pulse-shaping. The flexibility and scalability of this elegant technology add a new dimension to what is possible in ultra-fast lasers for machining and bio-medical applications.” Be sure to visit our booth 4242 at the show for a live demonstration.

Finisar subsidiary LightSmyth Technologies will be showing their breakthrough low cost diffractive optics and lens arrays, also at booth 4242. These allow for arbitrary beamshaping and wavefront transformation to produce lenses, vortex phase plates, axicons, beamsplitters, pattern generators, computer generated holograms and other optical components. Multiple optical functions may be combined on a single optical surface of a glass or fused silica substrate and no organic materials are used. The advantages are low cost, wafer scale mass volume production capability, high performance, high power damage threshold and environmental stability. For more details, read the press release.

All of these, plus our range of high-speed detectors and receivers with bandwidths up to 100 GHz, will be on display at our booth next week at Photonics West in San Francisco.

See you there!

Finisar and LightSmyth at Photonics West 2015

Happy New Year to all our blog readers!

If you hadn’t heard, next week is the annual SPIE Photonics West extravaganza at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. With over 20,000 attendees, 1,250 exhibiting companies, and 4,700 technical papers on a variety of topics from biophotonics, through industrial lasers to display technologies, Photonics West dwarfs the major optical communications conferences like OFC and ECOC. Finisar will be co-exhibiting with LightSmyth, a world leader in diffraction gratings, in booth 4212, February 10th-12th.

This year Finisar will be showcasing its expanding WaveShaper™ product family. The WaveShaper instrument was derived from our line of LCoS-based Wavelength Selective Switches and has achieved great success in research labs and production lines associated with the optical communications industry.

In addition, we found that some of our customers were using these instruments to develop novel designs of short-pulse erbium-doped fibre lasers, where the ability of the WaveShaper to control both the phase and amplitude of the light was used to control the laser pulse shape and duration. Their early feedback (in addition to the fact that this was cool, great technology) was that, for stability, mode-locked fibre lasers are generally built with polarization-maintaining fibre and that the WaveShaper instrument, being polarization-independent, was causing instabilities which affected the laser performance. We therefore re-engineered the optical design of the WaveShaper and developed our WaveShaper 1000/SP model, which was a single-polarization version of the WaveShaper 1000. This overcame the instability problem and has now been adopted by researchers and laser manufacturers to control pulse-shapes at 1.5µm.

Subsequently, we have been approached by other researchers and manufacturers working with Ytterbium and Neodymium fibre lasers around 1µm to see if we can build something similar to work at this shorter wavelength. We have now done this and are launching our new WaveShaper 1000/SP for 1µm at this Photonics West trade show. Providing the same amplitude and phase control capabilities as its 1.5µm older brother, the WaveShaper 1000S/SP pulse shaper for 1µm is a single-polarization, fully-fibered pulse shaper, complete with its own GUI (for ease of use) and programming API (for system integration).

In addition to the pulse control capabilities of the WaveShaper 1000/SP, Finisar also supplies the world’s highest quality pulse-compression gratings through its LightSmyth subsidiary. With > 94% diffraction efficiency optimized for linear p-polarization, LightSmyth gratings provide exceptional power-handling and performance as well as minimizing optical losses in the system, which is especially critical for high energy lasers.

All of these, plus our range of Finisar high-speed detectors, with bandwidths up to 100 GHz, will be on display next week at the Photonics West Trade Show.

See you there!

OFC 2014 Wrap-Up

The industry’s highly anticipated OFC event was held earlier this month in lovely San Francisco. Here’s a chance to look back on a busy week in the City by the Bay.

With 800 presentations, 550 exhibitors (including Finisar of course), and 12,700 attendees, OFC is the largest optical communications conference in the US. Although, to be fair, Photonics West also at the Moscone Centre a few weeks prior, is about 50% bigger. Day-time temperatures during the week were in the 60s and along with the balmy nights and absence of rain, it was a beautiful week to spend in technical and customer meetings. Not even a news breaking 5-alarm fire just a few blocks away could distract from the focused technical frenzy that is OFC.

Whilst in 2013, the interest around Silicon Photonics made it difficult to distinguish fact from hope, the Si vs. InP debate this year was more reasoned, in my humble opinion, and the major players are starting to recognise that there will ultimately be a place for both technologies. With Finisar’s recent acquisition of u2t, we clearly see a great future ahead for InP-based components but, as we’ve often said, silicon remains an interesting option in certain niche applications.

I personally managed to get quite a long way out of my comfort zone by attending the workshop on Quantum Key Distribution. The recent furore over the activities of the NSA and other government agencies makes this a very interesting topic but the whole QKD area is clearly hampered by (a) the fundamental difficulty of sending individual photons far enough and fast enough to allow for high-speed key distribution (no amplifiers allowed as this corrupts the photon state and scrambles the transmission) and (b) the slow rate of progress in quantum computers, which is where QKD will really find its niche should such beasts ever escape from the realms of possibility into the realms of probability.

From a Finisar perspective, we were well represented on multiple panel and Market Watch segments as well has presenting a number of papers during the technical sessions. A highlight was an invited paper on the development and applications of the WaveShaper by Michael Roelens, which was particularly well-attended with over 300 people in the audience.

The ‘informal’ part of OFC was also its usual hectic self – our annual Australia vs. US pool match on Sunday ended (I think) in an honourable draw. It was a personal worst on Wednesday evening with quadruple bookings for receptions; my apologies to the Southampton University ORC Alumni and Photonics in Ottawa for not making it to their respective events.

Next year we’re off again to downtown Los Angeles for OFC 2015, but remember, it’s only another three years until we’re back in San Diego! Hope to see you in LA next March.

Feel free to comment on your favorite part of the annual OFC week!

ECOC 2012: Tuesday Report from Simon Poole

Well, despite my best intentions, time in customer and industry meetings once again outnumbered time spent in technical presentations at ECOC 2012 in lovely Amsterdam.

I did manage to catch some of the presentations on silicon photonics and it’s clear that this area is continuing to get a better understanding of both the underlying technology’s capability and it’s limitations. This technology leverages the incredible manufacturing base which has been developed for the IC industry and so researchers have access to state-of-the-art fabs capable of producing commercial-grade devices even for research projects.

However, the relatively slow commercial uptake of silicon photonics to date might be indicative of the fact that, for all it’s promise, Si photonics isn’t yet able to deliver the step improvement in size/power/performance that its advocates suggest.

The Post Deadline papers are now available ( with the usual array of spectacular results. After a quick look through, the standout paper for me is by Takara and co-workers from NTT where they achieve a spectral efficiency of over 90bits/s/Hz in a multi-core fibre for a total capacity of over 1Pbit/sec on a single fibre. Very impressive numbers from a ‘hero’ experiment but it’s still unclear to me that multi-core (or, for that matter, multimode) technology will ever be deployed in a full commercial system.

The beer at the Finisar customer event at the Heineken Experience last night was good, as was the company (thank you Stuart, Ian and Steve) and I’m looking forward to one more day here before the loooong flight back to Oz.

Next Stop: The Land of Down Under

In one week, you can catch Finisar’s Simon Poole as a plenary speaker at the Australian Conference on Optical Fibre Technology (ACOFT) – set to occur November 30 – December 3 in Adelaide, South Australia. The session will take place at The University of Adelaide on Tuesday, December 1st at 9:35a.m. ACDT. Simon will share his thoughts on what the future holds for photonics-based technologies, the lessons to be learned from the technological and economic changes over the past couple of decades and engage in some crystal-ball gazing about what might happen over the next 10 years. Simon has been a regular presenter at conferences around the world over the past two decades and this presentation will be 22 years, almost to the day, since Simon’s first ACOFT paper when, as a newly-minted PhD, he gave an invited paper on Rare-earth doped fibres and EDFAs at ACOFT’87 in the wonderfully-named Surfers Paradise. Check back on “Out of His Depth” (coming soon) to hear more from Adelaide.