Colorado Springs, Colo. - Continuum Photonics Inc., which
has more than five years' experience combining
microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) filters with
beam-forming piezoelectric actuators, is packaging its
optocomponent technology into three series of system-level
products called DirectLight.
The first DirectLight family, DirectLight IG
(instrumentation grade), will be shown in test-equipment
configurations at the upcoming Optical Fibers in
Communications conference, in conjunction with partners
Agilent Technologies Inc. and Analog Devices Inc.
Later this year, Continuum (www.continuumphotonics.com)
will use different configurations of subsystems to target
telecommunications manufacturing companies, as well as
specialists in fiber distribution, production and storage.
Designing a common platform for all three markets puts
Continuum into a market similar to that of Glimmerglass Inc.
and Calient Networks Inc.
Aaron Bent, vice president of marketing and business
development at Continuum (Billerica, Mass.), said that the
company had long recognized the common need for a scaled
optical switch in both prototype and research testing, and in
volume-manufacturing testing. Continuum refers to the combined
market as Optical Automation Systems, and it sees a $450
million addressable market for such equipment by 2008.
Continuum's core technology combines a MEMS motion
amplifier layer with a piezo element, resulting in an
optical-switching element completely based on free-space
optics, with no micromirrors. The switch elements are much
more resilient and stiffer than micromirrors. They have
typical insertion losses of less than 1.4 dB and a first
resonant frequency well in excess of 1 kHz.
The DirectLight IG test switches are available in initial
configurations of 16 ports, a one-rack-unit system upgradeable
to 32 ports; and a 64-port system, standing two rack units
high and configured as 16, 32, 48 or 64 ports. The systems
have a built-in variable optical attenuator and power meter.
Current platforms have serial and Ethernet interfaces, with a
GPIB hardware interface to be added later this year, as well
as an HTML software interface.
Bent said that typical optical switch systems devoted to
test applications, from manufacturers such as JDS Uniphase and
Dicom, are much larger and more expensive, though he added
that Continuum will face new challenges from smaller platforms
developed at Calient and Glimmerglass.
Later this summer, the same core technologies for
DirectLight IG will be employed to provide optical switch
subsystems for telecom carrier markets. Continuum will partner
with equipment makers in fields such as dense
wavelength-division multiplexing transport and multiservice
provisioning platforms to offer DirectLight TL as a subsystem
for OEM integration. Over time, Continuum will sell some TL
systems directly to carriers, though such sales are unlikely
ever to exceed OEM pacts.
The final family, DirectLight FD, will be a fiber
distribution switch that samples in late 2004, aimed at
applications such as distributed storage and video
Bent said that the test version of the new switch will find
a home in the development labs of makers of provisioning
switches and storage-area network switches-vendors that might
later become partners in integrating Continuum's telecom
switch for sale to carrier customers.