"From preform production to the finished end product - CeramOptec® offers everything from a single source"
CeramOptec®, founded in 1988 and headquartered in Bonn, Germany, specializes in the production of medical lasers, medical probes and quartz glass fibers for industrial and medical applications. Dr. Roland Dreschau, Managing Director at CeramOptec®, talks about the development and philosophy of the company and the importance of glass fibers for the photonics industry.
1. CeramOptec® was founded in 1988. Was specialization in fiber optic technology and its dissemination to a wide variety of industries the goal from the very beginning when the company was founded?
Roland Dreschau: "From the very beginning, we wanted to devote ourselves solely to fiber optic technology. Our initial focus was on special fibers for industrial applications such as laser material processing, spectroscopy or sensor technology. Over the years, however, the focus has increasingly shifted to medical technology applications. This led to the formation of biolitec AG in 1999, which today acts as our parent company and is one of the world's leading specialists in the sale of medical laser systems and probes. CeramOptec® continues to produce for a wide range of industrial and medical applications.
2. Glass fibers are an important tool for the precise guidance of laser beams. Could it even be said that the laser has only achieved its current success thanks to the development of optical fibers?
Roland Dreschau: "Whether the history of the laser would have been different without the optical fiber remains a matter of speculation. In principle, laser types that do not use optical fibers have also been successful. With glass fibers, however, the laser light can be focused more easily and better, and it can also be transmitted with low losses and even amplified by some fibers. Among other things, this has improved the applicability of laser technology in surface processing - for welding processes in the metal industry as well as for surgical procedures in medical surgery."
3. CeramOptec® also offers fibers with angular core and cladding geometry. What is the reaction of your customers to this special type of glass fiber? Are the advantages perceived and are such fibers used in practice?
Roland Dreschau: "There is indeed great interest in these fibers. The advantages are obvious: Since the fibers homogenize the intensity distribution and generate angular beam profiles, the user practically no longer has to use beam shaping optics. Homogenizers become completely superfluous, and this significantly reduces the cost of laser applications. Accordingly, we also expect demand to increase in the coming years."
4. CeramOptec® emphasizes a strongly customer-oriented corporate philosophy. Can you give an example of a customer-specific development that led to the use of fiber optic technology in a specific area for the first time?
Roland Dreschau: "Here, one would spontaneously mention surface cleaning, in which the laser beam removes certain top layers or even layers of dirt by evaporation. In order to remove the layers in question gently and yet effectively, the laser pulses are, on the one hand, short but powerful. Accordingly, the fiber optic cable must be thermally and mechanically designed for these high powers in order to successfully withstand the stress. We then manufactured our NCC fiber in core and sheath dimensions according to the customer's specifications and provided it with a special high-power connector and a high-temperature-resistant sheath. In the end, the customer thus had a high-power cable that was precisely tailored to his individual requirements."
5. CeramOptec® nowadays produces its fiber optic cables exclusively in Latvia. When did CeramOptec® Latvia start operations and why was this location chosen?
Roland Dreschau: "Production in Latvia has existed for over 20 years. We maintain the complete value chain there, with facilities for the production of preforms, several fiber drawing towers for the manufacture of customized optical fibers, and the fabrication of fiber cables and fiber optic bundles. The decision in favor of this location has a lot to do with the high level of expertise on site. The specialists there have enormous knowledge and many years of experience in glass processing; they have skills that are sometimes difficult to find in Western Europe. We are taking advantage of this through our choice of location."
6. In which industry do you see the greatest growth potential for fiber optic applications?
Roland Dreschau: "As far as special fibers are concerned, definitely in the automotive sector. On the one hand, this applies to materials processing, where lasers are playing an increasingly important role - not only in cutting or welding, but also in heat treatment in advance of forming processes. On the other hand, it also applies in the field of lighting."
7. How does CeramOptec® differ from other glass fiber manufacturers?
Roland Dreschau: "Our advantage is that we are one of the few manufacturers of special fibers that combine the complete production chain under one roof. From preform production to the finished end product, everything comes from a single source. This enables us to meet our customers' special requirements at every stage of the production process and to realize individual solutions in the full sense of the word (customizing). With us, for example, you can already influence the preform, as we are one of the few glass fiber manufacturers to produce our own preforms. Here we really do have a unique selling point."