A ferrule refers to a ring or a cap that is attached to an object for protecting it against splitting, damage, or wear and tear.
In the field of fiber optics, a ferrule aligns and protects the stripped end of a fiber. It is used along with the connector that connects the cable to another cable or to a receiver/transmitter.
Ferrules are the most important component of fiber patch cord and fiber connectors. They are made from various materials including stainless steel, plastics and ceramics.
Most of the ferrules that are used in optical connectors are made from ceramics. Ceramic ferrules offer various advantages. They are remarkably strong and resist changes caused by environmental conditions. They also have a small elasticity coefficient and enable easy control of product characteristics.
Zirconia ceramic ferrules are widely adopted in the telecommunications industry. Their benefits include smaller grain sizes for smoother finishes, high modulus of elasticity & high impact resistance, and thermal expansion coefficient closer to that of fiber. These ferrules are also free of chips and cracks.
Accurate fiber alignment of zirconia ceramic ferrules requires state-of-the-art precision molding that ensures full physical contact of fiber ends. Thus technological and manufacturing process leadership is an important consideration for success in the ceramic ferrule industry.
However, ceramic ferrules are costly as compared to alternatives such as those made from polymer composite materials. Moreover, the latter have improved to a significant extent. Their performance is comparable to that of ceramics.
Single-mode connectors dominate the market. Manufacturers focus on this type, given the high demand. The global market for ceramic ferrule can be divided according to geographies into EU (European Union), Japan, U.S., and China.
China is an important regional market, with several manufacturers located here. The Chinese fiber optic patch cord market is expected to grow lucratively till 2020.
Some of the leading players in the ceramic ferrule market are KSI, T&S Communications, Pacific-technology, Kyocera, and INTCERA, SEIKOH GIKEN. Prominent Chinese vendors include Ningbo Yunsheng, Kunshan Ensure, Shenzhen Yida, Ningbo CXM, Huangshi Sunshine, Shenzhen WAHLEEN, and Chaozhou Three-Circle.
Many manufacturers offer varied options of high precision single mode and multi mode standard products for ST, FC, LC, SC, and MU fiber patchcord and fiber connector. They also make customized production of ferrules having varied length and outer diameter.