How engineering and manufacturing a custom fiber array product helped a LiDAR for autonomous vehicles startup successfully impress investors
As the tech company finalized their 4D LiDAR concept, Vitex worked with their engineering team to develop and manufacture a pilot production fiber array to transmit surroundings’ data in real time.
Our client is an Israeli pioneer in developing low cost, long-range 4D LiDAR systems for autonomous vehicles, drones, robots and more. Light Detection and Ranging technology, often referred to as LiDAR, is a critically important and exceptionally complex method of mapping surroundings using real-time, precise data streaming from sensors, detectors, lasers and/or devices.
The client required proof of concept to show investors that their eye-safe LiDAR sensors could detect objects at long distances with large fields of view. However, fiber optic engineering challenges halted progress.
Specifically, the start-up needed an optical partner that could help them produce an experimental fiber array for their high-power LiDAR laser system. Fiber arrays are lightweight, durable and provide exceptional clarity. They’re also exorbitant to fabricate which ruled out predominant Japanese manufacturers.
The tech company’s engineering specs were precise, but the search for a single-source development and manufacturing partner was difficult. The proof-of-concept solution required a vendor that had fiber array expertise, engineering support and manufacturing acumen to move the written concept to production.
The LiDAR startup approached Vitex in 2020. Although fiber arrays are not a common focus for Vitex, the company was impressed with Vitex’s reputation for creating interesting, tailored engineering solutions. Amazingly, Vitex had recently collaborated with a Boston-based photonics computing startup that had optimized the performance of their supercomputers using…fiber arrays!
We searched through our extensive optical network to find the right specialized engineering talent. After carefully vetting known companies for quality, affordability and experience, we found a partner who could manufacture the custom fiber arrays at the appropriated budget.
The project was composed of two arrays of increasing complexity:
- The first custom fiber array required only 32 fibers.
- The second project required fiber arrays of 224 fibers with fine pitches in a 2D array in double-sided v-grooves to create a higher bandwidth of data transmission to rapidly transfer environmental mapping information. The vast number of fibers made both the engineering and manufacturing more complex as each fiber also had to be encased and protected.
Unforeseen was an additional complexity of managing sensitive communication, engineering and decision-making with stakeholders based in Israel, New Jersey, California and Taiwan. Vitex set up a virtual meeting system for the truly global team to review technical specifications, answer questions and provide continuous feedback during the precision engineering development and final manufacturing process.
Both fiber array projects were a success with customized, affordable solutions delivered to the client. The second fiber array was used for the all-important investor proof of concept. With an affordable and reliable fiber array development and manufacturing partner, the startup is thriving and continuing the development of their patent-pending, proven 4D LiDAR technology.
Although the project appeared straightforward, it hid multiple layers of complexity and limitations: a trial-and-error testing process, a lean budget, advanced optical engineering, global communication and meeting strategies, trust and collaboration of multiple businesses and enthusiastic partnerships.
Vitex played a crucial role by providing technical expertise, continuous clarifications, and development of requirements, supervising the manufacturing process and, finally, facilitating logistics and transport. Ultimately, the final product aligned with the client’s vision and stayed within their budget.
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