AUTONOMOUS CARS: CLOSER TO REALITY?
Our client is a well-funded Israeli start-up. Founded in 2019, they are pioneers in developing 4D LIDAR. LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging. works with other sensors including camera, ultrasonic, and long-range radar and is critically important in the design of autonomous vehicles.
The success of our client’s business depended on designing an affordable product that’s eye-safe and reliable with long range 3D capabilities. Their goal: to have a proof of concept to show investors.
But the client had engineering challenges. Their promise to customers and investors, to design LIDAR sensors that can detect objects at long distances with large fields of view required sourcing high quality but affordable fiber optic components.
Specifically, our client needed customized fiber arrays to meet their engineering design. Fiber arrays are important components in high-power laser systems as they are lightweight, durable and provide exceptional clarity. While Japanese companies excel at manufacturing the best fiber arrays, they were too costly. Additionally, our client’s engineering specs were precise, but the realization of those specs was sometimes difficult. Other companies turned them away. They needed advice, the right business partners, manufacturing and engineering talent, technical support and help in putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Our client approached Vitex to find a viable solution in 2020. They were impressed with Vitex’ ability to customize products and tailor engineering solutions to business needs. While we don’t specialize in fiber arrays, we had some experience with them and with designing customized solutions for start-ups. We had worked with a Boston based photonics computing startup who was using fiber arrays to make super computers run faster.
We tapped our extensive network of contacts to find the right talent to talk to. After carefully vetting companies for quality, affordability, and engineering talent, we found a manufacturing partner who could provide the product the customer needed at a cost they could afford.
The first customization was simple; the fiber array only required 32 fibers. But the customer came back with a second project that was much more complicated.
The second project required fiber arrays of 224 fibers with fine pitches in 2-dimensional array, requiring double-sided v-groove. This volume of fibers translates to higher bandwidth, enabling more information to be transmitted quickly. Since LIDAR continuously maps the surroundings to see what’s up ahead, many fibers are needed to carry that information back. The large number of fibers made the engineering aspect more complicated, particularly as each fiber had to be encased and protected. They needed a high-density final product.
Communication and Engineering Challenges
Communication was a major challenge. Communicating technical specifications required virtual meetings between engineers in different time zones around the globe. The engineering specs required precision engineering and precise alignment which took time to figure out. Ultimately, we were able to deliver.
Our client had a trial-and-error style and lean budget typical of many start-ups but was enthusiastic about moving this project forward. Vitex’ challenge was to understand the real requirements – not just what was on paper.
The second project was successful. Our client has a sample in hand to test – and proof of concept. They are closer to realizing their goals.
What at first glance seemed a simple project needed sophisticated engineering solutions and the right combination of business partners to make the dream a reality. Vitex was able to provide technical support, clarify requirements, oversee the work done in the factory and help with shipping to ensure the finished product was what the client envisioned.
Vitex, based in northern New Jersey, has provided fiber optic products and solutions to customers since 2003 in multiple industries. Our staff of highly trained and experienced engineers can customize solutions to meet your unique application needs. Contact us to discuss your upcoming project!