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Advanced Fiber Optic and Electrical Cable Diagnostics


OBJECTIVE: This topic seeks innovation to develop advanced diagnostics for shipboard fiber optic and electrical communication cable plants to decrease installation and troubleshooting cost and time. DESCRIPTION: Navy ship overhauls and upgrades have proven to be a very cost effective means for providing warfighters with the advantages of the most state-of-the-art equipment and systems available. In almost all upgrades and alterations, the ship"s cable plant undergoes a complete retrofit to support new communications, weapons, and sensor systems. The cable plant is the central nervous system of the ship, as all data and controls are routed through several terminal boxes, creating hundreds to thousands of discrete termination points. With such high connection counts, advancement is needed to allow efficient and effective means to test and debug the accuracy and integrity of the connection points within the many terminal boxes in the ship"s cable plant. During installation, the cables are routed manually through cableways and terminated with connectors that mate to the various component and system boxes. However, one end of the cables is often tied into terminal boxes, which allow the sub-channels of the cable to be split out to connect with a number of other cables within the network. These terminal boxes become very complex when the cable plant is completed and provide thousands of connection points. This topic focuses on improving the efficiency and quality of cable plant installations. (Ref 1). Because so many cables tie to the terminal box and connect to other cables in the network, a problem with one of the cables can affect other cables in the network that are tied to the same terminal box. This interdependency exponentially increases the time and complexity of testing and debugging the cable plant. The goal of this effort is to develop a technology and process to reduce the time to test and debug shipboard terminal box installations by around 70% and reduce installation costs similarly. The most troublesome problem is a ground fault where there is a short to ground on one of the cables (Ref 2). In these cases, the effort associated with identifying the root cause is extremely time-consuming and difficult due to the large number of cables that tie into the terminal box. It currently requires a trial and error approach to finding the issue because the cables share the same ground where they are tied together in the terminal box. The installers have to systematically isolate each cable to find the fault in the network (Ref 3). This effort can take several man-days to complete, has unknown and unexpected costs depending on the severity, and can delay the turn-over of the ship back to the Fleet for operation. This topic seeks to develop an advanced diagnostic capability for shipboard fiber optic and electrical communication cable plants to decrease installation and troubleshooting cost and time, while enabling the use of automated troubleshooting to detect faults and improve overall system quality. Development of automated or semi-automated means for investigating installed cable plants to identify ground fault issues after connection to the terminal box will provide significant improvement in both time and cost over current techniques. The solution should not require disassembly of the installed cables from the terminal boxes as part of its process. Increasing efficiency and reducing labor hours required for ship alterations will reduce Total Ownership Costs (TOCs) for the Navy, while simultaneously increasing the quality and readiness of the platform. To increase the efficiency and quality of cable plant installations, development of portable tools and equipment for cable testing on the waterfront is required. PHASE I: The company will develop concepts for efficient and automated testing and diagnostics of cable installations to identify ground faults after connection to terminal boxes within cable plants during and after cable installations. The company will analyze the feasibility of the concepts in meeting Navy needs and will establish that the concepts can be feasibly developed into a useful product for the Navy. The company will develop a Phase II development plan that addresses technical risk reduction and provides performance goals and key technical milestones. PHASE II: Based on the conceptual approach developed in Phase I, and the Phase II development plan, the company will develop and demonstrate a prototype of required equipment and components for cable testing and diagnostics. The equipment and components for the automated cable testing and diagnostic system will be evaluated to determine if it meets the performance goals identified in the Phase II development plan. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet for Navy use. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use. PHASE III: The company will support transition of the automated cable testing and diagnostic system to Navy use for ship upgrades, alterations, and construction activities. The system will be demonstrated in a qualified shipyard that currently performs naval ship cable installations. The Navy will evaluate the technology for effectiveness in an operational environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Any large equipment or structure that uses a high degree of electronics for control and communications could benefit from this technology. Examples of commercial applications that could benefit from an automated cable plant test and diagnostics system include commercial aircraft, oil platforms and rigs, and large power generation and utility plants. REFERENCES: 1. Mishra, Ashim and Soni, Ashwani."Leakage Detection Using Fiber Optics Distributed Temperature Sensing."6th Pipeline Technology Conference 2011.2. Woodward, W.R."Detecting and measuring interconnection reflectance in fiber optic cable assemblies with a video microscope."Avionics, Fiber-Optics, and Photonics Technology Conference, 2008 IEEE.3. Rodriguez-Valdez, C.D."Method for Line-Ground Fault Detection in Variable Frequency Drives."Petroleum and Chemical Industry Conference (PCIC), 2011.
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