Interview with Jean-François VINCHANT from SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques

  • Jean-François VINCHANT - CEO and President

GoPhotonics interviewed Jean-François VINCHANT, the CEO and President of SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques. Jean-François VINCHANT has taken over the company since July 2016 to consolidate the optical fibre technology in France. Graduated in engineering school and PhD in electronics and optoelectronics, Jean-François spent 20 years, from 1990 to 2009, within the French optics valley in Essonne within companies, such as Alcatel Corporate Research, Alcatel Optronics, Avanex, and 3S Photonics. At Alcatel Optronics, he introduced the first DWDM laser into production as well as the first 10 Gb/s integrated electro-absorption modulator with a DFB laser. After an MBA at ESSEC business school, he ran Polycaptil, an SME based in Besançon, from 2009 to 2016.

Since 2008, Jean-François has also been an independent expert in Photonics to support the European Commission. In 2018, he became Vice President of Industrials and Academics at Photonics France. In May 2019, he was appointed as the chairman of the Optics & Photonics Hub at Systematic Paris-Region, the first Deeptech European cluster. Also, he has been since December 2022 Vice President SMB at Systematic Paris-Region. Jean-François is also the owner of the holding company JF Vinchant Holding Strategy (JFVHS). In July 2023, JFVHS together with the investment fund Yotta Capital Partners (YCP) created a new holding company called “Fiber Optics Group” (FOG). Jean-François Vinchant is the Chairman of FOG which owns 100% of SEDI-ATI.

Q. Can you tell us about SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques? When was the company founded? And what is your objective?

Jean-François VINCHANT: The company SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques is located at Evry-Courcouronnes, near Paris. It is the result of the merger in 2012 of two company sisters founded by the MALAVIEILLE family:  ATI Optique (established in 1951) and SEDI Fibres Optiques (established in 1972). In July 2016, my holding company J-F Vinchant Holding Strategy (JFV@HS) acquired SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques. This acquisition not only pursued what was built by the founders but also aimed at boosting a new dynamic in the optical fibre components market, especially for extreme environments and for medical applications, with a stronger focus on exportation. In July 2023, the investment fund Yotta Capital Partners became the new majority shareholder, and the new holding company FIBRE OPTICS GROUP was born. This operation is part of the objective of SEDI-ATI to ensure French sovereignty and independence. It also goes hand in hand with our desire to grow externally and meet the challenges of decarbonization.

The mission of SEDI-ATI is to design, build and manufacture turn-key solutions based on optical fibres to enable its customers to bring photons in any environment, whatever their constraints are.

The company is specialized in custom-made passive fibre-optic assemblies tailored to specific, complex, and extreme environments. Indeed, our solutions are meant to survive very hostile conditions such as cryogenics, very high temperatures, vacuum, pressure, corrosion, or radiation just to name a few.

The company is ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified.

Q. Can you tell us about your product portfolio? What types of fibre optic components do you develop? Which segment within this is the largest for you?

Jean-François VINCHANT: We develop specific fibre-optic assemblies able to withstand hostile and hazardous conditions:

Hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs represent our largest product segment. 

Q. Can you tell us more about hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs? Where are these products used?

Jean-François VINCHANT: Hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs are used wherever you need to transport optical signals from one environment isolated from another. They are designed to provide a reliable seal between the optical fibre and the surrounding environment. The term "hermetic" refers to the ability to create an airtight or gas-tight seal, preventing any exchange of gases or fluids between the internal and external environments.

Our solutions show extremely good hermeticity (typically 10-11 mbar.l/s) and can be tailored to ultrahigh vacuum (10-11mbar), very high pressures (1000 bars), high temperatures (600°C), cryogenic conditions (0.5K), radiations.

SEDI-ATI manufactures bespoke hermetically sealed fibre optic feedthroughs for a variety of hostile and complex applications. Hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs are commonly used in applications where it is crucial to maintain a controlled environment or prevent the ingress of moisture, dust, or other contaminants. For instance, our feedthroughs find applications in various industries, including:

  • Aerospace and Defense: Hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs are utilized in aerospace and defence applications such as aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and military equipment. They ensure reliable optical connectivity while protecting sensitive components from harsh environments, such as high altitudes, extreme temperatures, and vibrations.
  • Oil and Gas Industry: In the oil and gas industry, hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs are employed in downhole exploration and production tools. They enable real-time monitoring, data transmission, and control in high-pressure, high-temperature, and corrosive environments, enhancing safety and efficiency.
  • Submarine and Underwater Applications: Hermetic feedthroughs are essential for undersea cables and sensors, enabling reliable transmission of optical signals in the challenging conditions of the ocean depths, including high pressures and exposure to seawater.
  • High-Vacuum Systems: Hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs are employed in vacuum chambers and high-vacuum systems, such as particle accelerators and research facilities. They maintain the vacuum integrity while allowing optical signals to pass through without introducing contaminants or interfering with the vacuum conditions.

Hermetic fibre-optic feedthroughs are designed with materials and sealing techniques to provide long-term reliability and prevent degradation of optical performance in challenging environments. The specific design and construction of these feedthroughs may vary depending on the intended application and environmental requirements. That is why we offer different designs on flange (ISO, CF, KF of various sizes) with either adapter interfaces (FC/APC, FC/PC, SMA…) or pigtails. Also, the feedthroughs can have multiple individual channels or incorporate bundles of optical fibres. The products can include PM, SM, or MM fibres up to 1000µm core diameter. We even have special designs for ribbon fibres with MPO connectors. And of course, we can implement customer-supplied specialty fibres.

Q. What makes SEDI-ATI’s Multimode Wavelength Division Multiplexers different from other Wavelength Division Multiplexers available in the market?

Jean-François VINCHANT: Multimode Wavelength Division Multiplexers are not very common on the market as opposed to Singlemode WDMs. These components use a thin-film filter technology to combine or separate light at different wavelengths, allowing a bi-directional or dual transmission on a single multimode fibre. Most of the multimode WDMs available on the market are used at telecom wavelengths such as 850-1310nm or 1310-1550nm and utilize graded-index fibres 50/125 or 62.5/125.

The heart of SEDI-ATI’s Multimode Wavelength Division Multiplexers consists of a dichroic filter that is directly deposited onto one of the optical fibres. Unlike other WDMs on the market, our WDMs are fully customizable for UV, VIS and IR applications. They are particularly suitable for sensing and fluorescence applications. 

Contrary to other WDMs, our components can be manufactured with a wide variety of multimode optical fibres including large core step-index fibres up to 400μm core diameter.

Also, we can offer ruggedized packages for demanding applications such as geophysics or space for instance.

Q. Can you tell us about fibre optic products that you have developed for Quantum applications?

Jean-François VINCHANT: We develop special fibre-optic assemblies for quantum technology R&D. For example, we provide fibre-optic feedthroughs and patch cords for quantum metrology at cryogenic temperatures inside cryostats. They are used to perform spectroscopy to characterize materials for the development of Quantum Computers.

Q. What market segments do you cater to? Which segment is the largest for you?

Jean-François VINCHANT: We address very demanding applications in the military, aerospace, industrial, medical, and research markets. Military and Defence is the largest segment in our national market in France, while the industry is the largest segment abroad.

Q. What makes SEDI-ATI’s Multimode Couplers different from other Fibre Couplers available in the market?

Jean-François VINCHANT: Contrary to other Multimode Couplers available on the market, SEDI-ATI’s 1x2 Multimode Fibre-Optic Couplers are not based on fused technology but on a proprietary process based on wavefront division technology. Two fibres are side-polished to the core, assembled, and placed in front of a third fibre. This manufacturing method intrinsically ensures our couplers are bi-directional, highly mode insensitive, and achromatic over a broad wavelength range. Indeed, depending on the fibre used, our couplers show very high stability in coupling ratio over modal fluctuation for all wavelengths ranging from 532nm to 1625nm. Our standard is 50/50 coupling ratio, but we can also provide bespoke coupling ratios (asymmetrical) upon request.

We have 4 models:

  1. CP-A: our entry-level product with GI 50μm or GI 62.5μm fibres and directivity >30dB guaranteed by design. They can be used for data communications and optical sensing.
  2. CP-HD: high directivity fibre-optic multimode couplers with directivity levels as high as 55dB with GI 50μm optical fibres, or > 45dB with GI 62.5μm fibres. They are ideal for optical metrology and sensing applications.
  3. CP-HDS: this is the “super CP-HD”! It shows directivity > 55dB using GI 50μm fibres, and it has been designed for high-power UV applications i.e., it can handle as much as 2W@420nm. 
  4. CP-LC: this one has been designed for large core step-index fibres ranging from 100μm to 1000μm core diameters (including Launch fibres (LCH), and Hard-Clad Silica fibres (HCS). They are ideal for spectroscopy applications.

Q. Who are your customers? Where are they located? How do you manage sales and support outside Europe?

Jean-François VINCHANT: We address mainly the European market, with 60 to 65% of our customers in France. We also have more and more business with North American countries, and Asia. Our sales team is based in France and in Belgium. Our sales force is composed exclusively of technical experts trained to bring support to our worldwide customers. 

Q. What is your product and company roadmap for the next 3 years?

Jean-François VINCHANT: We are involved in European projects in line with our values and with our ambition to become a key player in the supply of fibre optic assemblies for extreme environments. For example, with the project 3F2E (French Fiber Field for Extreme Environment), we develop special optical fibres with metallic and/or carbon coatings that are radiation resistant. These fibres will be used in optical sensors in nuclear environments, more specifically for nuclear dismantlement.

About SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques 

SEDI-ATI Fibres Optiques is a French company specialized in the design and manufacturing of custom made passive optical fiber components dedicated to customized, complex and extreme environments. SEDI-ATI core product lines include highly achromatic multimode couplers, multimode wavelength division multiplexers for sensing applications, pressure & vacuum hermetically sealed fiber optic feedthroughs, and fiber assemblies such as bundles & arrays.