Facebook’s Fiber Optic Weaving Robot

The Latin word for silkworm is Bombyx and is now also the name of facebook’s latest robot. The company in collaboration with ULC Robotics designed a robot that can wrap fiber optic cable around medium voltage power lines and clear obstacles without the help of a human.

Facebook plans to use this device to reduce the cost of fiber optic installations, as well as, bring high-speed internet access to many areas of the world that don’t have it. Before Bombyx, the traditional method to install fiber was to lash a fiber cable to a pole. This process required a lot of preparation, large crews, and heavy equipment.

The key to the success of the robot is a thinner fiber cable. Facebook and its partners collaborated with veteran cable designer Wayne Kachmar to design and create a fiber optic cable that’s only 4 millimeters in diameter. To put that into perspective, typical fiber optic cabling is between 10-13 millimeters in diameter and weighs about 250 pounds per kilometer. Facebook’s cable only weighs 28 pounds.

With 5G networks switching on around the world, Bombyx could be a game-changer as all cellular networks require fiber optics as there backbone.


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