Optical fiber producer lights the way ahead

By Chen Qide (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-05-31 11:20
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SHANGHAI - Zhongtian Technology Co Ltd, one of China's leading producers of optical fibers, has become the country's first to successfully develop optical fiber preform (OFP), a material used in the production of optical fibers, by using its own technology.

The company has applied for patents for nine inventions, two of which have been approved so far, said General Manager Shen Yichun on Thursday.

The project, which had 1.18 billion yuan ($178 million) in investment, will be put in production in batches this year with the world's most advanced OFP technology, Shen said. "Thus, we can use our own products instead of imports."

Zhongtian has been relying heavily on imports of OFP from Japan and the United States to enable production of optical fiber and cables.

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Xue Jiping, Zhongtian's chairman, said the company expects to turn out 100 tons of OFP this year, with the number set to double next year, and eventually reaching 400 tons in 2013.

"The success has helped the company find a way out of the multinationals' monopoly of the optical fiber preform market," said Xue.

Many domestic enterprises started developing OFP in 2000, but only Zhongtian has been really successful, having spent about 20 percent of its total investment in purchasing advanced technologies and key equipment.

The company has now mastered preform technology, which means it can use domestic raw materials to reduce costs.

Xue said the company will save $72 million annually on imports when OFP output reaches 400 tons. He added that the price will be competitive because of the company's use of domestic raw materials instead of imports.

Xue estimated that those 400 tons should provide annual net profit of 180 million yuan, based on current prices.

China now has 14 factories making optical fiber. Their combined annual output totals more than 120 million kilometers, and uses 4,000 tons of OFP. Of that total, 3,000 tons are imported, mainly from Japan and the United States, with the remainder being provided by domestic producers, including Zhongtian itself, and other joint ventures with companies in Japan and the United States.

China can rely on its own OFP for production purposes when output reaches 4,000 tons annually by 2015, including contributions from joint ventures. Zhongtian produced 14 million kilometers of optical fiber last year, supplying around 15 percent of domestic demand.

"The future for an increase in production is promising since the domestic market has great potential. But our focus at the moment is on producing profitable optical fiber preform," Xue said.

The company exported about 20 percent of its optical fiber products to more than 20 countries in North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa last year.