Technology trends in fiber optic connectors: 3M Expanded Beam Optical (EBO)


EBO technology Next Gen: Easy-to-handle and outstandingly reliable

New expanded beam technology permits singlemode and multimode multifiber lensed ferrules

The onward march of digitalization is leading to ever increasing data rates and the demand for constantly improved data transfer performance continues to grow. In this field, optical fibers are the transmission medium of the future. Installing fiber-optic cabling is a demanding task in terms of both handling and insensitivity to contaminants. This is why innovative fiber-optic connector solutions such as the Expanded Beam Optical technology are so popular. This new technology, which has been patented by 3M, is opening up new potential applications in data centers as well as in a number of other areas of technology.

Table of contents:


Structure and function of Expanded Beam Optical ferrules

The innovative, hermaphroditic structure of the expanded beam ferrule system permits extremely high numbers of mating cycles with no loss of performance. And without even having to clean the end surfaces.

The end surfaces of the lenses are not in physical contact, making expanded beam connections extremely insensitive to contamination. The risk of scratches and damage due to dirt particles is therefore eliminated. At the same time, the solution guarantees excellent IL and RL performance.

What makes the expanded beam concept so suitable for fiber-optic connectors?
As the name suggests, the concept is based on the technique of expanding the light beam. As a result, the proportion of the surface occupied by a particle of dirt is much smaller. Performance deterioration due to dirt particles is therefore greatly reduced.


The new expanded beam technique permits singlemode and multimode lensed ferrules

In contrast to earlier expanded beam methods, the 3M EBO ferrule uses a new mirror reflection collimation technology to expand the light path and overcome the effect of surface particles on insertion loss and return loss performance.

The 3M EBO ferrule is vapour-coated with a special AR coating that very efficiently reduces the reflection of light beams. Tiny deviations in the fiber orientation in plug connections (lateral offset) are all but eliminated.

The new ferrule design, which has been patented by 3M, not only supports multimode applications but also makes it possible to use the expanded beam in singlemode solutions – a unique market capability for multifiber ferrules.


Important properties and strengths

The EBO connector system excels through various strengths that guarantee outstanding operational reliability along the entire data connection path.

Hermaphroditic ferrule design ensures fault-free connections

The EBO connector system can also be used in a hermaphroditic configuration, meaning that both parts of the connection are identical. Because it is normal usage to refer to connectors and sockets in terms of a sex - i.e. male (M) and female (F) - the term “sexless” is also used to describe hermaphroditic connections. There is therefore no danger of inverting the parts of the connector and the risk of installation errors is largely excluded. This means that installation can be performed without the need for fiber-optic specialists.

Low sensitivity to dust

Thanks to the lens system, the ferrule system developed by 3M is less sensitive to dust, meaning that multiple patching is possible and only minimal cleaning is required. Because there is no direct contact between the surfaces, the EBO connector is insensitive to dust, impacts and vibrations. This ensures that the plug force of 0.7N per ferrule is present at all times.

Time and cost savings

The ease of handling combined with the fact that there is no need for cleaning and inspections considerably reduces the time required for installation. This means that large-scale installations can be completed, accepted and tested more quickly and efficiently. The increased speed also offers great potential for significant savings.

Outstanding attenuation values

The 3M EBO ferrule provides outstanding attenuation values for singlemode and multimode applications.


Scalable up to 144 fibers

The standard version of the 3M EBO connector system is equipped with a single ferrule able to accommodate12 singlemode or multimode fibers. However, the system is scalable and can be used to connect up to 144 fibers

Large number of mating cycles

Excellent repeatability across many mating cycles. The expanded beam connector concept guarantees stable performance across more than 10,000 mating cycles.

Seamless across all connector interfaces

EBO seamlessly connects different interfaces from the transceiver via the cables and connector elements and on to the receiving unit.



As the transmission speeds in data centers continue to increase, so, too, will the need for reliable multifiber connectivity. In the future, the EBO ferrule will be available in a 16-fiber variant. The EBO ferrule is able to play a pioneering role thanks to its many strengths in various applications involving the use of fiber-optic transmission technology.


High-bandwidth fiber-optic technology for many fields of application

In data center environments, the EBO connector is a genuine alternative to all types of multifiber connector as well as to “conventional” plug connectors due to its ease of installation, high operational reliability and, in particular, its availability as a singlemode connector.

Possible applications for the EBO connector principle in data centers are:

  • Hyperscale data centers
  • Trunk cables
  • Patch location
  • ToR and EoR distribution

Fiber-optic networks are also continuing to gain ground in other areas. Examples of these are medical technology, industrial applications, transport or the defence and security sector. In these applications, optimum optical performance must also be guaranteed in conditions of mechanical stress or in harsh environmental conditions. EBO technology meets these requirements and thanks to the rapid installation and reduced maintenance needs, it is making the use of high-bandwidth fiber-optic technology possible in many new areas of application.

Possible applications are:

  • Multi-link use
  • Optical board connections
  • Chassis plug connections

One of the areas where networks that are insensitive to sources of interference and offer ever higher data throughput are in demand is the transport sector, for example in aviation and rail applications where very high levels of vibration can arise during operation. What is more, EBO connectors are particularly suitable for use in industrial production as part of the move towards Industry 4.0. This is because the high bandwidths and low latencies in the backbone needed for such applications are only possible using fiber-optic solutions. 5G networks are another use case. These require FTTA (Fiber to the Antenna) solutions. Rosenberger OSI works with its customers to develop connector systems that are suitable for such applications and tailored to each customer’s individual needs.



It will be exciting to see whether the innovative EBO technology becomes an established solution for data centers. The availability of singlemode multifiber lens ferrules and compliance with essential quality criteria placed on fiber-optic connector systems mean that it is in an excellent position to succeed. One strength of the 3M EBO connector lies in the significantly lower insertion loss (IL), on the one hand, and the high return loss (RL), on the other.

Fiber-optic networks are also continuing to gain ground in other areas of technology. Thanks to its ease of handling and the reduced maintenance requirements, combined with the outstanding reliability of the network connections, there are no further obstacles to the progress of EBO technology in a number of different areas.


Christian Hahn, Product Manager Industrial

Christian Hahn draws his expertise in the field of fiber optics from his many years of work at Rosenberger OSI. He began his career in 2000 as a design engineer in the Research & Development department. As Product Manager Industrial, his focus today is on the continuous expansion of the product portfolio and the promotion of the technological innovation process in this area.
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