Fuji Photo Film Co. said Tuesday it has developed a plastic optical fiber that allows households to set up networks for broadband communications more cheaply than with conventional fiber-optic cables.

Fuji Photo hopes to make the product a major part of its business, following film and digital cameras, company officials said, noting that the firm has yet to decide when to commercialize the fiber but will begin sample shipments within the year.

The fiber, which has a diameter of 500 microns, is made of polymethylmethacrylate multipurpose resin. The company developed the new fiber based on a patent held by Yasuhiro Koike, a Keio University professor, the officials said.

Plastic optical fiber can transmit signals more accurately than regular glass fiber by using different refractive indexes between its inner and outer parts.

In addition, its large caliber makes the fiber easier to connect, making it cheaper to set up fiber-optic networks in homes. To connect conventional glass optical fiber, with a diameter of only 5-10 microns, special equipment is needed to melt both ends.

The cost of materials used to make the new fiber will be lower than that of plastic optical fiber using fluoride.

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