Modelling of fibre drawing has been a topic of interest for around five decades.
The ‘spinning’ of textile fibres motivated early work while, in later years the
importance of optical fibres in modern technologies has driven further research.
The development of microstructured optical fibres, containing patterns of air
channels, have revolutionised optical fibre technology, promising a virtually
limitless range of fibre designs for a wide range of applications. But
fabrication of a fibre with a desired structure presents a major challenge. What
initial preform is suitable and what draw parameters should be used? Can it even
be made? This is an inverse problem and mathematics is essential to its
The slenderness of the geometry enables extensional flow theory to be used to
develop accurate and efficient models, and progress was made by various
researchers for some simple geometries. But, application to fibres of arbitrary
cross-section was elusive until a recent breakthrough by myself and coworkers. I
will discuss this breakthrough and the significant progress that it has brought,
including solution of the inverse problem. I will show some stunningly accurate
comparisons of model and experiment and also describe ongoing work to explain
some perplexing discrepancies.