Fiber Optic Tools
What Do You Use Fiber Optic Tools For?
You use fiber optic tools for joining and terminating fiber optic cables. This seemingly simple process is relatively complex and requires a degree of training. Key aspects include cleaning and cutting fiber ends precisely, performing a proper splice and checking the end result to make certain the splice is sound. There are two methods for joining cables: mechanical splicing and fusion splicing. It's also possible to join two fiber optic cables using connectors.
Principles for Achieving a Good Splice or Termination
The first step is to cut back the jacket and remove the Kevlar reinforcing around the fiber optic cable. If the jacket has a gel fill, use a gel cleaner to remove all traces of the gel. Carefully remove the 250-micron or 900-micron covering with a fiber optic stripper to expose an appropriate length of outer clad cable. Thoroughly clean the exposed cable with a fiber optic cleaning kit. Some are water-based, others use isopropyl alcohol. It's crucial to remove all dirt, dust and materials and not touch the exposed cladding with your bare hands. Don't reuse swabs.
Cut the end of the fiber optic cable using a well-maintained fiber cleaver. These use an extremely sharp tungsten carbide or diamond blade, which must be clean and in good condition. The cut must be exactly perpendicular to the fiber as any difference causes light attenuation.
Splicing Fiber Optic Cables
There are three methods you can use to join fiber optic cables: mechanical splicing, fusion splicing and fitting connectors.
Mechanical Fiber Splicing
Mechanical splicing is a relatively simple process that doesn't require expensive tools. You place the two cleaned and exposed ends of the fiber optic cable into a mechanical splice unit. Carefully align the ends using the epoxy or index matching gel supplied with the kit and close the unit using the supplied adhesive or clips. While simple to perform, it takes a degree of practice and skill to get the splice right. The resulting connection isn't permanent and, over time, may deteriorate. Initial losses are 0.3dB for each splice. This type of splice is suitable for DIY connections in Fiber to the Home (FTTH) modifications.
Fusion splicing creates a permanent joint because you weld the two ends of the fiber optic cable together. Cable preparation is the same as for mechanical splicing, but in this instance, you place the two ends in a small fusion chamber and use a small electric arc to fuse the ends together. Performed properly, a fusion weld is permanent and has a low signal loss of 0.1dB. Often, the fusion splicing kit includes a fiber optic stripper, precision fiber cleaver, wire cutters, and other tools to complete the repair. Although a fusion splicer is relatively expensive, your labor costs are lower because it's faster and more precise and there are fewer comebacks.
Fiber Optic Connectors
Instead of a permanent joint, you can fit a connector to each end of the cable to make a removable connection. In some regards, it's easier to install a connector, but the overall signal losses are higher at 0.5dB. You may need a polishing tool and specialized crimping equipment to fit the connector.
Other Fiber Optic Tools and Equipment
You'll need some additional tooling such as a cable splitter as well as a drop cable slitter if you're using drop fiber cables. A Fiber microscope is useful for visually inspecting cable splices and connections, while a visual fault locator helps you identify and fix faulty splices and damaged fiber optic cables. Other useful fiber optic tool kits include fiber cleaners, insertion and extraction tools, cable strippers and cutters, and fiber preparation and cleaning fluid kits.