Fiber Optic Tools

fiber-optic-toolsCommon Tools Used In Fiber Optic Installations

After the trench is finished and the balance of the fiber optic cable in place, the time has come to haul out the equipment needed to tie the whole system together and be sure it functions effectively. There will be certain special tools needed to accomplish this efficiently. These special tools can be defined as consisting of three types, connecting tools, testing tools, and cleaning tools.

Connecting fiber optic cable requires more attention to tolerances than connecting wire for the transmission of simple electrical impulses. Although the average do-it-yourself homeowner can splice and connect wire for his electrical system with his trusty pliers, making certain the flow of light proceeds without interruption or impedance between both terminals of a fiber optic cable requires more diligence on the part of the installer and more tools.

If the installer is lucky enough to be dealing with terminating connectors and he has had enough practice, he can probably get by with a fiber optic crimper.The fiber optic crimper is an inexpensive tool. Much like coaxial cable, a number of connectors–termed ferrules–exist to make certain the protective cable fabric is securely fastened to both the current-conveying (light) core and aligned with the similar segments in the connecting cable. As with coaxial cable, these ferrules needs a special crimper to insure that they are securely fastened to the cable jacket and that it and the core is not damaged when pressure is applied by the crimper’s jaws. An adequate crimper can be picked up for less than a hundred dollars.There are also several “no-crimp kits” on the market that make it possible to bind the ferrules to the jacket without crimping using special epoxies.

On the other hand, if the needed connection is to be made far from a terminal device it is probably best to make the connection by splicing. While splicing fiber optic cable is more difficult than splicing wire, the concept is the same: the information conveying cores are brought together in such a way as to ensure that transmission continues without information loss. There are two methods of doing this, mechanical and fusing.

One need only to watch a YouTube video on how to mechanically splice fiber-optic cable to realize that the second method, fusing, although requiring an expensive machine is cheaper in terms of both time and money in the long run. Mechanical splicing depends on small alignment devices to bring the separate cores up close enough to pass light with little or no loss. Mechanical splicing requires a steady hand, good eyes, and a lot of practice–and it still costs more per splice than fusion. With fusion the two ends of the core are brought into contact in the machine and fused together with heat from a small electric current.

Testing tools are used once the connections are made to insure that the light flows with as little loss as possible from point to point. One of the less complicated tools is the hand-held visual light tracer. This tool allows the technician to check continuity and loss by injecting light into the cable and following where it leads. More complicated are multi-mode test kits that sense and report impedance in the cable and give a digital report less subject to human error than depending on simple sight. Perhaps the most complicated testing device is the Optical Time Domain Reflectometer (ODTR), a multi-mode tester on steroids. It discovers faults like poorly done splices, impedance-affecting bends and virtually anything else that might case light loss.

Fiber optics cleaning tools are concerned with cleaning any debris that might have collected on the core while it was being connected in some way; since the jacket should be protecting the balance of the core from intrusion, it is only at the connections that foreign residue might collect. The tools required for cleaning these areas may be as simple as lint-free swabs and various compressed air tools. The cassette cleaning tool is also relatively simple, allowing a densely woven micro-fiber to clean the joints and ferrules. A number of chemicals designed to be residue-free also assist with cleaning fiber optic connections.

There are a bewildering number of different tools for fiber optic work. There are several kinds of connectors, several ways of attaching the connectors to the cable jacket, both mechanical and chemical. When connectors will not do the job, there are at least two methods of splicing the core: a mechanical, labor-intensive method and a more up-to-date fusing method. Cleaning fiber optic cable is actually cleaning of the areas around connections and splices using methods and tools as simple as lint-free swabs.

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