As we know, splicers will need much the same tools to open and set up a fiber splice as they want a copper splice. The usual cable knife, tabbing shears, etc, are required, along with a few specially tools used only for fiber splicing.
Once the sheath has been opened and the field bonded in the standard fashion, a buffer tube cutter is required to score the hard, gel-filled buffer tubes. Caution should be exercised when performing this operation, because the buffer tubes contain fibers that are protected only by their primary coating. Use this tool only to score the tube and not to cut it. After opening up an express run (straight through cable), the splicer will have to use a tube splitter tool to remove the buffer tube bu running it along the tube, which then splits. Other handy tools include ceramic scissors for cutting the Kevlar in many cables, a magnifier for close-up examination of the fiber end face, and masking tapes for scarp containment. Alcohol with lint-free pads and a Fiber Optic Stripper are also requirement.
Most critical of all, however, is the choice of splitter. With the exception of the AMP Optimal splice/workstation (the splitter is built in), every fiber optic splice requires the use of a separate splitter. This tool, carrying in price 150 dollars to 2,500 dollars, can make or break a splicer’s day. The Fiber splitter on the end of a fiber is the most critical part of a successful splice, so it is advised to purchase and use a high-quality splitter. In my experience, at least half of all failed fiber splices are a direct result of a bad cleave from a cheap splitter. This is not the place to save money.
Unlike testing copper cable, testing fiber cable is easy and fun, Only two tests are specified by the EIA/TIA and most firms don’t even require those. The four basic tests that can be performed on fiber are the continuity test, received power test, single-ended test, and double-ended test, the continuity test can be performed quickly and easily with as little equipment as a 10 dollars flashlight, while the received power test requires the use of a power meter, which can be purchased for as little as 500 dollars. The other two EIA/TIA test procedures require the use of a light source, power meter, and several good jumper cords. Kits containing this equipment are available for as little as 1,000 dollars.
The optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) is an expensive instrument used primarily for acceptance testing and fault locating on long-haul single-mode fiber systems. This is called the “blind spot” or “dead zone.” However, once outside the dead zone, the OTDR is used primarily for reading insertion loss and back reflection at splice points. This instrument is not designed to give accurate end-to-end loss measurements on a fiber system. Use the standard for this test. OTDRs may be purchased for one or two wavelengths and may be single mode, multimode, or contain launch modules for both modes of operation. Prices vary from slightly less than 10000 dollars to as much as 45,000 dollars, depending on features desired.
Fiber optic cables are becoming the predominant medium of the ’90s and on into the 21st century. The necessary equipment, tools, and materials are more sophisticated than those used for copper splicing and trouble-shooting, but they are coming down in price as competition increase in this field. The wide bandwidth of fiber transmission will continue to drive improvements in fiber optics as voice, video, and data find their way into homes.
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