Whether you need to extend the reach of fiber or repair a severed cable in the field, fiber splicing is a critical skill for any field tech. Here are a few useful tips to ensure your splices are done safely and effectively.
NOTE: There are two methods of fiber splicing: fusion splicing and mechanical splicing. For the purposes of this article, we will specifically discuss fusion splicing. For mechanical splicing, only the actual splice is a different process; the preparation and safety tips apply to each method.
- Fiber fusion splicing unit
- Wire stripper, for removing jacket and tubing
- Heat shrink tubes to protect and cover the splice
- Cleaning supplies, including gauze and alcohol
1. Control your environment. Only attempt the splicing process (stripping, cleaving, and splicing) on a stable flat surface. Try to control any moving air (wind or AC) to minimize the risk of losing dangerous fiber splinters. Most importantly, keep everything as clean as possible. Wipe the exposed ends of the fiber thoroughly with gauze and alcohol before cleaving, and make sure your surface area is free of all dust and debris. As is the case with fiber connectors, the smallest impurities can introduce significant loss.
2. Handle fiber with extreme care. Handling bare fiber is incredibly dangerous. Even microscopic splinters can cause serious damage if they enter your bloodstream. Use a reverse roll of tape to collect any bits of fiber until they can be disposed of safely.
3. Measure three times, cut once. Check every setting on every tool before use. Measure out the length of jacket you’ll strip from your fiber ends (Ensure the fiber type settings on your cleaver and splicer match the fibers you have. Check the alignment of your fiber holders. Run an arc test on your splicing device to ensure you have a good cleave. If applicable, make sure your heat shrink tube is on one end of your fiber before splicing.
4. Respect the tools. A good fusion splicer and cleaver can perform their required tasks with extreme precision and can cost thousands of dollars apiece. Therefore, to get the most out of your investment, perform regular maintenance on these devices as instructed in the manual.
Precise execution of fiber splicing is essential to preserve the integrity of your network. To learn more about best practices in networking care, check out our three-part series on cleaning and maintenance of your optical transceivers and cables.