If your career involves technology, specifically networking, you know that we’re using more fiber in our connections than ever before.
Fiber brings us more speed at greater distances than copper connections, which is why we almost exclusively use it to connect cities, buildings and network rooms.
There are options for the type or grade of fiber you use; as well as a number of choices on how to terminate or connectorize your fiber. For the purposes of this post, however, we’ll focus on the fusion splice option. (We’ll do it in non-technical terms, so there’s no need to bring in an optical engineer to translate for you ;-))
Fusing or welding one piece of glass to another, in perfect alignment, provides the ultimate in high performance by letting as much light pass from one glass to another. Alignment is critical in this union to avoid reflection and refractions that can lead to unwanted loss of light.
What matters most in fiber transmissions is getting the right amount of light to the other side so that it is converted back into an electrical signal that is interpreted as data. And fusion splicing is the benchmark when it comes to achieving this desired level of high performance.
As with all technology, the performance and cost of the fusion splice equipment keeps getting better and less expensive. We’re now at a point where you can buy the best equipment in the world at a very reasonable price.
Even though fusion splicing is so affordable, and you can terminate fibers faster and with the lower loss, you still need to decide how to manage your fibers at their termination points. For many years the only option for this was to use pigtails (short 1-3 meters, machine polished single ended fibers) with a splice organizer of some sort behind the coupler panels to protect the splice joints. Since these joints must be protected from bending at all times, managing pigtails and unjacketed fibers requires pre-planning and proper accessories to the termination panel.
When done well, the results are an impressive layout of slack fibers and splice holders that are ready for spare glass lengths should they need repairs. For instance, if a finely managed fiber shelf has been “re-worked,” the strands of slack fibers can become loose and in turn find their way to being pinched and damaged by closing doors or slide outs on the fiber shelf.
Some have described the entire fusion splicing process as an art form. What happens if the next technician to service that panel isn’t an artist?
Fortunately, for the less artistic, there are options now available called Splice-On Connectors (SOCs). These connectors have machine polished tips for great performance and a short stub of glass sticking out of the back that allows for fusion splicing right at the connector. This may not seem like a big deal, but from a fiber management perspective it’s a game changer. With these SOCs you no longer need to have splice holders. Your splice is now part of the connector, reducing your fiber slack management by at least half. This also reduces the amount of time it takes to dress out the cable in the termination shelf – getting the technician on to the next task faster than ever.
While SOCs can be a great option, there is one word of caution we’d like to give: if your splice equipment or technique isn’t up to par, we recommend that you use the pigtail instead. A pigtail can be cut off and spliced many times; a Splice-On Connector is one and done. This can be costly if you or your equipment have failed, or poor fusion splices often… all of which can be avoided through proper technique, clean work areas and calibrated electrodes.
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