Fiber Optic Cable Prepping & Splicing Tools

Updated April 17, 2017

There are two different ways to splice optical fibres. One way uses a fibre-optic cable fusion technique, which means the two optical fibre ends are fused (welded or melted) together. This technique requires a fusion splicer machine which is quite expensive. Another technique is to use a mechanical splice which forces the two fibre ends to butt up against each other for signal transfer. Optical cables are very delicate and must be treated with care. Any scratches or nicks can severely damage the optical performance of the fibre. A number of tools must be used to maintain the quality and integrity of the optical fibre splice.

Jacket Strippers

Jacket strippers remove the PVC outer jacket (1.6 to 3.0mm). This is the first tool to use when preparing fibre cables for splicing. Use this tool for stripping the outer jacket from the fibre cable, as it keeps you from nicking the optical fibre. If you should nick the fibre, all your subsequent work is wasted and you need to start over.

Serrated Kevlar Cutters

Serrated Kevlar cutters are necessary to cut, then trim the Kevlar strength member found inside the PVC jacket. The Kevlar strength member is very tough; cutting it with conventional cable cutters or side cutters can result in damaged optical fibres. These Kevlar cutters are designed to make clean cuts and to be used over and over again.

Buffer Strippers

Buffer strippers are used to remove the buffer (acrylate coating) from the outer edge of the fibre glass. This buffer layer, or coating, typically consists of two layers of a UV-cured acrylate, which brings the nominal outside diameter of the fibre to 250 µm. Removing this buffer is a delicate operation and the potential for nicking the optical fibre is great. By using a stripper designed specifically for this job, you minimise the risk of damaging the optical fibre.

Fibre-optic Cleavers

Fibre-optic cleavers are designed to cleave or chop the optical fibre in a very precise manner for maximum transfer of power through a mechanical splice. If the two optical fibre ends are cut on an angle, or do not properly match together with each other, the optical signals are attenuated when they try to move through the mechanical splice. The fibre-optic cleaver forces the cut to be perpendicular and true, and is a must-have tool for splicing in the field.

Fusion Splicing Machine

Fusion splicing uses an electric arc to weld the two optical fibre ends together and create a splice which has a very low insertion loss (<0.1dB). These are very expensive machines with refurbished machines starting at around £1,950 at the time of publication. However, the splices themselves are very inexpensive when created by a fusion splicer. Mechanical splices, not requiring a fusion splicer machine, are very expensive on a per-splice basis. The fusion splicer machine is a very complex machine which, in some cases, is fully automatic. It preps, cleaves, then fuses the fibres. Using this machine minimises human error.

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About the Author

Frank Gates started writing technical documents in 1980 as part of his telecommunications job. He is now a full-time technical writer. Gates has published two books, "Motorcycle Rider Basics" and "The Absolute Supervisor." He earned a technical diploma in electronic communications from the DeVry Institute of Technology.