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Do You Know What is Fiber Optic Splicing

By AK, 15 July 2019


There is an underserved stigma that anything advanced or highly technological is also difficult to understand. It stems from the fact that various industries use jargon that isn't going to make sense to outsiders. Most people don't know what fiber optic cables are, other than that they're cables, for instance. This makes any terminology related to these things even more mystifying, including fiber optic splicing.

Though it doesn't need to be. Splicing together fiber optic OTS cable isn't some arcane tech ritual that requires an IT degree to understand. Yes, the science behind optical fiber and it's power can be a little difficult to grasp for the average person, but it's not all highly advanced. Just to demonstrate this, let's give a simple, layman's terms perspective on fiber optic splicing.

1What is Fiber Splicing?

First, let's define what it is and why you might want to do it to your OTS fiber optic cable. Splicing is just joining two cables together. The common method for doing this is joining the fibers in the cables. The process is framed as an alternative to termination and connectorization.

Why Do It?

Why would you splice your cables? Well, if done right, the result is a reduction in the light lost in transmission. It also results in lower back reflection over just an ordinary termination. This makes it preferable if your cables run for the maximum length or if you need to merge two separate cables without having equipment "in between." Splicing has also been used to restore existing fiber optics after being severed.

What is Fiber Splicing?

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2Mechanical vs Fusion

Splicing comes in two forms. One is fusion splicing while the other is mechanical. Which method is best will vary based on your long-term objectives, so studying the techniques is important. Be sure to make the call based on economic limits and performance goals.

Mechanical Splicing

A mechanical splice requires aligning the relevant cables. You then hold the ends of the two fibers together, aligning them precisely. This enables the stream of light to go seamlessly from one to the other. You'll lose a little signal strength, but it's negligible.

Fusion Splicing

Fusion splicing is a little different. In this, you rely on a machine to align the fibers. It also involves using something to "fuse" or "weld" the ends together, typically using an electric arc or applied heat. The result is continuous glass fiber, creating better consistency in the cable. The potential loss is also lower than mechanical splicing.

3Why Choose One Over the Other?


The main reason to choose one over the other comes down to finance. Mechanical splicing asks for a lower initial investment, though you're looking at a higher per-splice cost. Fusion splicing has a lower cost for each splice you do, but the initial buy-in is more than four times that of a mechanical method. The higher the accuracy of the machine you use, the higher the price you can expect to pay.

Mechanical vs Fusion

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The precision of the alignment is important. As noted in the descriptions above, the alignment has to be exact and precise or you result in greater loss of signal. This makes the higher-precision splicing machines more expensive.

Where Are They Used?

In terms of performance, the answer will vary based on the industry. Fusion produces lower loss and reduces reflection, but you're more likely to find these used in industries that rely on single-mode fiber. In contrast, mechanical splicing does cause more loss than a seamless fusion, but it can work for single and multimode cables.

In other words, fusion splicing will see more use in telecommunications and CATV fields. These tend to use longer cables and rely on fusion to maintain precision. However, they might use mechanical splicing on shorter lengths. Local area networks outside of an industrial context can use either method since reflection and transmission loss are not as important.

4Tip 1: Clean Your Tools

Keep any tools you use clean. Fiber is sensitive and any particles that get inside will cause huge issues, even if these are too small for the eye to see. Even if it seems excessive, you should spend the time to clean your tools to ensure nothing gets passed to the fiber itself.

Why Choose One Over the Other?

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5Tip 2: The Cleaver Is Your Friend

Proper maintenance of the cleaver is also essential, as it is a core tool in fiber splicing. In a mechanical splice, you rely on the use of it at the correct angle to ensure that the ends face each other while also limiting air caps between the cables. You will want to invest in a good quality cleaver, as a low-quality one can result in damage and signal loss.

The cleaver remains important even in fusion splicing and still requires high precision. A poor cleave can cause the glass to fail to weld properly, causing more problems with the reflection and a loss of light transmission. Maintaining a cleaver for fusion splicing is important, keeping things working properly and making sure the job is done the first time rather than requiring repeated cleaving.

6Tip 3: In Fusion, Don’t Fiddle Around Too Much


In a fusion splice, you generally don't want to do too many adjustments. The changes should be minimal and methodical, rather than frequent. Changing parameters on the fly results in problems that could cause you to lose the desired setting. You want to keep an eye on the time and current used in the fusion, with higher time and lower current generally having a similar outcome as the reverse. If you must change variables, do it only one at a time.

Tip 1: Clean Your Tools

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Splicing fiber optic cables isn't an arcane practice, but a method of repair and maintenance. They help keep the cables functioning with a minimal loss after physical damage. The two methods achieve the same goals, so the choice of what to do falls on financial and technical limitations.


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