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How The Process of Fiber Optic Fusion Splicing Works

Splicing fiber optic cable ends together is a precise process with very little room for error. This is because the optical fiber ends must be joined together absolutely perfectly in order to minimize potential optical loss or light leakage. Properly splicing the cable ends requires the use of a high-tech tool called a fusion splicer. A fusion splicer perfectly mates the optical fiber ends by melting or fusing them to each other. Splicing fiber cables is preferable to using connectors since the fusing process leads to a superior connection which has a much lower level of optical loss. Here's a rundown of how the splicing process works.

The first step in the process is to fasten the fiber cable ends into an enclosure which protects them from any potential damage that could occur in the second step of the process. The second step is to strip the coating and outer jacket from the fiber ends with a fiber stripper. The ends are then cut or cleaved using a fiber cleaver. A fiber cleaver is a tool which precisely cuts the fibers so that the ends are perfectly flat and smooth. If the cable ends are not completely flat then they cannot be perfectly mated together. An imperfect splice can cause excessive optical loss. The greater the amount of optical loss, the greater the degradation of the transmitted signal. After completing the cleaving process the cable ends are placed into the cable holders in the fusion splicer. The splicer's motors then carefully align the cable end faces together. Once this has been done the splicer generates a small spark or arc at the mating point by the means of a pair of electrodes. This is a precautionary measure taken in order to burn off any moisture or dust which could ruin the fusing process. The splicer then creates a much larger arc at the cable ends which raises the temperature to a point above the melting point of glass. This fuses the cable ends together. The arc location as well as the quantity of electricity within the arc are very precisely controlled so that the glass fiber and the cladding do not mix. Mixture of fiber and cladding causes optical loss or light leakage.

As a general rule the ends of the fibers are inspected before and after the splice. This is typically done by the means of a display screen built into the splicer which provides a magnified image of the splice location.

After the fusing process is complete the splicer inputs light into the cladding on one side of the splice and measures the light leakage from the cladding on the other side. The reason for taking this measurement is so as to determine the amount of splice loss. The definition of splice loss is the quantity of optical power which is lost at the point of the splice as a result of the splicing procedure. Fusion splicers typically achieve a splice loss of less than 0.1 dB which is extremely negligible.

Mass fusion splicers became a necessity when ribbon fiber cables containing multiple fibers were introduced to the world. Mass fusion splicers and ribbon splicers can perform multiple fiber splices simultaneously. The most prevalent mass fusion splicers have the ability to splice six or twelve fibers at a time.

Some of the most prominent and respected manufacturers of fusion splicing equipment are Sumitomo, Fujikura, Ericsson, Corning Cable Systems and Fitel. Sumitomo especially is worthy of note as they designed and manufactured the world's first mass fusion splicer.

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