The importance of properly cleaning fiber during termination – Part 1

From the August, 2014 Issue of Cabling Installation & Maintenance Magazine
By Sean Sheedy

Using a medium only slightly larger than a human hair, fiber-optic communication has transformed our world. Not only have fiber-optic communications eliminated the vast majority of previous network limitations, but this technology also has expanded the capabilities of networks far beyond previous expectations. Today’s world of mobile communications and video downloads is a direct result of the rapid and affordable deployment of powerful, reliable fiber-optic networks. If anyone ever develops a roster of “disruptive technologies,” (as Joseph L. Bower and Clayton M. Christensen did in their 1995 Harvard Business Review article titled “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave,”), then fiber optics should be number one on that list.

Fragile signals
Amazingly, the signal carried by the fiber is astoundingly fragile and becoming more so. After more than 20 years in the industry, I can confirm there really are only two threats to a fiber signal: too much bending and too much dirt. At a BICSI Conference in 2008, JDSU stated, “Contamination is the number-one reason for troubleshooting optical networks.” A major telecom company, rolling out a new fiber-to-the-home service, found that 16 percent of all their connectors on their expensive new network were sufficiently contaminated to cause performance problems. Cleaning is not merely important; it is critical to the long-term reliability of any network, and at the heart of the profitability of a successful fiber deployment. Field techs must be taught, and must be provided the right tools, to clean every endface, both sides, every time they are installed, tested or reconfigured.


The closeup of a clean endface illustrates the objective to achieve with cleaning, while the other photo, taken with a JDSU inspection microscope, shows dust accumulated on an endface.

Today’s networks have been greatly impacted by the deployment technologies such as wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) and iterations of it including dense WDM (DWDM) and coarse WDM (CWDM). These technologies are all different variations on the same theme: inserting many wavelengths onto a single fiber, which allows telecommunication companies to expand the capacity of their networks without needing to install more cables under highways. By using these technologies, companies can accommodate multiple generations of technologies within their optical infrastructure without the expense and delays of having to constantly rebuild networks. The capacity of a network medium can be expanded, almost infinitely, simply by changing out the multiplexers and demultiplexers at each end. These capabilities were not a concern in the early days of fiber, when networks were slow and relatively rare; but today they are everywhere, and cleaning is critical.

Unhappily, multiplexers and demultiplexers are greatly affected by reflectance and dispersion within the fiber link, and one of the biggest variables causing backreflection and signal loss is dirt on the connectors. Moreover, any one of these environments can be greatly disrupted by heat dissipation from high-powered lasers or back reflection resulting from material mismatches and contamination. As our networks become powerful, they become more capable, so cleaning is now becoming even more important. If you are not cleaning your splices and connectors properly, your network is not running at its best-guaranteed.

About the Author
Sean Sheedy has worked for more than 20 years as a fiber-optic installer, troubleshooter, system designer, emergency-restoration technician inspector, project manager, sales manager, and consultant. He holds 30 industry-related certifications and is a certified instructor with The Fiber Optic Association and The Electronics Technicians Association. He has also developed and teaches fiber optic/copper communications installation and troubleshooting training courses. His experience includes work in all divisions of the military, various government agencies, federal and state prisons, as well as the commercial markets. He can be reached at

What are IP Ratings?

IPRatings2 copy
Ethernet technology is coming to the factory floor. Once limited to networks in office environments, Ethernet has also proven to be a robust alternative to the RS-232 interfaces traditionally used with industrial devices such as programmable logic controllers. Ethernet brings speed, versatility, and cost savings to industrial environments.

Ingress Protection
The requirements of industrial environments are different from those of offices, and there have been a proliferation of industrial standards. The most commonly accepted are the Ingress Protection (IP) ratings developed by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENELEC), which specify the environmental protection an enclosure provides.

Two or Three Numbers
An IP rating consists of two or three numbers. The first number refers to protection from solid objects or materials; the second number refers to protection from liquids and the third number, commonly omitted from the rating, refers to protection against mechanical impacts.

First IP Number

0 No protection

1 Protection from solid foreign objects of 50 millimeters or greater

2 Protection from solid objects up to 12 millimeters

3 Protection from solid objects more than 2,5 millimeters

4 Protection from solid objects more than 1 millimeter

5 Protected from dust, limited ingress

6 Totally protected from dust

Second IP Number

0 No protection

1 Protection from vertically falling drops of water and condensation

2 Protection from direct sprays of water up to 15° from the vertical

3 Protection from direct sprays of water up to 60° from the vertical

4 Protection from splashing water from all directions

5 Protected from low-pressure water jets from all directions

6 Totally protected high-pressure water jets

7 Protection from temporary immersion up to 1 meter

8 Protection from long period immersion under pressure

Third IP Number

0 No protection

1 Protection from impact of 0,225 joule (150 grams falling from 15 centimeters)

2 Protection from impact of 0,375 joules (250 grams falling from 15 centimeters)

3 Protection from impact of 0,5 joule (250 grams falling from 20 centimeters)

4 Protection from impact of 2,0 joules (500 grams falling from 40 centimeters)

5 Protected from impact of 6,0 joules (1,5 kilograms falling from 40 centimeters)

6 Protection from impact of 20 joules (5 kilograms falling from 40 centimeters)

An IP67 rating means that the connector is totally protected from dust and is protected from the effects of immersion in 15 centimeters to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.

Understanding fiber jacket color coding

By Robie Szyper

The color of the jacket on fiber optic cable identifies what type of fiber is used in the jacket. This is specified in TIA 598-C.

Orange: OM1 62.5-Micron Multimode
Orange: OM2 50-Micron Multimode
Aqua: OM3 Laser-Optimized 50-Micron Multimode
Aqua/Violet*: OM4 Laser-Optimized 50-Micron Multimode
Yellow: OS1/OS2 Single-mode
Blue: Polarization-maintaining Single-Mode
Black: Outdoor fiber

*OM4 cable is not specified in the standard. Aqua is used for OM3/OM4 cable (and some higher-grade OM2 cable). Violet is used for OM4 cable in Europe and is becoming more common in North America.

Fiber Color Coding Continue reading

Making teamwork a snap in the broadcast booth

The Dayton Dragons are the very successful Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, and currently hold the longest sell-out streak in all of North American professional sports. They were even voted one of the top ten hottest tickets to get in all of professional sports in 2007 by Sports Illustrated. Owned and operated by Mandalay Baseball Properties, the team continues to produce high-quality, family-friendly entertainment and provide unsurpassed customer service to a large, loyal fan base. Mandalay Creative Services, a division of Mandalay Baseball, helps meet that goal by providing in-house system design, technical integration, and production services.

The Dragons’ commitment to creating an unmatched fan experience led them to upgrade their video, audio, and control systems prior to the start of the 2014 season. The team is unique in that they produce two separate productions—an in-house and a broadcast feed—with two separate crews sharing core system components. The caveat was that the crews and components were split between two rooms: one space for each production.

Mandalay Creative’s first key goal was to enable the two small but efficient teams to work across multiple systems, producing shows that would normally require big-league budgets and staffing. Their high standards also demanded no sacrifice in video quality, maximum uptime, and enterprise-grade reliability.

Mandalay BaseballAlso vital, the Dragons required a solution that would grow with them, providing easy and cost effective ways to add additional servers and users to the matrix routing system. Continue reading

The two biggest causes of fiber light loss and how to fix them

By Fluke Networks

Fiber optic cabling carries pulses of light between transmitters and receivers. These pulses represent the data being sent across the cable. In order for the data to be transmitted successfully, the light must arrive at the far end of the cable with enough power to be measured. Light loss between the ends of a fiber link comes from multiple sources, such as the attenuation of the fiber itself, fusion splices, macro bends, and loss through adapter couplings where end-faces meet.

Among key sources of loss that can bring a fiber network down, dirty and damaged end-faces are the most underestimated threat. Dirty end-faces are a leading cause of fiber link failure for both installers and private network owners. Contaminated end-faces were the cause of fiber links failing 85% of the time. It’s easy to prevent, but there continues to be a lack of appreciation for this crucial issue and lots of misinformation about proper techniques.

There are two types of problems that will cause loss as light leaves one end-face and enters another inside an adapter: contamination and damage.

Visual Inspection Probe

Dig up the dirt on your endfaces with this Visual Inspection Probe.


Contamination comes in many forms, from dust to oils to buffer gel. Simply touching the ferrule will immediately deposit an unacceptable amount of body oil on the end-face. Dust and small static-charged particles float through the air and can land on any exposed termination. This can be especially true in facilities undergoing construction or renovation. In new installations, buffer gel and pulling lube can easily find its way onto an end-face. Continue reading


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