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Fusion Splicers and Cleavers

Fusion splicers and cleavers are essential for connecting lengths of fibre optic cable. They are necessary equipment for long-range telecommunications and data centres.

Fusion Splicing

Fusion splicing is the process of joining two optical fibres at their ends to create one long optic fibre. It is an essential process when laying fibre optic cable. It is also a task that has to be undertaken with extreme precision, as an imperfect splice will lead to high levels of signal loss at the join. Fibres have to be stripped of their cladding with cable pliers and meticulously cleaned before splicing as any dust or debris can severely affect the signal. A fibre cleaver slices off the end of each fibre, and is designed to produce a perfectly flat surface. The ends are then fused together using a heat source, which is typically an electrical arc but can also be a laser or gas flame.

Fusion vs. Mechanical Splicing

The main alternative to fusion splicing is mechanical splicing. Mechanical splices are separate components that fit around the two fibre optic ends and hold them together by force. An optical gel in the joint minimises light reflection and signal loss. However, signal loss is still higher than in a properly executed fusion splice. Fusion splicing equipment is much more expensive upfront than mechanical splicing equipment. Because mechanical splicing requires a specialised piece of equipment for each splice performed, though, it is much more expensive per use. For users who need to splice fibre optic cable frequently, fusion splicing is the way to go.

Cleavers

Choosing the right cleaver is essential for achieving a clean connection between optic fibres. A typical pair of electrical cable cutters is unlikely to achieve the perfectly flat, perfectly perpendicular cut that is essential for fusion splicing. Cleavers do not actually cut the fibre, they score it and then pull it apart to avoid distorting its shape. Because there is no optical gel to fill in any gaps between the ends, fusion splicing requires a more precise cleaver than mechanical splicing.

Splicing Machines

Fusion splicing machines typically automate the splicing process. Users can rely on factory presets or enter splicing parameters themselves. There are two major families of fusion splicer. Cladding alignment splicers are relatively cheap and fast, as they rely on shaped channels to guide the fibres into place. The fibres are positioned using their cladding, so if the cores are not perfectly central within the cladding, it may cause signal loss. Core alignment splicers are more expensive and complicated to operate, but their advanced imaging systems allow users to line up the cores directly for a more perfect splice.

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