Maintaining Fiber Optic Cable

Fiber optic cable is everywhere and, once installed properly, it normally just works. But, like everything else, these cables require care and feeding, especially ones repeatedly used in mobile broadcast applications. Here are some recommendations to keep fiber cables in top condition.

Camplex, an assembler of fiber optic cable systems in Saugerties, New York, works with all the leading brands. The company offered several tips for maintaining reliable fiber operations with any brand of product.

Begin by keeping cable connectors clean and dry. Before using fiber optic cables, clean the connectors on the cable and the ports the cable is connected to.

Connectors can easily be contaminated by dust and oils. This can come from oily hands, film residue condensed from air vapors and coatings left after water and solvents evaporate. Moisture can also corrode cable terminations, so cables should always be stored in dry areas.

Another tip is to leave dust caps on until the cable is ready to be connected. Dust caps keep contaminants and moisture away from the connector and protect it from damage.

After removing a dust cap, inspect and clean the ferrule before connecting to another cable or device. Only use cleaning products intended for fiber optic connectors.

Take it easy when handling fiber cables. Cables consist of cladding, coatings and jackets that protect the delicate glass strands and provide durability. However, if jerked or mishandled, the glass strands can fracture. This, of course, affects signal transmission.

Always test cables for failure points. Exceeding the bend radius or crush resistance ratings of the cable can affect performance, so use a visual fault locator (VFL) to find any failure points or a power meter to determine if there is signal loss.

Finally, avoid tangled fiber cables. Be sure to coil fiber optic cables and secure connectors with hook and loop type fasteners. Since compressed cables could cause signal loss, avoid using plastic zip ties. When zip ties are the only solution, cinch the zip ties loosely.

Minimum care is needed to make sure fiber assemblies work properly. If ignored, it can waste a lot of time troubleshooting problems. 

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