Industry Leading Fiber Optic Tools
Over 50 years ago, the combined benefits of ultra-transparent glass fibers, digital signaling and laser optics were realized, and a new era of communications technology was ushered in. Since that time, signal transmission, connection format and amplification breakthroughs have produced exponential bandwidth and quality improvements many times over. These incremental changes have driven the advanced generation of fiber optic tools we enjoy today. Every facet of fiber optic tools, from cleaning and inspection to power and loss testing, has significantly contributed to the fiber optic revolution.
Fiber Inspection, Identifiers & Fault Locators
With the constant upswing in connectivity and bandwidth consumption, assessing and maintaining the condition of optical fiber and connection points is more important now than ever before.
Despite being known as an extremely low-loss medium suitable for long distances and extreme environmental conditions, the small cross section and delicate nature of the fiber renders it susceptible to damage and contamination, particularly at the fibers ends or connections. Staying within the loss budget has become increasingly important as the bandwidth demands on fiber optic networks accelerate, and contamination or damage can make this task even more daunting. This is why using good fiber optic tools is so important.
Since the first digital fiber scopes appeared in the early 2000’s, fiber connector and end face inspection tools have evolved to incorporate features like high resolution imaging, auto-focus and automated inspection routines.
Advanced handheld fiber inspector tools like the HP3 Series system combine end face inspection and optical power measurement in one integrated device. Visual fault locators (VFL) are another type of fiber optic tool that have also been a mainstay of fiber inspection and identification best practices for decades. High-powered VFL fiber testers make it possible to verify fiber integrity over long distances, quickly identifying bends, breaks and damaged areas. New and versatile fiber light testers like the FI-60 Live Fiber Identifier can detect optical signal while testing optical power in-line, at any location along the length of the fiber, without directly contacting the fiber.
Fiber Inspection & Cleaning
Despite the obvious importance of end face cleaning, this practice is sometimes overlooked or underappreciated during maintenance and troubleshooting. More densely populated connector interfaces such as MPO and the deployment of advanced transmission technologies like wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) underscore the need for improved cleaning practices to mitigate signal losses.
Using an advanced, repeatable cleaning system like the CleanBlast is an efficient way to ensure connector contamination is removed. The system provides an option for an integrated probe microscope with a 6.4-inch LCD screen for on-the-spot visual confirmation. To further buttress this attention to improved cleanliness, fiber optic tools tailored to specific applications and technologies has been developed.
The handheld FiberCheck Sidewinder mates directly to multifiber connector interfaces such as MPO, making it easier to access, align, view and certify each polished fiber end in the ferrule accurately. More general fiber optic tools are available with the versatility to accommodate an array of inspection requirements.
The VAi/FVDi Benchhtop Microscope can be used to inspect fiber end condition on the production floor or in the lab. This all-in-one system complete with a 3.5 inch LCD display enables inspection, testing and results storage without the use of an external PC or monitor.
Small Yet Powerful Fiber Optic Tools
Moore’s law, along with improvements in laser and battery technology, have made miniaturized yet powerful fiber optic tools a reality in recent years. Feature sets that would once occupy an entire rack are now found in thumb-sized devices with surprising utility. Complete fiber light testers the size of a ballpoint pen can now be used to accurately detect faults for both single mode and multimode fibers and provide functionality previously found only in a full-sized VFL fiber tester. The compact OFI VFL produces visible laser light at 635 nm and is capable of both continuous and blink modes.
Full-featured power meters can now be contained in a package very similar to a standard USB (thumb) drive. The MP-60/-80 Miniature USB 2.0 power meter can perform advanced power loss measurement, even for long-haul applications, or can be used with a Viavi fiber optic light source tester to identify individual fibers or detect modulation frequency.
Other fiber optic tools such as the VIAVI USB-based microscope called the P5000i Fiber can put automated and reliable pass/fail fiber end certification in the palm of your hand.
Fiber Monitoring OTU
While cleaning and inspection processes are often performed on a periodic basis for certification and maintenance, our reliance on these networks for connectivity along with their inherent sensitivity means 24/7 monitoring of fiber networks for damage, security intrusions or otherwise degraded performance is now a virtual necessity.
Remote fiber monitoring is a practical option to oversee the performance of the entire fiber optic network from a central location. This approach can be used to quickly pinpoint faults and send alerts in real time for reduced MTTR. An Optical Test Unit (OTU) is another fiber optic tool that can be used to continuously monitor the fiber condition for data centers, industrial sites, municipalities or submarine cable applications.
The OTU can be used to monitor fiber performance from the construction and activation phases through the life of the fiber network. The OTU also protects the network effectively by detecting fiber intrusions and unauthorized tapping. An OTU can be a stand-alone fiber tester or coupled with an Optical Network Monitoring System (ONMSi) to enhance automation, visibility and asset management functions. The ONMSi provides intuitive dashboards for instant status, diagnostics, and mapping.
Fiber Optic Sensors
The OTU-8000 can also be used to monitor the temperature and strain experienced by optical fibers using DTS and DTSS (Distributed Temperature and Strain) measurements. Periodic traces produce alarm conditions if the measurements stray too far from baseline conditions. Fiber optic sensing provides many inherent advantages over electrical sensing, including light weight, passive fiber condition, immunity to EMI and low attenuation.
Fiber optic sensing using OTDR can provide precise data on the position of temperature anomalies or fiber elongation events at any location over the length of the fiber span. Additional fiber optic tools and sensing applications for infrastructure are seemingly limitless. Pipelines can be monitored for ground movement and mechanical deformation. Power cables can be monitored for hot spots. Fiber optic sensing can provide continuous temperature monitoring in sensitive locations such as nuclear power plants or hospitals, without concern for power outages that can disrupt electrical sensing.
Fiber Optic Testers
Since the early days of fiber optic tools, the Optical Power Meter (OPM) has been an important tool for accurately measuring the power in fiber optic networks. An OPM can operate over a wide range of laser wavelengths and measure relative or absolute power. The SmartClass Fiber OLP-85/-85P OPM is an accurate and versatile optical power solution with an 800 nm – 1700 nm wavelength measurement range in 1 nm increments. The compact P5000i digital microscope provides an easily integrated option for supplementary fiber inspection.
When an OPM is combined with a fiber optic light source tester or a VFL fiber tester, the combined system is often referred to as an Optical Loss Test Set. The SmartClass Fiber OLTS-85/85P can be used for efficient Tier 1 fiber certification to industry standards. Length and optical loss can be measured simultaneously, along with convenient polarity verification and end-face inspection.
Multi-Fiber Push On (MPO) connectors utilize mechanical transfer (MT) ferrule technology, first developed in the mid-1980’s, to create a linear array of fibers across a single polymer ferrule. MPO connectors provide over twelve times the density of a duplex LC connector in the same footprint. This efficient use of space can also create density and accessibility challenges for MPO testing, inspection and cleaning. For this reason, fiber optic tools that are designed and built to address the inherent challenges of parallel optics have emerged.
Completing Tier 1 certification for network links with native MPO connectivity is altogether simplified with the SmartClass Fiber MPOLx. MPO length, optical loss, polarity and end-face certification can all be performed directly with no need for adaptation or conversion of the MPO interface. OTDR testing is another area where direct MPO connection reduces complexity and expedites test execution. A Multi-fiber MPO Switch eliminates the need for break-out cables or adapters and is automatically controlled by the OTDR.
OTDR and Fiber Characterization
OTDR and Fiber Characterization detection features to mitigate the risk of live signal interference. Other portable devices such as the Hi-Res Multimode OTDR Solution have been designed with short event and attenuation dead zones to support characterization of very short runs, such as those found on aircraft or ships. Learn more about OTDR Testing.