What are Fiber Optic Tools?

Get an overview of the different types of fiber optic tools, as well as their uses. We also discuss the importance of using fiber optic tools, and the benefits they can provide.

Fiber Optic Tools

Fiber optic tools are used to install, maintain, and test fiber optic cables, connectors, and networks. Fiber optic tools are essential for ensuring that fiber optic networks are installed and maintained correctly, so that they can provide reliable and high-speed data transmission.

Here are some additional reasons why fiber optic tools are essential for fiber testing:

  • Fiber optic cables are very fragile and can be easily damaged if they are not handled properly. Fiber optic tools help to prevent damage to fiber optic cables.
  • Fiber optic networks can be very complex, and fiber optic tools help technicians to troubleshoot and repair problems with fiber optic networks.
  • Fiber optic tools help to ensure that fiber optic networks are installed and maintained in a safe and efficient manner.

If you are working with fiber optic cables or networks, it is important to have the right tools. Fiber optic tools can help you test fiber optic cables and networks safely and efficiently.

What Are Fiber Optic Tools Used For?

Fiber optic tools are essential for fiber testing because they allow technicians to:

  • Measure the attenuation and loss of fiber optic cables
  • Locate and identify faults in fiber optic cables
  • Test the performance of fiber optic connectors
  • Verify the installation of fiber optic cables and connectors
  • Troubleshoot problems with fiber optic networks

Fiber Optic Evolution

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 Optic Tools from VIAVI

VIAVI offers a wide range of portable fiber optic test instruments and monitoring systems to meet the needs of every network lifecycle stage, from installation and provisioning to maintenance and service assurance. From simple point solutions to highly scalable test platforms, VIAVI has the right tool to ensure that technicians have the tools they need to do the job right, the first time.

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 FTH

While cleaning and inspection processes are often performed for certification, once the network is handled during connects/disconnects, additions and changes, 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 vital 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. A fiber test head (FTH) is another fiber optic tool that can be used to continuously monitor the fiber condition for data centers, industrial sites, metro area rings, FTTx networks, municipalities or submarine cable applications.

Automated Remote Fiber Test System equipment such as the award-winning FTH-9000 and FTH-5000 systems combine OTDR and optical-switch technology with scalability up to 4000 ports per Fiber Test Head. 

The RFTS System or a single FTH can be used to monitor fiber performance from the construction and activation phases through the life of the fiber network. The FTH also protects the network effectively by detecting fiber intrusions and unauthorized tapping. An FTH can be a stand-alone fiber tester or coupled with an Optical Network Monitoring System (ONMSi) to enhance automation, visibility and asset management functions. ONMSi RFTS provides intuitive dashboards for instant status, diagnostics, and mapping.

Fiber Optic Sensors

The Fiber Test Head (FTH) 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. 

MPO Testing

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 (Optical Time Domain Reflectometer) and Fiber Characterization solutions are essential tools for network operators looking to maintain a secure, reliable, and high-performance fiber optic network. Both solutions provide crucial insights into the fiber optic cable's performance, enabling operators optimize network performance, increase capacity, and ensure reliability plus detect and correct issues quickly and efficiently.

OTDR provide detailed certification of fiber optic links and allow network operators to quickly and accurately identify issues with a fiber cable, such as breaks or bends, and determine the distance to the fault, helping to minimize downtime and improve network efficiency and reliability.

Fiber characterization solutions enable network operators to measure various optical dispersion parameters that determine a fiber optic cable's performance. These include chromatic dispersion and polarization mode dispersion (CD and PMD) plus attenuation profile. Fiber characterization solutions help network operators optimize the network's performance and increase its capacity.

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.

OTDR and Fiber Characterization solutions are available in various form factors, including handheld devices, portable devices, and rack-mounted systems. The choice of form factor depends on the application, network size, and specific testing needs.

 Learn more about OTDR Testing.

Get in Touch

VIAVI Fiber optic tools help you effectively install, maintain, and test your fiber optic networks while ensuring optimal performance. If you are looking for fiber optic test instruments and monitoring systems that are accurate, portable, scalable, and supported, then VIAVI is the right choice for you.