S+LSS Cool Tools: Tools for Fiber
Published: April 2011
“Fiber is slowly gaining momentum as more installers receive the proper fiber preparation and installation training,” said Rick Salvas, Ripley Tools national account manager—broadband. “Fiber is being used when facilities have cable requirements exceeding greater than 8,000-foot runs. Facilities that incorporate many security cameras normally elect to use fiber because of the increased bandwidth fiber provides.”
Ideal Industries Business Unit Manager Dan Payerle said that, although copper remains the primary carrier for video surveillance transmission in nonenterprise and Internet protocol (IP) retrofit applications, fiber optic cabling makes sense, both practically and economically, in multi-site enterprise deployments.
“Multisite installations typically require longer transmission distances of highly complex signals,” Payerle said. “Also, they need the added security of a signal flow that cannot be interrupted as easily as a traditional electrical transmission, plus the reliability of full electrical decoupling. Fiber meets all of these requirements.”
Kitco Fiber Optics Manager of Training Jim Dallas said that there is a trend for newer video and alarm systems to use fiber optic cabling instead of copper cabling.
“These surveillance systems are linked using single-mode fiber to ensure the highest quality pictures, purer images and less data loss and interference than copper systems,” he said. “Fiber also helps ‘future-proof’ the installation, because the major cost of installing a system is the backbone of the system. Those that install fiber can be assured the installation cost will be a fixed cost and the price to upgrade the system will then be spent on upgrades to the equipment and not on installing new cabling.”
Ripley’s Salvas said that fiber cable is also being used as a sensing means for security surveillance systems covering large real estate with lengthy perimeters. In these installations, fiber is strung around a fence perimeter and is monitored for any security breaks in the fiber link.
“Newer and larger facilities,” Salvas said, “will incorporate more fiber in their video security, alarm and building control systems as more contractors become comfortable in fiber installation and the fiber installation marketplace becomes increasingly more competitive for this work. The cost of fiber cable and connector will continue to come down in price and will only enhance the increase of fiber use.”
There are no fiber tools designed specifically for security work, but properly preparing and installing fiber optic cabling requires special tools designed specifically for fiber work and the knowledge of how to use them correctly.
Salvas said basic fiber tools include the following: jacket stripper, Kevlar cutter, fiber stripper, black workstation mat, tweezers, fiber scrap receptacle, cleaning wipes or cleaning swabs, curing oven or crimp tool (depending on connector type), scribe, lapping film, polishing disc, neoprene pad (base for polishing), 200x microscope, and visual fault finder.
Ideal’s Payerle said technicians need cutting/stripping tools that match the specific size of cable being terminated and that perform multiple operations to reduce the necessity of switching tools. Older tools can require multiple passes; however, newer tools effectively remove both the buffer and the coating in a single pass.
For fast and efficient cleaning of the cut, Payerle recommends specially designed split-tip swabs that are preloaded with 99 percent isopropyl alcohol.
“The method for attaching a connector determines what tools are needed,” Payerle said. “If epoxy, a scribe is necessary to cleave the glass and remove the excess fiber once the epoxy has cured and the connection has cooled. After the fiber has been scribed and removed, the face is polished through a series of steps to achieve a smooth surface with lapping film and a polishing puck. Each connection should then be inspected using a good field microscope. For multimode fiber, the minimum magnification should be 100 times. For single-mode, the magnification should be at least 200 times.”
Kitco’s Dallas said many newer fiber systems are designed to be plug-and-play, with preterminated fiber cabling already set in varying lengths.
“There are a number of connector manufacturers that offer termination solutions that only require a minimal number of hand tools to terminate in the field without a power source,” Dallas said. These are referred to as crimp-style connectors. Other manufacturers use termination--style connectors that require an adhesive be used to install the connector onto the fiber. Anaerobic adhesives are made of two parts, an adhesive and a primer. When mixed together, the adhesive hardens within minutes, and applying heat is not necessary.
“Other style connectors are terminated using epoxy that does require a heat source or oven to cure the epoxy,” Dallas said. “Each type offers its own unique advantage from cost to ease of installation to longevity. While the crimp-style connectors are the easiest to install, they offer the least amount of pull strength to protect the connector from de-mating, whereas epoxy offers the most rugged protection to the connector.”
Training is essential to properly make fiber terminations, and certification training is available from industry organizations, manufacturers and fiber kit distributors.
“A fiber cable improperly stripped or improperly prepared for the connector will result in network failure,” Dallas said. “Successful terminations are made by using only high-quality, specialized fiber tools and approved terminating procedures.”
GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at email@example.com.