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As you near the actual installation, it’s time to determine how to outfit the crews who will do the work. Choosing the proper installation and test equipment is important, as it will affect the installation time and quality and may even deter-mine the job’s profitability. The frequency of problems caused by tools is appalling: their poor design, improper use, poor condi-tion or unfamiliarity with their application raises issues.
(Ed. Note: Part 4 is here.)
Installation tools include some big hardware, such as bucket trucks, trenchers, cable pullers or plows. The need for these will be es-tablished early in the planning stages. Many contractors do not own expensive equipment such as this, finding it more cost effective to rent as needed. If your crews are not familiar with a particular piece of equipment, subbing the work to someone who has both the equipment and an experienced crew may be much more cost effective, as mistakes in the equipment’s operation can be both expensive and dangerous.
Outside plant cables and premises single-mode cables generally will require fusion splicing for concatenation of long cable runs and splicing on pigtails for termination. Since fusion splicers have become less costly, more contractors have purchased them. Other con-tractors who have fewer projects that require splicing prefer to rent them, knowing they are getting a newer model with the latest tech-nology that has been recently serviced. The downside of a rental unit is your installers may not be familiar with that model and may require some training or time to become acquainted with it. If you own your splicer, it is assumed your crews are familiar with its op-eration and need only to inspect the unit to ensure it is working properly and the arc electrodes are in good condition.
Most contractors own termination equipment for multimode fiber, as it is used on most jobs. Generally, contractors have a pre-ferred method of termination, either adhesive/polish or prepolished/splice types. Both require dedicated toolkits. For epoxy or Hot Melt terminations, the appropriate curing ovens will be required, and the two are quite different; the Hot Melt oven is much hotter. If you use epoxy or anaerobic adhesives from your stock, check the expiration dates to ensure they are fresh. Also check for other consum-ables, such as wipes, isopropyl alcohol, cable gel cleaner and, of course, connectors.
Prepolished splice connectors have been getting better and easier to use. Newer termination kits include a quality cleaver, such as those used with fusion splicers, and a visual fault locator to verify the internal splice. Since newer kits can now produce connectors that have lower losses (around 0.5 dB), a new kit with the latest connectors and perhaps some training could be a good investment.
It is mandatory to check out every piece of equipment you intend to take to a job site to ensure its proper operation and let the in-stallation crew reacquaint themselves with its operation. This process needs to be done with enough time to have the unit serviced or replaced and restock any consumable supplies. It should also be obvious that one never puts back on the shelf any equipment that has had problems in the field. It should immediately be replaced or sent out for repair to be ready for the next job.
Let me caution you on another problem I have seen recently with tools: several complaints about substandard tools, especially fiber strippers, have led me to believe that poor-quality imports are becoming more common. In one case, the tools appear to have been coun-terfeit, branded with a well-known U.S.-made name. I suggest you purchase tools only from reputable sources and inspect them on re-ceipt to ensure they work properly.
Finally, as the equipment is checked out and readied for use, ensure appropriate safety equipment is packed with the tools. Everyone who works with fiber needs safety glasses, and clean, unscratched ones will make seeing those hair-thin fibers much easier. Black work mats for splicing and termination also help the installer see the fibers and find fiber scraps for easier cleanup.
HAYES is a VDV writer and educator and the president of The Fiber Optic Association. Find him at www.JimHayes.com.
(Ed. Note: Part 6 is here.)