Fiber Optic Testers
Learn about the common contaminants of fiber optics in today’s mission critical networks and get a detailed look at fiber testing and types of fiber testers to ensure network performance.
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What is fiber optic testing?
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Fiber Optic Testing
Fiber optics cabling is the core of today's datacom networks. Optical fiber is the predominant media type for mission-critical datacenter links, backbone within buildings, and longer distances for campus networks. As network speeds and bandwidth demands increase, distance and loss limitations have decreased, making fiber optic cabling certification testing more important than ever.
Inspecting Fiber Optic Cable for Light Loss
For decades, fiber optics have been inspected and cleaned to ensure the proper passage of light. While fiber optics inspection and cleaning fiber connectors is not new, it is growing in importance as links with increasingly higher data rates are driving decreasingly small loss budgets. With less tolerance for overall light loss, the attenuation through adapters must be lower than ever before. This can be achieved by properly inspecting and cleaning fiber optic cables when they are installed or while making moves, or changes.
There are two types of problems that will cause loss as light leaves one end-face and enters another inside an adapter: contamination and damage.
Dust, oils and water blocking gel are common forms of fiber connector end-face contamination. Simply touching the ferrule will immediately deposit body oil on the end-face, and cause unacceptable attenuation once connection are made. Dust and small static-charged particles float through the air and can land on any exposed termination. This can be especially true in facilities undergoing construction or renovation. In new installations, buffer gel and pulling lube can easily find its way onto an end-face.
Fiber optic cable damage appears as a scratch, pit, crack, or chip. These end-face surface defects could be the result of poor termination or mated contamination. Deciding to mate every connection first and then inspecting only those that fail is a risky approach as the physical contact of mated contaminants can cause permanent damage. This permanent damage would require more costly and time consuming re-termination or replacement of pre-terminated links.
From the first days of fiber optic cabling, stereo bench top microscopes were used to inspect fiber optic end-faces. Over time, smaller, portable microscopes were designed to easily test fiber cable. Microscopes can be divided into two basic groupings: opticaland video. Optical microscopes incorporate an objective lens and an eyepiece lens to allow you to view the end-face directly through the device. Video microscopes incorporate both an optical probe and a display for viewing the probe’s image. Probes are designed to be small so that they can reach ports in hard-to-access places. The screens allow images to be expanded for easier identification of contaminants and damage. Because the end-face is viewed on a screen instead of directly, probes minimize the chance of a harmful laser light reaching a person’s eye. Fluke Networks offers a range of fiber optic microscopes from simple to professional-grade.
Cleaning Fiber Optic Cables
Because cleaning has been part of fiber optic cable maintenance for years, most people have their own approaches for cleaning end-faces, including some suboptimal approaches such as blasting the fiber optic cable with canned air, or using Isopropyl alcohol (IPA). Fiber-specific solvents are superior at dissolving virtually any contaminate lurking on a fiber end-face and have tailored evaporation rates that give them time to work yet disappear before mating. The most basic tools used are wipes and swabs used to clean patch cords and inside ports, respectively. Convenient fiber optic cleaning kits include all the solvent and cleaning equipment one needs for precision end-face cleaning.
Fiber Optics Testing: Troubleshooting, Verification, and Certification
Fiber optic testers include tools and equipment to perform basic inspection and cleaning, basic troubleshooting and verification testers, certification testers, and advanced OTDR testers for troubleshooting and analysis of existing fiber optic cabling.
For simple fiber optic cable troubleshooting and verification testers, the SimpliFiber Pro light source and power meter solutions work together to measure multimode and singlemode fiber loss. This fiber optic cable troubleshooting tool has built-in results storage and automatic wavelength synchronization save time and prevent errors.
Certification of new fiber optic cabling per IEEE, TIA/EIA, or ISO/IEC standards is necessary to ensure that the link will run the intended application. Complete fiber optic cabling certification includes two parts; Tier 1 or Basic Test Regimen and Tier 2 or Extended Test Regimen. Tier 1 fiber optic cabling certification is performed with a power meter and light source or optical loss test set such as the CertiFiber Pro to measure the absolute loss of the link and compare it to the limits in the standard. Tier 2 fiber optic cabling certification and troubleshooting can be performed with an OTDR such as the OptiFiber Pro OTDR.
Certification of fiber optic cable links requires the right testing equipment, detailed knowledge of installation and application standards, and the ability to document your test results. The CertiFiber™ Pro is a handheld fiber optic certification tester that quickly and easily certifies multi-mode and single-mode networks. One button measures fiber length and optical loss on two fibers at two wavelengths, computes the optical loss budget, compares the results to the selected industry standard and provides an instant PASS or FAIL indication. Fiber certifier test results can easily be saved and managed using included LinkWare Software.
Tier 2 fiber optic certification adds the use of an OTDR to loss testing to ensure the quality of individual components of the installed link. Learn more about OTDRs and tier-two fiber certification here.
Fluke Networks is the market leader in enterprise fiber optic testing equipment, with a wide range of field-tough fiber optic testers to inspect, clean, verify, certify, and troubleshoot fiber optic cable networks.
How to test fiber connections and cables with Fluke tools
How to test fiber connections and cables with Fluke tools
In the following videos, see how you can use Fluke tools to test fiber connections and cables.
How to locate connections and breaks in optical fiber
For the most simple and cost effective way to locate fiber, connections, bends, and breaks, use the The VisiFaultTM. Break through the confusion when you’re faced with a complex network of fibers, connectors and patch cords to quickly diagnose and repair simple fiber link problems.
Fluke Networks’ Fiber QuickMap offers a more advanced, enterprise multimode fiber troubleshooter that quickly and efficiently locates connections and breaks in multimode fiber. This tool can instantly provide distances to failures such as high loss and high reflectance incidents. The Fiber QuickMap is capable of displaying up to 9 events and lengths can be displayed in either feet or meters.
The video below explains how to use the Fiber QuickMap in the field by demonstrating a broken fiber in a demo box and explaining how this tool can help you find the problem faster and more efficiently.
How to inspect optical fiber for contamination
The leading cause of fiber failures is end face contamination. Dirt, dust, and other contaminants cause insertion loss and back-reflection that stops fiber optic transmission and wreaks havoc with transceivers. That’s why you always want to grab a Fiber Optic Inspection Scope to ensure your fiber cable is good to go.
How to inspect and clean optical fiber and measure loss and power levels
Troubleshoot and verify optical fiber cabling systems with the right tools to measure loss and power levels, and to inspect and clean connect end faces. Whether you’re working on basic fiber verification capabilities or advanced troubleshooting and inspection the SimpliFiber® Pro Optical Power Meter and Fiber Test Kits boast advanced, yet easy-to-use capabilities that can reduce test time.
Fiber Optic Cabling and Testing 101
For deeper learning, see the following video titled Fiber Optic Cabling and Testing 101, jointly produced by Fluke and Corning. In the first part of the video, Corning takes you through optical fiber theory and the second part, starting around the 34:30 mark, Fluke covers loss budgets, contamination, cleaning, inspection, and which testing tools to use for which jobs. Q&A starts around the 54:45 mark.