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Extending the Lifecycle of Fiber Optic Cables. John Culbert President and Partner, Megladon Mfg. Group Austin, TX. Introduction. Fiber optic cables are considered a weakness in optical networks Fiber cables are very fragile and sensitive to damage when handling

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extending the lifecycle of fiber optic cables

Extending the Lifecycle of Fiber Optic Cables

John Culbert

President and Partner, Megladon Mfg. Group

Austin, TX

slide2
Introduction
  • Fiber optic cables are considered a weakness in optical networks
  • Fiber cables are very fragile and sensitive to damage when handling
  • Making fiber optics meet performance expectations and withstand field/installation handling are important challenges
  • Industry Best Practices can help us achieve these goals, but robust connector technology can help us avoid the challenges
slide3
Outline
  • 1) Common Physical and Mechanical causes for Performance Decline in Fiber Optic Connectors
          • Inspection and evaluation criteria
          • Individual Factors
          • Case Study Discussions and Experimental Evidence
          • Industry Best Practices and Prevention Techniques
  • 2) Proposed Solution through Tempering Technology
slide4
Scratches and Pitting

Scratches on the end face of a fiber optic surface drastically reduce its performance

Scratches are created by:

Improper Handling

Improper Cleaning

Insertions into Inspection Equipment

Multiple Matings

Any time the end face contacts something other than a cleaning tool or another properly oriented fiber end face, there is the potential for scratches to develop

slide5
Scratches and Pitting

Case Study –

International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI)

Zone Descriptions

Scratches have a negative effect on Return Loss (RL), a key fiber performance indicator

Connectors under regular test environment use for 18 months saw return loss increased from -55db to an average of -42db

Conclusions: Scratches significantly degrade optical performance, especially return loss

Zone 3

Ferrule

Zone 1B

Cladding

Zone 1C

Epoxy Ring

Zone 1A

Core

Zone 3

Ferrule

Zone 2

Contact Area

slide6
Inspection Criteria

From IPC-8497-1

Cleaning Methods and Contamination Assessment for Optical Assembly

slide7
Scratches and Pitting

Prevention

  • Inspection – Follow inspection criteria. Any scratch can degrade performance
  • Proper Handling – protect end face at all times. Cap un-used connectors
  • Proper Cleaning – Use only approved cleaning products to prevent scratching
  • Carefully insert connectors into inspection ports – even this can create scratches

Solutions

  • Proper Technician Training
  • More robust connectors that withstand handling
slide8
Contamination

Contamination

  • Consists of dust, dirt and various other forms of debris
  • Difficult to avoid – Contamination happens anytime you remove the end cap and endface is exposed
  • Subject to the inspection guidelines mentioned earlier
  • Prevents even contact between cable end faces during mating
  • Blocks signal through core
  • 80% of contaminants are silica particles
slide9
Contamination

Case Study –

International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative (iNEMI)

Experimental Dust Applied

During repetitive connector mating and de-mating cycles, dust particles can accumulate and redistribute at the connector end face.

Electrostatic charge force was one of the mechanisms responsible for the particle accumulation, redistribution and their movement in the core area.

slide10
Contamination

Case Study – iNEMI

5th Mating, 200x

Particles had a tendency to migrate specifically towords the core over the course of multiple matings

The core is EXTREMELY sensitive to contamination. The accumulation of dust particles seriously impaired fiber performance

A dust particle 5um wide in the core of a SM fiber assembly can effect more than one half of the signal

slide11
Contamination

Best Practices – Per IPC-8497-1

  • Always inspect and clean fiber connectors before insertion
  • Clean with dry wipes and cleaning fluid
    • Absorbent wipes of woven or entangled nature
    • Use IPA or other solvent to clean end face
    • Always clean with dry wipe again after solvent use
  • Clean connectors again when re-inserting in another port
  • Careful – some contamination can lead to scratches during cleaning
  • See IPC-8497-1 for cleaning methodology

Solutions

  • Reduction in ESD Generation during cleaning
  • Smoother end face is more resistant to contamination gathering
slide12
Multiple Insertions
  • Multiple insertions can impact cable performance by:
  • Creating scratches
  • Increasing contamination
  • Migrating contamination towards core of fiber
  • Damaging epoxy ring
  • All connectorized fiber assemblies have a limited number of matings that they can withstand and still perform adequately
slide13
Multiple Insertions

Case Study - iNEMI

Based on iNEMI research in 60 % of all examined LC connectors, a series of five repeated matings/demating operations resulted in an increase of IL of 0.5 to 1.1 dB due to particle movement from the ferrule and cladding areas towards the core

slide14
Multiple Insertions

Prevention

Exercise Cleanliness Best practices between matings

Verify both connectors are free of contaminants

Solutions

Develop connectors that are resistant to the effects of multiple matings

Note that connectorized assemblies have a mating limit – replace cables that have exceeded their life cycle

slide15
Inspection Best Practices

Inspection Criteria - Revisited

Zone Descriptions

Zone 3

Ferrule

Zone 1B

Cladding

Zone 1C

Epoxy Ring

Zone 1A

Core

Zone 3

Ferrule

Zone 2

Contact Area

slide16
Inspection Best Practices

Keys to Successful Inspection

Use Proper Inspection Equipment

Bench Top Scope

Handheld Scope, Port Probe

Scratches can be identified @ 200x or 400x magnification

Scratches and contamination on the core or cladding is unacceptable

If scratches, re-polish the connector

Contamination should be cleaned, then connector re-inspected

slide17
Cleaning Best Practices

Keys to Successful Cleaning

Use Proper Cleaning Equipment and Technique

Dry Wipe on soft surface – Hard surfaces may damage ferrule

Cleaning Cassettes

IPA or other non-water based cleaning solvent

Always use dry wipe after solvent use

Contamination on the core or cladding is unacceptable

Contamination should be cleaned, then connector re-inspected

If contamination contains oils or residues, a solvent must be used

slide18
Cleaning Best Practices

From IPC-8497-1

Comparison of Cleaning Fluid Properties

slide19
Installation Guidelines

Fiber Mechanical Limits

  • Maximum Cable lengths
  • Minimum Bend Radius
  • Pull Tension Restriction
slide20
Installation Guidelines
  • Never Pull by the Connector
  • Use Pulling Eye or Grip for Trunks
  • Monitor Pulling Tension
  • Use “Straight Pull”
  • Do not twist cable
slide21
Proposed Alternative

Tempered Mating Surface

Accomplished by heat treating mating surface similar to a tempered windshield

Hardness of Mating Surface increases

Smoothness of mating surface increases

slide22
Tempered Mating Surface

Features

Scratch Resistant

Promotes minimum insertion loss and return loss

Heat anneals mating surface to prevent contaminant leaching

Heat “heals” any imperfections near the end of the glass

Smooth surface reduces ESD build up (less friction)

Smooth surface reduces build up of contaminants

Extended life span

Easy Cleaning

Durable enough to handle multiple matings

Compatible with all existing connectors

slide23
Tempered Mating Surface

Benefits

Easy to install

Repeatable Network Performance and Reliability

Reduced Network Downtime

Increased Customer Satisfaction

Saves Time and Money

slide25
Tempered Mating Surface

Number of Matings VS Insertion Loss

slide26
Conclusions
  • Scratches and Contamination on Fiber Optic cables drastically reduce performance
  • By following industry best practices, we can prevent some scratches and make better efforts to keep connectors clean from contamination
  • Following these practices does not guarantee clean connectors and a scratch free surface
  • Tempering (heat treated) technology exists that creates a scratch resistant mating surface and extends the life cycle of the product
references
References

(1) “Accumulation of Particles near the Core during repetetive Fiber Conenctor Matings and De-matings.” NFOEC 2007 Presentation. Berdinskikh, Tatiana, March 29, 2007

(2) “Cleaning Methods and Contamination Assessment for Optical Assembly.” OFC 2006 Presentation. Berdinskikh, Tatiana, March 6, 2006

(3) “Degradation of Optical Performance of Fiber Optic Connectors in a Manufacturing Environment.” iNEMI Presentation. Berdinskikh, Tatiana

(4) “The Investigation of ESD effects on Mated Fiber Optic Connectors.” iNEMI Presentation. Culbert, John

(5) IPC-8497-1 Cleaning Methods and Contamination Assessment for Optical Assembly

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