What is the Best Way to Clean Fiber Optic Connectors?
Sometimes it is the simplest of things that cause the biggest problems.
Car won’t start? Check to see if you have gas in the tank. Is your fiber optic network having issues? Do you have performance problems with your fiber optical cable? Check your fiber optic connectors. It can be as simple as dirty connectors. A simple fiber optic connector cleaning can remedy the problem. And no, you do not clean them on your shirt. That doesn’t work. Do they look clean? How can you tell if there is contamination when the fiber optic cable is smaller than a human hair? You can’t.
What are the Differences between a Hand Held Microscope and a Video Microscope?
A digital microscope is just a regular hand held microscope with a camera added to it. Usual magnification ranges from 100x to 800x, a popular magnification is 400x, although 200x can usually do the job. Sometimes a 200x may be a better choice as you can see more of the area that is being inspected. These microscopes can capture images and have documentation software. They provide a report on the inspection. A tech can look at the connector on a computer screen. Some digital microscopes may have a focus, some models have auto focus. All you need do to use this microscope is attach the connector to be inspected and view the results on a computer screen or tablet. This image can also be captured and sent remotely to another location for inspection. A hand held microscope provides basically the same function as the digital microscope but is limited to just the inspection. It cannot be viewed on a computer or tablet screen nor can it transmit the image for remote viewing. However, it will give you the basic information you need on whether or not the connector is dirty.
How Do I Clean a Connector?
It is always best to turn off the laser. Never under any circumstances should you look into the end of any optical fiber while it is energized. Looking directly at the fiber can cause irrevocable eye damage.
Step # 2
Remove the protective cap and store it in a clean container. Make sure the container has a cover. This will protect the dust caps from dust or dirt.
Step # 3
The connector now needs a visual inspection with a microscope. Typical dust and debris cannot be seen with the naked eye. A hand held microscope or a video microscope will aid you in seeing the condition of the connector. Take the connector and attach it to either the video microscope or the hand held microscope of your choice. Take a look to see the condition. If you see debris or contamination you need to do some cleaning.
Step # 4
You need to be careful when cleaning or you may introduce more contamination. There are several ways to clean a connector. Wet Cleaning, Wet to Dry Cleaning, and Dry Connector Cleaners.
• Wet Cleaning
• Dry Connector Cleaners
• Wet to Dry Cleaning
You must use reagent-grade 99% isopropyl alcohol and lint free cleaning wipes. The reagent grade alcohol can be purchased in bulk however, it is suggested that you use pre-moistened Isopropyl alcohol wipes as bulk isopropyl alcohol can become contaminated after time and will absorb water from the air. The individually packed wipes will avoid that problem. Dry Connector Cleaners - Also known as click type cleaner or a cassette cleaner are generally used for light contamination. They contain a lint free type of tape designed to clean. It is more difficult to eliminate contaminants using the dry method. Connectors can become electrically charged during this method and may even attract additional contaminants. Use the correct materials to avoid this. Wet to Dry Cleaning - In this process you need to use a small amount of reagent grade alcohol to remove debris and dust particles. Apply a small amount to a lint free fiber optic cleaning cloth. Wipe the connector from the wet area on the cleaning cloth, towards the dry section of the cloth. Do this using a straight across forward motion right across the connector. Never use a figure 8 motion when using this method. This method of moving straight across the lint free surface will remove debris and particles. It is important to note more is not better when using this method. Using too much cleaner could contaminate the surface to be cleaned. Remember, moderate wetness, wipe only straight across from wet to dry.
• A cleaning process that will leave a residue on the connector or end-face.
• Twisting or pulling on the fiber cable forcefully.
• Looking directly at lasers.
• Touching the area that was cleaned
• Reusing cleaning wipes
• Touching cleaning materials
You always need to inspect your connectors for contamination. Never assume a connector is clean. Connectors in many cases are the source of degradation. Contamination is your systems enemy. Use a microscope to do your inspection. Use a proven procedure and products to clean your connectors. Never trust the quality of your optical signal to guesswork. The only way that you can guarantee that your connectors are doing their job correctly is to; Inspect, clean, inspect.
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