Need for fiber cleanliness
With the widespread use of single mode fiber in very high-speed communications, it becomes essential to reduce all sources of contamination on fiber surfaces in the cladding (dark area) and especially in the core (small white dot). The core itself is 9 micron or 0.35 thousandths of an inch across. A spec of dirt and even smoke particles are huge by comparison (think of seeing through mud on your windshield). Mating unclean connectors can add dB’s of loss resulting in intermittent or even total signal loss.
Cost of network down time
It has been estimated one-hour of downtime on a single OC-48 (2.488 Gbps) speed fiber is about $ 7,000 per hour. With the advent of DWDM (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) and 0C-768 transmission rates (40 Gigabits per second), any lost time at all is intolerable. CLEANING and INSPECTING a fiber optic connector every time before mating is imperative to maintain a high QOS (Quality of Service) network.
Various Cleaning Methods
Nothing is a recipe for disaster. Data stopping dirt may not be seen by the naked eye. After two or three insertions, a connector will get dirty just from exposure to the air in the un-mated condition and from dirt picked up from the sides of the mating ferrule.
- Dry wipes
Dry wipes are a marginal method if they are lint free and kept that way. This can be hard to do in most environments.
- Canned Air Duster
Most canned air is not very clean and optic grade is very expensive. While better than nothing, it is difficult to avoid blowing dirt onto the fiber endface or having the cold propellant bring in moisture or even freeze or crack the fiber. It is also difficult to transport canned air by airplane.
- Alcohol and wipes
Many firms use good old-fashioned alcohol and wipes. The problems here are many. First you must find a high grade of alcohol (no rubbing alcohol ever). Then you must be concerned about disposal, fire hazards, residue left on the glass, etc. Use of Solvent Dispensers is also not good as dirt gets into the bottle and the alcohol starts to look like Scotch after a while. The dispensers need to be cleaned and refilled regularly. And then there is MSDS, chemical spills, EPA/OSHA and other fun things to worry about. It is also difficult to transport via air travel or other means.
- Dry 2 micron fiber cloth cleaners such as the Cletop Products
The easiest and best tool around is a simple 2 micron fiber cloth cleaner. It is fast (about 5 seconds), cheap (about 5 cents), simple to use and leaves a clean dry surface by trapping the dirt in the "micro pockets" inside the cloth.
Summary:The importance of a clean fiber is essential. CLEANING and INSPECTING a connector every time before insertion goes a long way towards keeping your customers and your job.