Fusion VS Mechanical Splicing

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Having a good understanding of what a fiber optic splice is and how it works is very crucial. Especially for organizations and technicians involved in LAN networking projects and the telecommunication industry.

In simple terms, the process of combining two fiber optic cables together is usually referred to as splicing. There are also other ways in which this can be achieved. Apart from fiber optic splicing they are connectorization or direct termination.

Fiber optic splicing can be done through two methods;

Fusion splicing and Mechanical splicing.

Splicing is usually the preferred in situations where there is a need to join two different types of cable together. Likewise where the cables run are too long for a single-length fiber. As it usually results in lower back reflection as well as light loss. In situations where fiber cables which are buried are accidentally severed, one can use splicing to restore the cable.

In this article, we will focus on the two most common methods of fiber optic splicing. Fusion splicing and mechanical splicing. For anyone who is starting out with splicing, we advise that you first of all consider your long-term goals.  Once you are fully informed then you can settle on a preferred splicing method.

Fusion Splicing

In fusion splicing, there is a machine that is used to align the ends of two fibers precisely. The two glass ends are welded or fused together by use of heat or an electric arc. By effectively implementing the above you will be able to cut down on the loss of light transition. Thanks to the continuous connection which has been established between the fibers.

splicing fiber optic cable
Fusion Splicing Fiber Optic Cable

Mechanical Splicing

This basically refers to alignment of devices by mechanical splices. Designed so that they are able to hold the ends of two fibers in a position which is precisely aligned. Enabling light to be able to pass from one fiber to the other. With mechanical splicing you usually get a loss of 0.3 dB.

Mechanical Splice
Mechanical Splice

Fusion VS Mechanical Splice – Which Method Is Best?

Cost Benefits

When it comes to choosing a fiber optic splicing method the one thing which usually has a huge saying is economics. Generally mechanical splicing usually has a very low initial investment. Note that with mechanical splicing you will be required to handle and deal with the costs per splice. Which can vary greatly!

With Fusion splicing you will be receiving a lower cost per splice. In addition to that it is good to note that with fusion splicing you will be required to dig deep into your pockets for its initial investment. To put it clearly an initial investment for fusion splicing depending on features and accuracy of the splicing machine that you intend to use is usually between $3,000 and $50,000. With fusion splicing the more accurate you want the result to be in-terms of better alignment the more money you will have to pay up as its initial investment.

Performance Benefits

With cost benefits out of the way I move to performance of the two fiber optic splicing methods.  I will start by indicating that based on the industry you are working with the performance of these two splicing methods may vary. Due to the fact that the resulting points from fusion splicing are almost seamless, fusion splicing tends to produce less back reflection as well as lower light loss.

In today’s world there is an increase in the number of telecommunication companies as well as CATV companies who are willing and ready to invest their time and money on fusion splicing for their single mode networks which are usually long haul. The same organizations also tend to put into use mechanical splicing for their short, local cable runs. Given that for optimal performance video signals usually require minimal reflection, fusion splicing has managed to remain the first choice for many.

Tips for a Better Splice:

  • Ensuring that your cleaver is well maintained and operational is crucial given that it is the most valuable tool when it comes to fusion splicing. If you choose to go with mechanical splicing as your fiber optic splicing method then you will have to ensure that a proper angle is established so as to ensure proper end faces. The matching index gel is capable of eliminating most of the light that escapes but cannot be able to overcome cleave of low quality.
  • A precise cleaver is needed when dealing with fusion splicing. This ensures that there is exceptional low loss which is usually between 0.05 dB and less. Having poor or having a cleave which is not of good quality will result into fiber ends not fusing together properly. Thus resulting in a high reflection problems as well as light loss. A good cleave tool which can easily handle the precision required during fusion splicing usually costs between $1,000 and $4,000. To ensure that the cleave lasts longer and maintain its quality ensure that the manufacture’s instructions for cleaning it are well followed and that it is used properly.
    Fiber Splicing cleave tool
    yamasaki_y17 Cleave_tool


    Other tips for a better splice

  • Ensure that your splicing tools are thoroughly and frequently cleaned. There are possibilities of small particles which are usually not visible to the naked eye remain on your tools and fiber and this may result in huge problems when working with fiber optic. It’s important to ensure that your fiber and tools are excessively cleaned.
  • Adjusting of fusion parameters methodically and minimally is a must (fusion splicing only). You might end up losing your initial desired setting by changing your fusion parameters in situation where hints of problem arise. In-case of any problem your first check should be on whether or not the equipment is clean, after doing so then you can move to checking and changing the parameters if need be. The two key factors when it comes to splicing are fusion current and fusion time. By having these two factors set with different variable you will receive results which are similar to the splice results.