Fusion splicing is the act of joining two optical fibers end-to-end using heat. The goal is to fuse the two fibers together in such a way that light passing through the fibers is not scattered or reflected back by the splice, and so that the splice and the region surrounding it are almost as strong as the virgin fiber itself. The source of heat is usually an electric arc, but can also be a laser, or a gas flame, or a tungsten filament through which current is passed.
Fusion Splicing Process
The process of fusion splicing normally involves using localized heat to melt or fuse the ends of two optical fibers together. The splicing process begins by preparing each fiber end for fusion.
Stripping the Fiber
Stripping is the act of removing the protective polymer coating around optical fiber in preparation for fusion splicing. The splicing process begins by preparing both fiber ends for fusion, which requires that all protective coating is removed or stripped from the ends of each fiber. Fiber optical stripping can be carried out by a special thermal fiber stripper tool that uses hot sulphuric acid or a controlled flow of hot air to remove the coating. There are also mechanical fiber strippers used for stripping fiber which are similar to copper wire strippers. Fiber optical stripping and preparation equipment used in fusion splicing is commercially available through a small number of specialized companies, which usually also designs machines used for fiber optical recoating.
Cleaning the Fiber
The bare fibers are cleaned using alcohol and wipes.
Cleaving the Fiber
A fiber cleaver is then used to cleave the fiber using the score-and-break method so that its endface is perfectly flat and perpendicular to the axis of the fiber. The quality of each fiber end is inspected using a microscope. In fusion splicing, splice loss is a direct function of the angles and quality of the two fiber-end faces. The closer to 90 degrees the cleave angle is the lower optical loss the splice will yield.
Splicing the Fibers
Current fusion splicers are either core or cladding alignment. Using one of these methods the two cleaved fibers are automatically aligned by the fusion splicer in the x,y,z plane, then are fused together. Prior to removing the spliced fiber from the fusion splicer, a proof-test performed to ensure that the splice is strong enough to survive handling, packaging and extended use. The bare fiber area is protected either by recoating or with a splice protector. A splice protector is a heat shrinkable tube with a strength membrane.
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