Fiber Optic Cleaving
Optical fibers play an extremely important role in our day to day life. Because of their wide list of advantages over regular fibers (like copper), including broad bandwidth, immunity to electromagnetic interference, material cost, etc., optical fibers have appliances in a variety of technologies, starting from communication (computer networking and telecommunication) and finishing with power transmission, spectroscopy and physics experiments.
One of the most common tasks that technicians encounter while repairing optical fibers is fusion splicing – connecting two fibers end-to-end using extreme heat. The entire process consists of four steps - stripping, cleaning, cleaving and, finally, splicing fibers. We would like to take a closer look at the step of cleaving, and talk about a fiber optic cleaver - a tool that is used in this process.
First of all, what is cleaving? In short, it’s breaking the optic fiber. The entire process is, obviously, a bit more complicated than it sounds. The ends of the fiber must be perfectly flat and perpendicular to the fiber axis, to the point that they actually need to be examined under a microscope to ensure that this is the case. To ensure the minimum optical loss in the place of a splice, the angle must be as close to 90 degrees as possible. This is why it is crucial to use a high quality fiber optic cleaver.
The working principle of such a tool is quite simple. The fiber is held under low tension, while a diamond tip or blade is used to scratch the surface where it is necessary. After this, the tension is greatly increased to the point when the fiber breaks.
There are both automatic and manual fiber optic cleavers, you should decide which is better for you based on your preference. However, it should be kept in mind that while automatic tools provide consistent results without depending on the proficiency of the user (which means you do not need to be a professional to perform high quality cleaving), manual ones are not that predictable, as they require the user to manually apply the force and, therefore, are dependent on the user’s technique.
To ensure high quality cleaving, the device must be under constant maintenance. Both the blade and the clamp pads should be cleaned frequently with a special cleaner (often included in the package contents of the cleaver but can also be purchased separately). Also, a mechanism for collecting fiber scrap should always be installed when using the device and removed every time it is being cleaned.
One of the main and most important parts of a fiber optic cleaver is the diamond tip or blade. In most cases, the fiber is placed on top of the blade at a place where it needs to be separated, and pressed until a scratch appears. It is important to keep in mind that if the cleaving is performed many times and in the same place on the blade, it will wear off and stop being efficient at fiber cleaving. However, this issue can be easily solved by periodically turning the blade (usually fiber cleavers are equipped with a special screw specifically for this purpose). After one complete revolution, the blade height might need to be adjusted as well, in order to compensate for the deterioration. Every once in a while it will become necessary to replace the blade altogether. The life cycle of a cutting blade varies depending on the model of the cleaver (on average it is in the 30,000 times range). All of these adjustments are fairly easy to complete as all of the necessary tools and instructions are always included with the fiber cleaver.