Fujikura: From Hair Ribbons to Fusion Splicers
In this article, we would like to give a general description of fiber optic equipment and its purpose, and put an increased focus on Fujikura fusion splicers.
First, let us make a short retrospective journey into the company history.
The company started in 1885 when its founder, Zenpachi Fujikura, set up a plant in the city of Awaji-Cho to produce silk and cotton cable braids. In fact, the plant initially produced “negake”, ornamental braids used in the traditional Japanese hairstyle to tie hair at the back. When Tokyo Electric Lamp, the first Japanese producer of electric bulbs, started selling its production, Zenpachi decided to enter the electric cables business, because the technology of producing insulated winding cables was similar to that of producing “negake”.
Soon afterwards, the Sendagaya plant was built in Tokyo. Then in 1901, Zenpachi Fujikura’s successor, Mr. Tomekichi Matsumoto, reorganized the private company into a corporation named Fujikuradensengobo & Co. with the charter capital of 25,000 yen.
In 1904, the Imperial Postal Service assigned the Fujikura Company to be the first plant producing rubber insulation for cables. Indeed, these years were very successful for the company, and in 1910, it was restructured to become the Fujikura Electric Wire Corporation with the charter capital of 500,000 yen.
In 1992, Fujikura Electric Wire Corporation received its present name, Fujikura Ltd..
Nowadays, the Fujikura Corporation is the world leader in fusion splicing and controls around 50% of the market. Besides fusion splicers, the Fujikura Company produces transmission systems, electrical systems, fiber optic and cables, fiber optic mounting equipment, electrical components for equipment and magnet winding wire, automotive equipment, and many other products; it also has its own plants in many countries where more than 54,000 people work in total. In 2012, the company annual sales exceeded 6 billion dollars.
Fusion Splicer: What It Is and How It Operates
Nowadays, virtually all people use the Internet. We do it at home, at work, in the street… So what is the Internet? As Wikipedia puts it, Internet is “the global system of interconnected computer networks … used for storing and transmitting information”. Therefore, it is primarily a network with thousands of kilometers of cables and wires. Initially, they used ordinary telephone networks to transmit information via copper and aluminum cables and wires. With the course of time, however, technologies made a huge step ahead. Optical wires were developed. They are made of special materials, i.e., fused silica and chalcogenide glass, fluoroaluminate and fluorozirconate, as well as special plastic, and enable transmitting information at a higher speed (bandwidth) and over longer distances than traditional cables or wires. However, any network includes a system of interconnected wires. So, how is it technically performed or how are these cables connected? For metal cable networks, they use a soldering iron to solder the wires together with tin, as well as special connectors and splitters. Fiber optic is also welded or fused, but in this case, they use special appliances known as fusion splicers instead of tin and soldering irons.
A Fusion Splicer is the most expensive piece of equipment a technician operates when maintaining optical fiber networks. This smart and accurate appliance independently performs alignments and fiber fusion. The splicing process looks like this:
- Preparing fibers: The fibers to be spliced are stripped of the protective coating with a special fiber optic cable stripper, cleaved with a fiber optic cleaver, and wiped with alcohol (recommended). After that, the protection sleeve is fitted at one of fibers’ ends (depending on the type of sleeves used) and fixed with special clamps.
- Then alignment starts. The device begins to move fiber ends, bringing them together until the ends come in view of cameras. This action is either automatic or initiated by pressing the button. When both ends come in view of cameras, the splicer provides a low-power arc that clears away all residue of micro particles from fibers, which are always left after cleaning. Please note that the process of preliminary cleaning is crucial – if there remain foreign objects on fiber ends not removed by the arc (for example, finger oils or similar), then they will be ultimately baked and may mess up all the results of your work.
- After that, the splicer performs three-axis fiber alignment using precision motors. If there are any problems with fibers, a buzzer will sound or an error message/notification will appear on the screen, which will suspend the process.
- When fibers are aligned and brought together, the main fusion arc is activated - it fuses and welds the ends. Within split second, the splice point cools. Then the splicer performs a splice quality test and splice loss (attenuation) estimate. Splice results (date, time, splice loss) are stored in the device memory.
- Next comes a pull test: the splicer pulls fibers with a certain strength in order to define the seal strength. Some technicians omit this stage to save the time; however, this practice is acceptable only for experienced users who have total confidence in results. If you do not have this confidence, we strongly recommend that you perform the above operation. This is the end of the splicing process.
- After performing tests, the technician takes out the spliced fiber, slides the fiber optic splice protection sleeve onto the splice point and places it into the heater to go through heat shrinking, which will protect the splice point against moisture and other environmental hazards. The protection sleeve cools much longer than the fiber; therefore, you have to place the splice sleeve on a special cooling tray. If you start winding up fiber before the protection sleeve has fully cooled and when it is still soft, fiber can easily break at the splice point.
Normally, all universal fusion splicers have two modes of operation: automated and manual. As a rule, the auto-mode is enabled when you need to splice a large number of same-type fibers. Auto-mode is recommended for advanced users. For less experienced users, manual mode is recommended. Manual mode is also a better option if high-quality splicing is required (for example, in route cables) when each stage of the process should be controlled.
Besides Fujikura, some of the most famous producers of fusion splicers are Sumitomo (Japan), Furukawa (Japan), Comway (USA), Ilsintech (Korea), INNO Instrument (Korea), Jilong (China), DVP (China), Senter (China), and others.
Fujikura Fusion Splicers
There is a wide variety of Fujikura fusion splicers, so we will introduce just the most popular models.
Please note that in some countries the Fujikura 80S model is available at the market as Fujikura 70S. These are identical models; there is no difference between them, apart from the language set in the user interface.
In addition to fusion splicer equipment, the Fujikura company produces other appliances and their spare parts used in mounting and maintaining fiber optic systems: optical time-domain reflectometers, fiber optic cleavers, holders, identifiers, testers and so on.