Clean Your Splicer Like You Brush Your Teeth: Part 1
We’ve all gone to the dentist for a cleaning and been given the sage advice: floss and brush your teeth (most say twice a day!) to avoid the buildup of plaque and germs that can be harmful to your teeth and even your health. Keep your teeth clean, and they will serve you well for a lifetime! Believe it or not, the same advice applies to fusion splicers (F/S). Fusion splicing as a craft is much easier today than 20 years ago when it was more of a specialized skill. Technology has evolved, and fusion splicing is now a critical component of any job site, coal mine, data center, etc. Fiber is no longer limited by geography. Now anywhere you go can have fiber. Fiber optic technicians rely heavily on their fusion splicer and expect them to perform consistently every day. If the splicer malfunctions or breaks, the technician loses a full day of productivity. How can you avoid these costly and frustrating issues? By cleaning and maintaining your fusion splicer daily to ensure tomorrow will be as successful as today.When I meet technicians and see their machines, oftentimes, it is an indicator of the type of technician they are (although some receive second-hand or borrowed machines). Cleaning a fusion splicer every day takes about the same amount of time as flossing your teeth, 3-5 minutes or less. If you don’t clean your machine daily, debris will build up in certain areas and negatively affect the machine’s performance.The most common answer I get from a tech when asked how often they clean their machine is: “I try to clean it every day, but it’s been a couple of weeks.”If you clean your fusion splicer every day, you remove 95-99% of dust, debris and fiber shards from the machine. Compare that to if you clean it every week, you only remove 90-95%, and the buildup has already begun. Initially, you might notice that post-splice estimated loss readings are beginning to increase or become inconsistent. Still, if you never (or rarely) clean your splicer, within 3-5 months, you’ll start experiencing noticeable issues with alignments, cleaving and even fusing. Daily CleaningLet’s review the causes and effects of bad splicer hygiene and how to combat them by cleaning your machine daily. Environmental DustDust is most prevalent in outdoor applications like fiber to the home, coal mining, refineries, and large indoor spaces like data centers with constant ventilation and moving air.Once you take your (F/S) out of its case, wind, airborne particles, and dust will coat the exposed parts and get into the fusion chamber and cleaver during use. If it is a windy day, the splicer will be coated in a layer of fine dust that impedes areas that operate best when perfectly clean.Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to brush the whole machine, as well as your cleaver (whether you have a stand-alone or an All-In-One), will alleviate this buildup. Fiber Chards and Fiber Jacket DebrisDepending on where your cleaver is located, fiber chards and outer jacket coatings can blow, fall or get transferred into or onto the F/S. These need to be safely and quickly removed with tweezers as they can get caught up on the alignment system, fusion chamber or sleeve heater oven.Once lodged in these areas, debris can be challenging to locate with the naked eye, and heat from the fusion chamber or heater can melt the debris onto the F/S, making it difficult to remove and increasing build-up over time. Thermal StripperIf you have a Swift All-In-One unit, it has a built-in thermal stripper. Open the doors with the stripper OFF and brush the underside of the doors. Be sure to brush all the metal and rubber pads as well as bottom surfaces.Next, turn on the thermal stripper and be sure NOT to let the brush hit the heated surface as it will melt debris from the brush bristles back onto the heater plate.Close the stripper doors and use the brush and or tweezers to remove any jacket debris and dust from the opening, making sure it is clean. Turn the stripper back on and then off as this area is now completed. Fusion ChamberUnder the wind cover is the area called the fusion chamber – where the magic happens. Two pieces of hollow glass are melted together, preserving the hole so light can pass through it. In the fusion chamber, there are “V-Grooves” where the fiber ends rest between two electrodes (the conical, pointy metal parts) that send a high-power electrical charge around the glass to fuse it together.When a fiber or connector is placed into the fusion chamber, it has been cleaned with a fiber wipe and fiber cleaner, then cleaved and put directly into the chamber to rest on the V-Groove. Even though it has been cleaned, the fiber can easily carry dust or debris into the chamber just like the wind can.Fortunately, most quality F/S have a solution for this called a flash burn or cleaning burn. When you close the wind cover, a short, lower voltage discharge automatically initiates to burn off any remaining debris, lint, hair or whatever might be on the fiber. That’s the good news!Now the bad news. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed. The flash burn creates very fine (in size, not in appearance) debris that falls into the V-grooves, fusion chamber floor and possibly onto the camera lenses. Missed cleanings will result in a debris buildup in the most sensitive areas of the F/S. The fusion chamber needs a good brush down at the end of each day, with some technicians brushing multiple times a dayIf you don’t get the V-Grooves clean each time you perform a splice, both the cleaning burn and actual fuse burn will start to bake debris into the V-Groove, making it more difficult to remove. Over time, this will cause a higher estimated loss for your splice results, and since most V-Grooves are made of ceramic, you cannot scrape or scratch them. Your dirty machine will need maintenance and professional cleaning.
Jan 21, 2024