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2017 / Did You Know...

That fiber optic cables with OM5 fiber (aka: wide band multimode fiber) will be lime green? / December 2017

As with any standard color code, these are guidelines and not absolute requirements. So, always check your cable markings to be sure you know which fiber you are working with!

That TIA-568D no longer recommends using legacy OM1/OM2 multimode or OS1 single-mode fiber for new installations? / November 2017

You may still see these fibers in the installed base and in locations where you are working on newer OM3 or OM4 installations. They may have orange jackets, but all cable jackets should be marked.

That some MTP and MPO connectors are available with options for changing gender (pinned/unpinned) and even polarity in the field? / October 2017

One of the big complaints with MPO cable assemblies is that you may order the wrong gender or polarity and be unable to turn up or test a system when needed. These field changeable options eliminate those problems and can save time and overall costs.

The availability of 200 micron coated fibers enables a reduced fiber occupancy space? / September 2017

The availability of 200 micron coated fibers enables a 30% reduction in fiber ‘occupancy’ space, prompting continued migration to higher density and/or smaller cables.

It’s important to use the correct cleaning products for connectors? / July-August 2017

Everyone in the fiber optic industry will tell you how important is to clean and inspect your fiber optic connectors before connecting. But it’s just as important to use the right products when you do.

Cleaning with materials that are not designed with fiber optics in mind can cause more harm than you may realize. Products specifically made for fiber optics can properly clean the ceramic ferrule and glass without leaving behind lint particles or scratches. For endfaces, there are cleaning solutions formulated to eliminate residue that can impact light transmission.

And remember – even with the right products — always follow a wet clean with a dry wipe for best results.

Millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers share the same views on learning in the workplace? / May-June 2017

The challenges caused by three generations working side-by-side can make for compelling news stories. Baby Boomers crave respect.  Members of Generation X want to do it their own way. Millennials see work-life balance as a birthright.  However, while the headlines highlight their differences in approach and workstyle, the generations share more similarities than differences when it comes to workplace training and technology.
 A NCTI whitepaper What Gap?  Generational Views on Learning and Technology in the Workplace shares the following insight on how to connect with learners in each generation.

  • Make Training Personal:  All generations agree that in-person learning — including one-on-one mentoring and traditional classroom learning with a personal touch — makes the most impact.

  • Train to Retain:  Learning and development plays a critical role in employee retention.  Seven in ten workers say job-related training and development opportunities impact their decision to stay with a company.  While training matters to all generations, it’s most important to younger employees who may be eyeing new opportunities to advance in their careers.

  • Improve Technology:  When comparing corporate technology and training tools to personal technology, each generation believed that their company-provided technology fell short, and that their company could provide better tools to support their roles.

There's an easy way to update your transmission system to improve reflectance? / March-April 2017

Are your fibers terminated with connectors that don’t meet current optical return loss and reflectance values? New transmission systems often require lower reflectance levels to meet the desired bit error rate.
In the 1990s, connectors used either physical contact (PC) or super physical contact (SPC) spherical polishes. PC polishes had a reflectance level of 40 dB and SPC polishes were approximately 45 dB.  Today, the ultra physical contact (55 dB) and angled physical contact (65 dB) polishes are 10 to 100 times better in regards to the amount of light reflected.
There are several alternatives to improve the reflectance levels of the connectors in your network. You can choose to replace the pigtail, or to use the new generation of splice-on connectors.  These splice-on connectors have low loss, meet either UPC or APC polish levels, and come in either mechanical or a fuse-on styles. They provide an option for simple and cost-effective upgrades that address only the fibers that need improved reflectance levels.

Winter is hard on us and our test equipment? / January-February 2017

Extreme temperatures, both cold and hot, affect both technicians and their test equipment. Job sites may be thermally regulated, which is good. But technicians need to remember their optical and electrical test equipment rode over in the vehicle with them. Leaving equipment in a vehicle overnight exacerbates the issue.

Test measurements are impacted by thermal changes in the test instruments themselves. Thus, bringing test instruments stored overnight in a vehicle into a test environment kept at a different temperature can contribute to measurement errors. Think of equipment stored in a van overnight at -10°F (-23°C) entering into an equipment room kept around 65°F (18°C). This is a 75°F (41°C) temperature delta. You feel it when walking in/out.

Test equipment can take an hour or more to fully adjust and stabilize at the new ambient temperature. Features like protective rubber boots and padded carry cases further insulate the instrument slowing down the thermal adjustment. An instrument may feel room temp to touch, but this is the outside layer of the case. The temperature of important inside electronics and optics will adjust slower.

Hot and cold weather must be dealt with. To improve your odds of making best measurements use setup time to your advantage. Make bringing fiber optic or electronic test gear onto the job site one of the first priorities. Immediately take it out of carry cases and spread test instruments out to let them begin adjusting to the new temperature. Leave them there while you go about the rest of the job setup.

It is best to power up instruments 15 to 20 minutes ahead of test time to further let things warm up and stabilize. For optical loss test kits, set references prior to making measurements with the power meter and source in the test environment and after warm up. These simple planning steps will provide improved (more consistent) test results.

Contributed by Don Allard, AFL Test & Inspection