July, 2020

Page 55

Clean Fiber Optic Networks: The Connection Between 5G and Manufacturing

By Jay Tourigny, Senior Vice President, MicroCare Corporation

bilities, especially in manufacturing. With ultra-low latency, ultra-high speeds and massive device connectiv- ity, 5G can transform how manufac- turers operate. It has the potential to expand


the Internet of Things (IoT), both inside and outside the factory, creat- ing truly connected “smart” factories. 5G wireless will allow companies to embrace promising new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented real- ity (AR), and spatial computing (a mixture of VR and AR). In order for factories to adopt

5G connectivity and the subsequent transformational technologies, it is imperative that their data network can support them. Often, that means updating old data infrastructure. Their network provider will

need to replace out-of-date coaxial (coax) or copper-core cables with faster and more reliable all-fiber net- works. Or, they may need to upgrade any existing fiber network already in place. High-speed fiber-only trans- mission will be essential to seamless- ly manage the multiple connections between tools, machines and vehicles inside the plant — not to mention the gathering and real-time analysis of data to make sound business deci- sions and strategize for the future.

Clean Fiber Vital for 5G To ensure fiber network per-

formance and reliability, it is essen- tial that network providers use prop- er fiber cleaning tools and methods during the fiber installation or main- tenance. This means ensuring that all connections and splices are made perfectly clean. Clean fiber connections avert

potential problems, such as back- reflection (signal is diverted back to its source), insertion loss (weakened signal), or a total system shutdown. This is especially important for 5G networks, because every milliwatt of power is necessary for uninterrupted connectivity and top-speed perform- ance.

Fast 5G networks, with their

higher frequency of light, are highly sensitive to refractive angle changes, making them more vulnerable to con- tamination. A weakened fiber splice or a contaminated cable end face blocks the light through the fiber. This changes the path of the sig-

nal, also known as the index of refrac- tion, through the fiber. If the contami- nation is substantial, the refraction angle can change enough that the sig- nal is completely lost. Splices and con- nectors can be contaminated from many sources, including fingerprint oils, exhaust fumes, lint, moisture, and dust. The main cause of dust-based

contamination on end faces is con- nector wear debris. Wear debris dust comes from the contact friction pro- duced when two end faces mate. If not removed, the dust particles grind into the ferrule surface, resulting in scratched, pitted or scarred end faces. Therefore, it is important that all fiber end faces are thoroughly cleaned during installation or main-

he fifth generation of cellular wireless technology, 5G, is offering unprecedented possi-

tenance to prevent damage, signal interference or network failure.

All Fiber Requires Cleaning New 5G networks require enor-

mous amounts of new, spotless, fiber optic cables that are ready to use. However, most new cables, patch cords and jumpers — even those that come directly from the factory — may not be clean. Some fiber optic cable makers

employ mold release agents to remove the end face cap or housing

MicroCare’s CleanStixx™ fiber optic cleaning swabs.

during manufacturing. Leftover release agent inside the end caps

often transfers to the connectors. In addition, outgassed plasticizers from the protective plugs on the end caps leave a haze of minute droplets of oil on the end faces. Even putting on the protective plug at the factory and removing it by the network installer causes wear debris. Since the end caps are not

cleaned before packaging at the fac- tory, dust and other leftover manu- facturing debris gets trapped inside the sleeve and inevitably migrates to

Continued on page 57

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