Glass has a reputation for being fragile. Thin fibers or strands of glass can break if enough force is applied to them. For something as thin as the reflective fibers used in fiber optics, that’s not a lot of impacts required. This is true even for the best OTS fiber optic cables that you acquire. It might not appear like it on the outside, but there’s a chance that the sensitive fibers at the core are no longer in perfect condition.
Of course, preventing these is important. After all, these cables are expensive and likely perform some sort of vital function to your project. So here are some key issues you need to keep in mind when handling fiber optic cables in transit, along with how to reduce the odds of damage.
Get Testing Equipment
First, you should be prepared to check for any damage that occurs along the fiber. For this, you need to be aware that any internal damage might not always be visible on the outer jacket that you can see. The jacket itself can be intact without any breaks in the reflective materials on the inside. There is a product called a fiber optic fault locator that is useful for this.
What it does is it allows you to send a visible beam of light from one end of a cable to the other. If the beam makes it through end to end, the fibers are intact and reflecting light correctly. If it does not, or if a glow manifests along the cable, that indicates that there has been damage somewhere. As a safety note, do not look right at the light stream. Doing so can cause damage to the eyes from the intensity of the light, and you wouldn’t even realize it.
Check for Manufacturer’s Certification
Check the quality of the cable. Every roll of fiber optic cable you get your hands on should come with a certificate of quality from the manufacturer. This certifies that the cables are in good condition, have been tested, and were made in adherence to all applicable standards. These should also come with a protective plate that should not be removed until they are laid out and installed.
The Cable Tray
Another consideration is the use of the cable tray. These will allow you to roll the cable along a direction marked on the side. Keep the distance short, no longer than about 20 meters. Keep the tray obstacle-free, so you don’t risk any damage to the cable’s packaging board. You should have one, basically.
However, don’t use a tray if the cables are laid out flat or if you’ve stacked them. You should fortify the compartment with wood. Both of these measures further minimize the risk of impacts that could rattle something within.
As you load the cables, use forklifts and other specialized lifting equipment. If you don’t have any of those, use special steps. Don’t directly roll a cable tray into it or cast from a car. This minimizes the damage that may occur as you load into the transport vehicle.
Don’t excessively bend the cables. Pay attention to what’s called the “bending radius” of the fiber optics. There are construction regulations to adhere to, usually from the manufacturer. Look at these and make sure that your coiling and bending is less than these regulations.
No Flammable Materials
Do not transport fiber optic cables with flammable materials. The same is true for anything volatile. In general, this is a rule you need to adhere to no matter what you’re transporting. This is less of a concern if your cables are protected from extreme temperatures, though you still don’t want to toss these expensive items into something that can burst into flames.
Avoid Electrical Current
Whatever you do, you do not want to expose the cables to an electrical current. While lightning is unlikely to strike the cables while in transit, you still want to avoid large amounts of current. Even incidental voltage can be dangerous because electricity can not only fry the jacket but also leave the internal glass fibers scorched and beyond repair.
Excess pressure coming down on the cables is also something to avoid. Don’t stack them on top of each other or put anything heavy on them, especially for longer transport times. The pressing down will crack the reflective materials inside, leaving the transmission ability of any light passed through it ruined.
Avoid Water Damage
Finally, moisture and water can also be damaging if they manage to get into the reflective components. Water getting inside the fibers can cause signal degradation, along with high attenuation. Moisture can do the same thing over a period of time. There is also the risk of any impurities in the water being deposited on the glass fibers, potentially scratching the surface.
Fiber optics can be very sensitive, and sometimes a bit tricky to transport. The glass fibers that form the core of the cables can break if not handled correctly. Be sure to keep this in mind as you transport them, so they get to you intact and ready to provide high-speed, reliable data transmissions.