Used most frequently in high-fiber-count, long-distance applications, loose-tube gel-filled cable is known for being fragile due its bare fibers and gel filling, which must be cleaned prior to termination. These factors also mean that it’s the most difficult cable type to splice and terminate, and also costs the most to terminate correctly.
With loose-tube gel-filled cable’s small fiber size, care must be taken to prevent damage to the fibers when removing the outer cable jacket and buffered tubes, as well as during fiber cleaning or splicing.
To terminate with connectors, the fibers must be either spliced to pigtails or fed through the tubes of a breakout kit. Sometimes called fanout kits, breakout kits are sets of empty 900µm jackets that protect 250µm strands of fiber cable, allowing them to be terminated without splicing.
But installing breakout kits on loose-tube cable is a job that no technician likes to do – especially if the loose-tube cable has to terminate to a gel-filled cable. The gel adds a layer of difficulty, as it creates a messy working environment on top of this delicate, time-consuming task!
There are several reasons why installing breakout kits isn’t a technician favorite. First of all, the job takes a lot of time. It’s not a fast or simple process, and involves very meticulous, steady work. It’s no easy task to place a very small colored 250µm fiber inside a 900µm tube that is somewhere between 1m and 2m in length. It requires eagle eyes, steady hands and an incredible amount of patience. (You definitely don’t want to have more than one cup of coffee before you try to tackle the installation of a breakout kit.) Frustration is almost guaranteed during this process.
It’s also very easy to make mistakes along the way, whether the blunders involve breaking the fiber or placing the wrong fiber color into the wrong tube. Traditional patch panels can’t protect the 250µm fiber, which means that it’s vulnerable to pinch points and strain on the cable, ultimately damaging the connector.
Despite the high potential for human error, and the incredible amount of perseverance the task requires, installing a breakout kit is a very important job. If breakout kits aren’t installed correctly, “pistoning” of the fiber can occur in the tube (a pulling back or pushing forward in the connector ferrule). This pistoning causes scratches and damage to the surface of the glass, leading to termination failure due to high insertion loss and return loss (high levels of power loss).
Because of the monotony and time associated with this task, installing breakout kits is usually a job saved for the junior technicians to handle – but this can cause even bigger problems, opening up the possibility for more mistakes to occur when inexperienced professionals attempt to complete the job. Installing a breakout kit is one of the more craft-sensitive (if unglamorous) tasks a technician will face.
Did you know that it’s possible to eliminate the need for a breakout kit? Belden has developed a solution that allows 250µm fiber to be directly terminated to a connector without installing a breakout kit.
Belden’s FX UHD Splice Cassette protects the 250µm fiber in a way that traditional patch panels can’t, eliminating pinch points and providing cable strain relief to protect the connector. The FX Brilliance Universal installation kit with the 250µm boot allows the 250µm fiber to directly terminate to the connector without a breakout kit when used with the FX UHD Splice Cassette. The boot manages the bend radius, and the cassette ensures that the connector and 250µm fiber are protected.
When you eliminate the need to install a breakout kit, you not only save significant amounts of time and money – but you also keep your technicians happier, more productive and less frustrated. It’s a win-win for everyone!
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Matthew is the Global Product Line Manager for Copper/Fiber Connectivity within the Enterprise Platform. An avid hockey fan originally from the Toronto area, he endures a painful existence cheering on the Maple Leafs year after year. Matthew holds a BSc in physics from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Miami University (Ohio)