When you’re working with fiber, cable splicing may be necessary for a few reasons. First, it can repair a broken fiber link. Or it can connect 250-micron OSP fiber to 900-micron fiber at the building entrance. It also can be used for fiber termination, creating links inside a data center or enterprise network.

Regardless of the purpose of your cable splicing, the goal is always the same: To join two optical fibers together in a way that’s strong, secure and high-performing to ensure excellent signal transmission from one cable to the next.

There are two ways to complete cable splicing: mechanical splicing or fusion splicing. Both methods have their place, but they also have their pros and cons.

Comparing Mechanical and Fusion Splicing

Because of its ability to ensure an excellent connection, a fusion splice results in a better-performing connector. Did you know, however, that fusion splicing not only results in better performance, but also reduces costs as compared to mechanical splicing?

Because it requires the use of a fusion splicing machine (whether you purchase your own or rent one when needed), many installers assume that fusion splicing costs more than mechanical splicing.

In the long run, however, fusion splicing actually offers cost savings. How? Because, when you’re completing several cable splices, fusion splicing costs much less per splice. Connectors cost less and won’t have to be replaced as often because the optical fibers are fused together using heat instead of being “joined” together. (In mechanical splicing, the fiber ends are aligned inside the mechanical splice. Gel or epoxy “join” the two cores together; no heat or electricity are used. The mechanical components inside the connector/splice may eventually break.)

The more fiber splicing you do, the more fusion splicing pays off. Once the fusion splicer is set up, the machine does all the work for you. It aligns the fibers and fuses them together. The end result? Two ends that match up nearly perfectly so light can pass from one to the other with minimal loss, reflection and distortion. If something isn’t right, the fusion splicer will tell you so you can take a closer look. This happens prior to splicing; the connector isn’t wasted and you’re able to identify what’s wrong. It creates a permanent connection, which saves time and reduces material costs.

If you’re performing fewer than 50 fiber splices at once, such as in small AV projects, fusion splicing may not be the right answer from cost- and time-savings standpoints. But, even on smaller jobs like these, some installers still choose fusion splicing because of the performance benefits it offers. In these applications, high bandwidth and high resolution requirements call for excellent performance. When fiber is already being used in a small AV application, fusion splicing may still be chosen over mechanical splicing for the performance benefits alone.

Learning How to Use a Fusion Splicer

Sometimes, the thought of learning a different process can be enough to keep you from trying something new. When you’re busy and have deadlines to stick to, it can be hard to interrupt a cable splicing process that works in order to learn something different.

The ramp-up period for fusion splicing is very short – and training can often be done over the phone if a quick, in-person session isn’t an option. Once you’ve used the fusion splicer a few times, you’ll quickly get the hang of it and be ready to splice in the field or prior to heading out to a jobsite.

Combining the Benefits of Both

As fusion splicing continues to increase in popularity, it will be the best way to achieve necessary performance levels in applications requiring 10G, 25G and beyond – whether that’s in a data center, a fiber LAN backbone or an uncompressed AV application.

Belden’s FiberExpress (FX) Fusion Connectors give you the best of mechanical and fusion splicing by combining the benefits of fusion splicing with the simplicity of field-installable connectors. This expands field-termination options and improves installation performance and reliability as compared to mechanical splice connectors. No crimping, polishing, or adhesives are required for termination.

FX Fusion Connectors are also rated for outdoor use, which offers an advantage over other splice-on connectors and almost all mechanical splice connectors.

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