Welcome to the world of armored fiber optic cables! Here, you’ll be learning everything that you need to know about armored fiber cables, from what they are to the types, classifications, augmented features, why they are essential to networks, and the golden question that everyone keeps asking— how to strip an armored fiber optic cable.
Armored fiber optic cable is a specially designed type of fiber patch cable or cord. Generally, it consists of an inner cable that is encased in a steel or aluminum jacket—the armor—and then further covered with a polyethylene jacket. It is tailored this way to be able to withstand harsher environments or conditions than your regular cable. These conditions could be moisture, abrasion, crushing, chewing by insects or pests, bad weather, and the like.
An armored fiber cable, also known as an MC (metal clad) fiber cable or BX fiber cable, can be run aerially, underwater, installed in ducts, or placed in underground enclosures because their special design protects the inner cables from the intrusion of dirt and clay, and in the case of outside plant cables, makes them water-resistant too. One major benefit of MC fiber cables is that their optimization helps to avoid experiencing any unwarranted network downtime as a result of external interferences.
In the age of the internet that we live in today where lightning speed communication is as essential as the lifeblood that runs through human veins, the consequences of light attenuation at any point in time can be very costly and take a lot of time to restore—time of which many people do not have the luxury. This is what makes a secure cable like an armored fiber optic cable vital.
There are two types of armored fiber cable:
Interlocking MC fiber cables possess an armor made of aluminum that is helically shaped and spirals longitudinally around the cable to offer it a first-rate level of ruggedness and superior crush protection. These cables are usually indoor cables or for indoor-outdoor use. The special interlocking design of these cables eliminates the need to install a rigid casing around the cable to meet building code.
Corrugated armor fiber cables are coated with a layer of steel folded around the cable longitudinally. They are generally used as outdoor cables because they offer extra mechanical and rodent protection. Standard corrugated steel armored fiber cables are a must for rugged underground burial applications because exceptional durability and protection against moisture and pests are crucial requirements in this application, all of which corrugated MC fiber cables amply provide.
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Armored fiber cables can be classified into two groups according to application: indoor armored fiber optic cables and outdoor armored fiber optic cables. Both groups possess varying levels of resistance against harsh extant conditions that they may be put through.
These cables are primarily designed for indoor use. With the rapid global development of fiber optic network and communication technology and the booming popularity of FTTX network architecture, indoor fiber optic cables have become a staple for cable installation inside and between buildings. Compared with outdoor fiber cables, indoor fiber cables can withstand less temperature and mechanical stress, but that does not make them any less tough and capable of lasting long.
Benefits of Indoor Armored Fiber Cables:
· They are flame retardant.
· They offer crush protection 7 times that of regular fiber optic cable.
· They can withstand harsh environments and man-made damage.
· They do not need a rigid conduit during installation.
· They offer more flexibility, providing a higher bend radius when installed.
· They emit a low level of smoke in the event of burning.
Note: Interlocking and indoor armored fiber cables are fundamentally the same.
These are designed specifically for outdoor use. The stainless steel armor and polyethylene outer jacket of outside plant fiber optic cables, make them extremely durable and rugged cables. They are very strong, very stiff, and very hard. They have a lot of pulling strength and can mostly be pulled up to between 700lbf to 800lbf (lbf=pounds of force/pounds of tension). This means that outside of direct burial, they can also be pulled long distances if required.
Because of the armor encasing these cables, they can endure chewing by rodents or even things like rocks falling on them. Outdoor use MC fiber cables are fully protected from harm caused by any invasive conditions. Thus, if stable and secure data transmission and power conduction are mandatory in a cable installation—especially in direct burial applications, these rugged fiber optic cables make the best choice.
Benefits of Outdoor Armored Fiber Cables:
· They are rodent resistant.
· They have moisture and chemical protection.
· They are water-resistant.
· They possess unmatched mechanical strength.
· They have brilliant thermal stability.
· They have protection against corrosion or wear and bad weather.
· They have a life expectancy of at least 30 years.
· They can be located accurately and monitored easily.
Note: Corrugated and outdoor use armored fiber cables are fundamentally the same.
Stripping has to do with removing the outer protective layer of the cable’s insulation while making sure to not slice the components beneath. It is a process that is often necessarily carried out in electrical projects.
To strip armored fiber optic cable, the first thing you need to do is lay out your tools and prepare your environment for this process. The common tools used in fiber stripping are:
· A horizontal stripping knife or cable stripper
· A vertical stripping knife or cable stripper
· Diagonal pliers
· Tape measure
· A clamp
· A box cutter.
If you are on a building or installation site, you will also require a workbench, a work chair, a Roman umbrella, construction cones and caution strips to cordon off the area where this process will be taking place according to environmental health and safety (EHS) requirements, as well as the tools for other processes which you will likely be conducting afterwards, like splicing and installation, and safety gear such as safety glasses and gloves.
Now here is a guide that will help you in stripping armored optical fiber cables like a pro:
· Keeping the long cable straight, use the tape measure to measure the point of the cable from which you want to strip.
· Adjust the blade depth of the vertical cable stripper based on the outer diameter of the cable.
· Keep the cable in place by using a clamp at one end or asking someone else to assist you.
· Facing the knife edge to the end of the optical cable, hold the handle of the cable stripper tightly with both hands and pull the knife along the cable axis.
· Keep pulling to cut the outer sheath of the cable from the top down.
· Pay attention to the blade depth so that you do not damage the cable core loose tube.
· Use the pipe cutter to horizontally sever the stripped length from the rest of the cable. Place the cable between the two upper and lower rollers of the pipe cutter and turn the adjusting knob. Keep turning for the cutter’s knife to approach the outer sheath and check the cutting area for accuracy as you do so.
· Once the incision of the cutter is visible, stop and loosen the knob of the pipe cutter. Do not damage the cable core loose tube during this cutting process.
· Use diagonal pliers to clamp the sheath of the cable. Ensure that the vertical cut angle between the pliers and the cable is 45°.
· Open up the sheath by pulling one half away with the diagonal pliers.
· Remove the other half in the same way.
· Remove the cable core straps and fillers at the cable cut.
· Use the diagonal pliers to cut 6 to 8mm of the reinforcement core from the pipe cutter incision.
· Slightly scratch the cable core loose tube vertically 10mm away from the incision.
· With your index finger placed under the loose tube right below the scratch, lift your finger slightly to brace the tube.
· Split the loose tube at the scratched point by pulling at the cable from both ends until the optical fiber has been pulled out.
· Use lint-free paper to remove the paste 2 to 3 times.
Caution: Do not touch the ground with bare fibers to prevent them from being damaged by dust or sand.
With the wide range of benefits and applications of armored fiber cables, they are clearly the best-suited cables for any of your indoor or outdoor network purposes. All armored fiber cables enable installation even in the most hazardous areas, including environments with excessive dust, oil, gas, moisture, or even damage-causing pests and rodents. Nevertheless, you should always ensure to take all the necessary precautions when carrying out any operations with armored fiber optic cables.