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The True Value of Connector Inspection:

New Challenges and Best Practices

Vincent Racine
Product Line Manager
August 2011

2011 EXFO Inc. All rights reserved. 1


Table of contents

1 Best Practices
2 Connector Inspection Tools
3 Connector Inspection Criteria
4 Automating Connector Inspection
5 Connector Cleaning
6 Failing Connectors: Possible Causes

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Best Practices

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Best Practices

What is the first step to any fiber testing?


Cleaning
Connector inspection

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Best Practices

Who should inspect connectors?


Any person handling optical fiber
Why?
Particles on connectors can:
Cause strong back reflections, which can lead to instability in the laser system
Permanently scratch the connector ferule
Cause an air gap or misalignment between the fiber cores, which significantly
degrades the optical signal
Degrade insertion loss (IL) and return loss (RL) connector performances
Burn and permanently damage connector endfaces
Affect the connector performance
FACT: 1m particle can block up to 1% of light (0.05 dB)

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Connector Inspection
Tools

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Most Common Inspection Tools

Microscope
Very affordable
Only allows male connector ends inspection
May not be always secure enough to inspect live fibers

Fiber Inspection Probe & Display


Affordable solution
Allows inspecting male and female connectors
Very secure, no direct eye exposure

Fiber Inspection Probe on test instrument


Affordable option
Uses the instrument screen; no need for additionnal display
Allows storage of images for record keeping
Can perform automated analysis of images

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Connector Inspection
Criteria

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Connector Inspection Challenges

Connector inspection requires a great amount of judgment

Should I change/clean this connector or not?


How large are the particles? Do they matter?

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Connector Inspection Challenges

Manual inspection:
Acceptance level may vary greatly from a user to another
User may pass a defective connector, which can translate into additional truck rolls
User may systematically fail a good connector, which can lead to unnecessary rejects

Qualification

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Connector Inspection Criteria

Criteria are defined in the following standards:


IEC 61300-3-35
Fiber-Optic Interconnecting Devices and Passive Components
Basic Test and Measurement Procedures
http://webstore.iec.ch/

IPC 8497-1
Cleaning Methods and Contamination Assessment for Optical
Assembly
http://www.ipc.org/

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IEC 61300-3-35 Connector Inspection Criteria

Visual requirements are defined by connector and fiber types:


SM-UPC (RL >45 dB)
SM-APC
SM-PC (RL >26 dB)
MM
Multifiber

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IEC 61300-3-35 Connector Inspection Criteria

A connector endface is divided into multiple zones


Dimensions will depend on the connector and fiber type
Multimode and singlemode connectors have different sizes
IEC zone sizes for polished connectors,
IEC zone sizes for PC polished connectors, multimode fibers singlemode non-dispersion shifted fiber, RL 45 dB

Core Core
0-65 m 0-25 m

Cladding Cladding
65-120 m 25-120 m

Adhesive Adhesive
120-130 m 120-130 m

Contact Contact
130-250 m 130-250 m

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IEC 61300-3-35 Connector Inspection Criteria

There are many types of defects: particles, pits, chips, scratches,


embedded debris, loose debris, cracks, etc.
In standards, defects are divided into two groups:
1. Scratches: permanent linear surface features
2. Defects: all non-linear features detectable on the fiber; this includes particulates,
other debris, pits, chips, edge chipping, etc.

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IEC 61300-3-35 Connector Inspection Criteria

Tolerances will differ for each zones


Number of defects
Number of scratches
Size of defects and scratches
IEC visual requirements for polished connectors, singlemode non-dispersion shifted fiber, RL 45 dB

Zones Scratches Defects


A: Core None None

No limit <2 m
No limit 3 m
B: Cladding 5 from 2 5 m
None >3 m
None >5 m

C: Adhesive No limit No limit


D: Contact No limit None 10 m

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Automating Connector
Inspection

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ConnectorMax Pass/Fail Analysis Software

Automation is the only way to comply to IEC and IPC standards


Size and location of defects must be measured down to microns
It is virtually impossible to qualify a connector against a standard with manual inspection

Where are the zones?


What is the size of each
particle?
How many defects are there?
Am I exceeding the limits?

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ConnectorMax Pass/Fail Analysis Software

ConnectorMax will save valuable time where it matters the most: in the field
EXFO is a pioneer in developing inspection tools integrated into test solutions
ConnectorMax was the first analysis software to be integrated into a test instrument
Using ConnectorMax, entry-level technicians will automatically get:
Connector certification against IEC and IPC standards
Detailed analysis information
Full report documentation

ConnectorMax analytical software on the FTB-1 compact OTDR


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ConnectorMax Pass/Fail Analysis Software

Using an analytical software like ConnectorMax allows to:


Guarantee a uniform level of acceptance:
Between users within an organization
Between suppliers and customers
Between contractors and network owners
Facilitate decision process by removing subjectivity

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ConnectorMax Pass/Fail Analysis Software

ConnectorMax provides:
Reporting capabilities for record keeping
Proof of compliance to IEC or IPC
standards
Detailed defect analysis

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ConnectorMax Pass/Fail Analysis Software

Full-link certification reports


Connectors offer flexibility to optical links but they can also become their weak points
Testing with an OTDR does not allow characterization of the far-end connector
OTDR is a single-ended tool
Using an inspection probe and ConnectorMax allows to certify the far-end connector

Mechanical
splice

Fiber section Fiber section

Patch Panel Patch Panel

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ConnectorMax Pass/Fail Analysis Software

Full-link certification reports:


A global pass/fail status for the entire link
OTDR: fiber and splices
ConnectorMax: connectors (patch
panels)

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Connector Cleaning

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Cleaning

The IEC 61300-3-35 standard suggests an attempt to clean before


rejecting a connector
If the fiber fails inspection for
defects, the user shall clean the
fiber and repeat the inspection
process.
Some organizations standardize
using different approaches, such
as performing up to three
cleaning attempts before rejecting

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Cleaning

Dry method
An efficient technique for removing light contaminants
Often considered the technique of choice in a controlled manufacturing environment
where speed and ease of use are important factors
Advantages Disadvantages
Convenience of readily available tools Can possibly create electrostatic charges
Fast and easy Not effective in removing all contaminant types

Example of dry cleaning supplies:


Specialized lint free wipes and swabs
Mechanic cleaning devices

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Cleaning

Wet method
The main purpose of using the wet-solvent approach is to raise dust and contaminants
from the connectors endface to avoid scratching the connector
The most widely-known solvent in the industry is the 99.9% isopropyl alcohol (IPA),
which removes most contaminants
Advantages Disadvantages
Can dissolve complex soils and Can leave residue on the ferrule when too much
contaminants solvent is used and not properly dried
Eliminates the accumulation of Solvent choice can be confusing with issues of
electrostatic discharge on the ferrule performance and EH&S

Example of wet cleaning supplies:


Pre-saturated swabs

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Cleaning

Combination method (hybrid)


Combination cleaning is a mix of the wet and dry cleaning methods
The first step in hybrid cleaning is to clean the connector end-face with a solvent and to
dry any remaining residue with either a wipe or a swab

Advantages Disadvantages
Cleans all soil types
Reduces potential static field soil accumulation
Requires multiple
Automatically dries moisture and solvent used in the cleaning process
products
Captures soil in wiping material as an integrated aspect of cleaning procedure
Not expensive

Example of combination cleaning supplies:


Specialized wipes and solvents

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Failing Connectors:
Possible Causes

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Connector Issues

A fail result will not identify the problem

The first step in solving a problem is understanding it


The image of a connector can tell a lot
Different issues may be recognized by looking at the image
Wrong cleaning technique
Mishandling
Chips
Pits/dust particles
Scratches

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Connector Issues

Wet residue:
Most often caused by an improper cleaning
techniquefibers must be dried after a wet
cleaning
When drying, remaining dust particles will
migrate toward the core
After drying
Proper cleaning will remove the residue

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Connector Issues

Oil residue:
Most often caused by touching the fiber
endusers must never touch fiber ends
An oil residue may act as a matching gel:
May not affect IL and RL short term
May trap dust and increase IL and RL
with time

Additional truck rolls: $$$


Proper cleaning will remove residue

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Connector Issues

Dust/dirt residues transfer:


If not cleaned properly:
Residues will transfer and may create permanent damage when mating

Before mating:

After mating:

Patch Panel
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Connector Issues

Circular residue:
Most often caused by improper cleaning
technique
Show when fiber is mated while still wet

Patch Panel

Typically happen within the contact area


Contamination will migrate from male to
female fiber ends
Proper cleaning will remove the residue

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Connector Issues

Adhesive region defects:


May originate during the manufacturing
process or a mishandling
Epoxy and chips may show in this region
Are most often permanent defects
May show as dark or light defects
Are normal if size does not exceed the IEC
and IPC criteria

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Connector Issues

Scratches:
Are linear defects in nature
Are critical if appearing in the core area
May originate from mishandling or improper
cleaning technique
Are permanent defects
May be normal if they are on the ferule surface
(contact zone) depending on manufacturing
techniques and connector grade

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Connector Issues

Scratches:
May appear as light or dark defects
May be hard to see with the naked eye
Are critical if appearing in the core area of SM fibers

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Conclusion
The IEC and IPC standards are defining inspection criteria
Inspection is the first step to fiber testing
Integrated inspection probes on test instruments represents the most convenient
and secure approach to fiber inspection
Cleaning is a critical step
Proper cleaning supplies and methods must be followed
Using analytisis software such as ConnectorMax:
Is the most effective solution to standardize inspection procedures
Provides means of certification for the entire network (fiber and connectors)
against IEC and IPC standards

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Vincent Racine
EXFO Product Manager
OPTERNUS GmbH
German Distributor
www.opternus.de

August 2011

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