So far we’ve looked at a couple of the big hitters – the oscilloscope and the signal generator. This week let's have a little diversion into the world of optical test equipment by looking at the fusion splicer.
First of all, we need to understand what an optical fibre is and what it’s used for.
Optical fibres are very fine strands of glass or plastic, roughly the thickness of a human hair. They are used to transmit information from one place to another eg phone calls, internet and television. The information is sent down the fibre as pulses of light.
Optical fibres can carry lots of information over very long distances and, unlike copper wires, less of the signal is lost during transmission and they are not affected by electromagnetic interference.
Optical fibre is therefore very useful for sending information over long distances and this is where the fusion splicer comes in.
A fusion splicer is a machine that joins (splices) lengths of optical fibre together by heating the fibres (fusion). The method of heating can vary – the first fusion splicers used nichrome wire, but now it can be done by gas flames, carbon dioxide and, most commonly, electrical arcs.
Joining lengths of optical fibres is pretty fiddly. The two fibres need to be properly aligned at the correct angle to make a good join otherwise light could be scattered or reflected back by the splice resulting in losses of transmitted information. A fusion splicer like the Fujikura FSM-70S simplifies this process by automatically aligning the lengths of optical fibre and accurately join them together in a matter of seconds.
If you’d like to see a fusion splicer in action, have a look at this video of the the Fujikura FSM-70S: