Optical Fibre - Manufacturing - Coatings


The light is "guided" down the core of the fiber by an optical "cladding" with a lower refractive index that traps light in the core through "total internal reflection."

The cladding is coated by a "buffer" that protects it from moisture and physical damage. The buffer is what gets stripped off the fiber for termination or splicing. These coatings are UV-cured urethane acrylate composite materials applied to the outside of the fiber during the drawing process. The coatings protect the very delicate strands of glass fiber—about the size of a human hair—and allow it to survive the rigors of manufacturing, proof testing, cabling and installation.

Today’s glass optical fiber draw processes employ a dual-layer coating approach. An inner primary coating is designed to act as a shock absorber to minimize attenuation caused by microbending. An outer secondary coating protects the primary coating against mechanical damage and acts as a barrier to lateral forces. Sometimes a metallic armor layer is added to provide extra protection.

These fiber optic coating layers are applied during the fiber draw, at speeds approaching 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph). Fiber optic coatings are applied using one of two methods: wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet. In wet-on-dry, the fiber passes through a primary coating application, which is then UV cured—then through the secondary coating application, which is subsequently cured. In wet-on-wet, the fiber passes through both the primary and secondary coating applications, then goes to UV curing.

Fiber optic coatings are applied in concentric layers to prevent damage to the fiber during the drawing application and to maximize fiber strength and microbend resistance. Unevenly coated fiber will experience non-uniform forces when the coating expands or contracts, and is susceptible to greater signal attenuation. Under proper drawing and coating processes, the coatings are concentric around the fiber, continuous over the length of the application and have constant thickness.

Fiber optic coatings protect the glass fibers from scratches that could lead to strength degradation. The combination of moisture and scratches accelerates the aging and deterioration of fiber strength. When fiber is subjected to low stresses over a long period, fiber fatigue can occur. Over time or in extreme conditions, these factors combine to cause microscopic flaws in the glass fiber to propagate, which can ultimately result in fiber failure.

Three key characteristics of fiber optic waveguides can be affected by environmental conditions: strength, attenuation and resistance to losses caused by microbending. External fiber optic coatings protect glass optical fiber from environmental conditions that can affect the fiber’s performance and long-term durability. On the inside, coatings ensure the reliability of the signal being carried and help minimize attenuation due to microbending.

Read more about this topic:  Optical Fibre, Manufacturing

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