Did you know that a fiber optic cable is made of one of the most abundant materials in the universe?
Silicon is in everything from glass to computer chips. When it comes to fiber optic cables, it helps to create the fastest means of data transmission known to man. But there’s more to it than just spinning threads of glass.
In this guide, we’ll be discussing the manufacturing of fiber optic cables. Then we’ll learn how the armored fiber cable adds needed strength and durability to its design.
Types of Fiber Optic Cable
Before we discuss fiber cable manufacturing, we need to understand the two types of cable. A supplier of fiber optic cables will usually manufacture one or both of the following types of fiber optic cables:
- Single-mode fiber
- Multi-mode fiber
Single-mode fiber, as the name implies, is a single strand. It permits a single ray of light at a time. While this does limit the bandwidth, it improves the signal and allows it to travel long distances.
Multi-mode fiber has multiple strands. While this does increase its effective bandwidth, it leads to signal corruption. Multi-fibers do not do well over distance and therefore should only be used in short-distance applications.
The undersea cables that connect our continents and provide access to the internet, for example, are made single-mode fiber. They need a clean signal from point A to a very distant point B.
Using Silicon or Plastic in Fiber Cable Manufacturing
There is another option when it comes to manufacturing fiber optic cables: plastic. Plastic bends better than silicon and is still quite cheap for mass production.
However, silicon is the superior transmitter. It’s ultra-clear, has superior refraction, and provides a clear path through which the light can travel. Therefore, it’s ideal for long-distance transmission.
Plastic is less brittle than silica. Fiber optic installation often proves to be a tricky process, so these plastic cores are wonderful for short-range applications. Optical fiber that runs short distances in residences and businesses are sometimes made with plastic to bend more easily around tight corners.
The Components of a Completed Fiber Optic Cable
There are three components that you will see in fiber optic cables:
- The buffer: a protective coating that surrounds the other two components, protecting them from potential damage
- The cladding: this layer protects the core while also preventing the escape of light
- The core: this is the fiber, usually 50-125 microns in diameter that transmits the light
These are only the three most basic internal components for a single strand of fiber. Many more can be added to improve a cable’s durability and strength. Often, additional shielding and jacketing can protect the delicate fibers.
The Manufacturing Process
Now that we understand the different components of a fiber optic cable, we can have an overview of the cable manufacturing process.
Using a furnace and very high temperatures, the manufacturers create what is known as “preform.” This is the stage in the process when they create the core and the cladding.
Once the right heat has been achieved, they draw these materials into very long, thin strands. This creates the core of silica or plastic. Once it has the right diameter, they add the cladding and buffer material.
In most cases, fiber optic cables contain dozens of buffer-wrapped strands. A sheath goes around these fibers to protect these delicate buffers from the elements. After a few more protective layers, a jacket seals off the whole, and you have a standard fiber optic cable.
A finished cable may undergo some routine stress testing or QC. Technicians will run light through it to ensure the connection is complete, and all the fibers are transmitting. Finally, machines will spool the finished product so that it’s ready for shipping.
Making Armored Fiber Optic Cable
A typical jacket is ideal for indoor use, but outdoor-ready cables require more layers. These layers need to add water resistance, UV protection, and more.
Most companies manufacture aluminum interlock armor (AIA) fiber optic cables. These armored fiber optic cables can be described as a thick, heavy aluminum based armor wrapped around the sensitive fiber core.
However, AIA Fiber Optic Cable has a number of problems. It’s large, making it costly and difficult to install. It’s heavy, requiring stronger fixtures and putting strain on equipment and individuals that need to handle the cable.
This also means that cable manufacturing for the AIA is significantly more expensive. To break even, these companies must pass on the costs to their customers.
A Better Solution to AIA: Stainless Steel Micro Armor
Tinifiber realized that aluminum interlock armor fiber optic cables presented a lot of difficulties. So they patented and manufactured a superior option: Stainless Steel Micro Armor Fiber Optic Cables
Tinifiber’s Micro Armor utilizes stainless steel tightly wrapped around a Kevlar jacket. These are the same tough strands used in bulletproof body armor.
Using stainless steel equates to an armored fiber cable that is 75% smaller and 65% lighter than the AIA. Despite this reduction in size and weight, it’s plenty strong and durable. It resists water, chemicals, pests, and even being crushed or bent which is a far cry from what AIA can offer in protection.
Since the stainless steel micro armor is smaller, it’s easier and cheaper to install. It fits into more places, whereas an AIA fiber optic cable might require additional modifications for installation resulting in more labor and costs.
The micro armor fiber cable takes less time and materials to manufacture which means that Tinifiber can pass on those savings to its customers.
Find the Right Fiber Optic Cables for Your Use Case
Fiber cable manufacturing is a delicate process that requires creating strands of pure glass that is capable of transmitting data at incredible speeds, but it comes at the cost of fragility. Luckily, solutions like armored fiber optic cables allow for cables that can resist almost anything.
Tinifiber has the only all-environment cable you’ll ever need. Request a quote to see how you can benefit from the best armored cable in the business.