Fiber Optic Cable Jacket Removal Tools
Tools of the Fiber Optic Trade
Working with fiber optic cables requires you to have a variety of tools in your truck because you never know what type of cable you will be working on. There are many different types of fiber cables available, so there are also a variety of tools that will help make the job of cable preparation easier. Fiber optic cables can have a single outer jacket, an armored outer jacket, or they can have multiple jackets that you will have to remove in order to get your job accomplished. Along with the different types of jackets, you also have different constructions of fiber optic cable, such as loose tube, distribution, and drop cable, just to name a few. The cable construction will help you determine the tools needed. Below we will discuss some of the tools that will be useful to have in your tool box for removing the outer cable sheath so you can handle the variety of different jacket types and styles that you may come across when working with fiber optic cables.
Round Cable Slitters
All fiber cables have outer jackets that need to be removed in order to terminate or access the fiber for cable drops. Cable drops could be for FTTx (Fiber to the Home or MDU or Business) applications. One tool that is commonly used is called a Round Cable Slitter or Ring Tool. Some of them only work on the circumference of the cable and others allow the blade to be rotated so you can cut the jacket longitudinally as well. Circumferential cutting occurs when you have the tool rotate in a circle around the cable jacket. Longitudinal slitting is when you are cutting the jacket lengthwise. To change the way you are cutting, you simply rotate the blade in the tool 90 degrees. The tools make it simple and they do not require additional tools to make this change. So let's say you have a piece of cable and you need to access 2 meters of the fibers 200 feet into your run. You would go ahead and use this tool. You would set the tool for circumferential ringing and cut the first side. Then you will move down 2 meters and do another circumferential cut. Once these two are done, you can switch to longitudinal slitting and run the tool down the length of two meters. Now you will be able to peel away the outer jacket and you can use another tool we will discuss (a mid access tool) to access the fiber that you need to drop off. But let's first discuss another tool that helps you deal with outer cable jackets.
Armored Cable Slitters and Cutters
Some fiber optic cables have an armored jacket that makes the optical cable more robust. A standard round cable slitter will not be able to enter this armored jacketing; this is when you would use an Armored Cable Slitter and Cutter. This tool is more robust and the blade is strong enough to cut through the armored cable like butter. It can cut through corrugated copper, steel, and aluminum. These tools can cut both circumferentially and longitudinally like a round cable slitter. Whether you are dealing with an OSP armor which is usually made of steel, or you are dealing with aluminum interlocking armor, also referred to as AIA, this is a tool that is essential to have in the tool kit.
Mid Access Tools
Dealing with high optical fiber count cables requires special tools to access a particular fiber that is needed to drop off to a service location. If you have a 288 count cable and you need to access fibers 13 and 14 you will need a way to do this. So after using your round cable slitter to remove the outer jacket you are left with 24 tubes of fiber that have 12 fibers in each tube. To access fiber 13 and 14 you will go to tube number 2 which will be the orange tube. You will use your mid access tool to gently, without scoring or damaging any of the fibers, remove the buffer tube to get to the fibers inside. Mid access tools are available in several sizes, so you will need to know what size your inner tubes are to make sure you have the correct mid access tool. There are small ones that can handle an outer diameter that ranges from 1.2mm to 3.3mm, and larger ones that allow access into 4.5mm to 22mm sized tubes. It is important to know what size tubes you are trying to enter to make sure you are picking the correct tool for the job. There are also different style tools you can consider when looking at how the tool works. There are some that you place the tube into and gently pull using a handle while a blade scores the edge of the tube. There are others that you place on the tube and turn a knob which allows the tool to score and remove parts of the tube as it moves on your inner tube.
Flat Drop Cable Slitters
Fiber to the "X" has introduced several different cable types that are being deployed and they have a different structure to them. One of these types is called Flat Drop Cable. This cable style is a self supporting cable that has dielectric strength members on both sides of the buffer tube housing the fiber strands. By aligning the strength members on both sides of the buffer tube surrounding the fibers, when the outer jacket is extruded around them, it forms around these components creating an oblong shape or two flat sides along with two curved sides. Hence the name flat comes in to play. Because this cable style has an oblong shape, a specialized tool was created. The Flat Drop Cable Slitter has two blades, one on each side. Simply place the tool around your flat drop cable and pull in the correct direction. This will make a slit in the outer jacket on both sides, along the strength members, and allows for easy access to the buffer tube so you can work on the fibers for your installation. If you are working with flat drop cable, having this fiber optic tool in your bag is a MUST.
The tools discussed above are a good start to getting a fiber guy set up. There are additional tools that will be needed.These tools are a great start. We will discuss some other tools that a fiber technician should have in his tool kit in upcoming articles.