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Fiber Optic Test Equipment FAQ's

Jesse Simonds
Calibration Expert Joined FIS in 2009

We are always being asked questions concerning fiber optic test equipment. I thought I would answer some of common questions we receive daily. Many ask whether or not you should have your equipment calibrated. First let me start by saying, as many of us know, you should always keep your equipment in the best shape possible. These tools are invaluable. They let you know how your new as well as any existing installations are performing. This information will help.

Why should I calibrate?

Test equipment items are highly crucial to your company as they check and measure your produced work. They control the quality of your services and in the end are responsible for the success and the profitability of your business and reputation.

How often do I calibrate?

Manufacturer’s specifications will indicate how often to calibrate their tools, but critical measurements may require different intervals. Most equipment in the fiber optic industry generally has an annual requirement.

Is it a requirement that I calibrate?

Regular calibration of instruments is necessary as the accuracy of their measurements start to drop over time. You have to make sure the instruments don’t get “out of calibration”. You will observe that the accuracy of major components of instruments will start to shift over time. However, this shift is minor and wouldn’t affect the measurements if you maintain a good calibration schedule as it will find and correct the changes.

What happens when I use a piece of test equipment and it is out of calibration?

Compliance and safety issues / wastage of resources and raw materials / low quality of the final products / increased downtime / possible litigation / audit issues.

If I use my test equipment very little do I still need to calibrate?

The cost of calibrating a new piece of test equipment is nothing compared to risks an inaccurate measurement can have on your operations. Even if you rarely use the item, the environment can make subtle changes to the inside components creating a change from factory specs.

Is it OK to subject equipment to extreme cold or heat?

Extreme temperatures, whether cold or hot, affect both fiber optic technicians and their test equipment. Job sites may be thermally regulated, but technicians need to remember optical test equipment left in vehicles. Leaving equipment in a vehicle overnight exacerbates many issues. Test measurements are impacted by thermal changes in the test instruments themselves. Thus, bringing test instruments stored overnight in a vehicle into a test environment of a different temperature can contribute to measurement errors. Test equipment can take an hour or more to fully adjust and stabilize at new ambient temperature. Hot and cold weather must be considered. To improve your odds of getting accurate measurements, use setup time to your advantage. Bringing fiber optic or electronic test gear onto the job site must be a priority. Take the equipment out of carry cases immediately and spread test instruments out to let them begin adjusting to the new temperature and continue with the job setup.

I dropped my equipment, should I have it calibrated?

If your instrument took a tumble, such as a solid physical impact it is highly recommended that you must send that item out for calibration. With such an impact it is likely something internal has been shifted or moved out of spec.

Why should I use FIS?

The American Standards Lab is certified and audited annually under ISO 9001-2008/2015 quality standards.  Our calibrations are regulated to NIST traceable standards.  Under these standards, our calibrations meet or exceed US calibration requirements for verification calibrations.  All calibrations include an NIST calibration/verification certificate and test reports including “as received” and “as returned”. FIS has some of the best lead times in the industry and we have exceptional relationships with manufacturers from coast to coast.

Are there any safety concerns I should be aware of when using Fiber optic test equipment?

Lasers that are used in test equipment contain invisible infrared light which can be harmful to eyes. Never look into connectors or ports of equipment while running. Splicer units and cleavers do have blades and sharp edges that you should take caution using.

I need a refresher on how to use my particular test equipment. Is there someone I can call?

FIS has numerous specialists who focus on certain pieces of equipment and tools in the industry. We also have several tech support specialists available. FIS offers numerous online videos on the FIS website which have detailed instructions on using several pieces of equipment.

What type of equipment do I need to test fiber optic components?

Power meter & Light source sets / OTDR’s (Optical time domain reflectometer) / visual fault locators / Scopes and probes / bi-directional testers.

Don’t put off calibration of your test equipment. It will almost certainly cost you money. A piece of test equipment that is inaccurate can give you false results. Raising false results can cost you. Imagine getting a false reading on a link by either passing a failing link or worse yet failing a passing link.