Fiber Optic Connectors need to be pristine when they are connected for several reasons. First, dirty or damaged connectors are the number one cause of network outages. Second, if a dirty or damaged connector is plugged into another connector, your problem just doubled. Lastly, if test equipment, like an OTDR, or a network element, such as a receiver, is damaged it can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair or replace them.
Another reason is the misconception that a new connector is a clean connector. This is not true. These connectors are made in factories, not cleanrooms, and they are installed in the real world which can be a dusty place. Even the air we breathe is filled with dust particles that are 2 µm to 5 µmm across, so if just one speck of 5 µm dust floating in the air lands on the core, which is only 9 µm, more than 50 percent of the light traveling through that fiber is lost. Even putting on or taking off the protective caps causes an electrostatic charge that attracts dust particles floating in the air. Technicians can accidentally touch the end-face or brush the connector housing when plugging it in, all of which can contaminate the connector.
Recently, AFL tested new MPO and single fiber connectors ordered off the Internet. They were inspected right out of the packaging and the findings were startling. Almost 40 percent failed. View the images below taken of these new connectors with AFL’s FOCIS Lightning® inspection probe.
Above: Examples of failed inspection on new single fiber and MPO (far right) connectors.