In any discussion about telephone systems, cable TV, or the internet, you are likely to hear the term “fiber optic cables” thrown in at least a time or two. The reason that fiber optic cables are such a common topic is the sheer number of purposes they serve. These services range from enabling telephone, cable, and internet systems to function. As if that doesn’t cover enough ground, medical imaging, mechanical engineering inspection, and sewer line inspection are some of the many applications that also rely heavily on fiber optic cables. What are fiber optic cables? Fiber optic cables are long strands of optically pure glass with about the diameter of a human hair. These strands are arranged in bundles and used to transmit light signals that are capable of carrying digital information over long distances. Given their obvious value, it is particularly important for fiber optic cables to be maintained and kept in the best condition possible. Fiber Optic Cable Care and Use Fiber optic cables are durable, but if mishandled or not cared for properly, they will become worn and damaged over time and the quality of their performance will suffer. Sometimes, it’s just as important to know what you shouldn’t do as it is to know what you should do. With that in mind, here are a few of the main dos and don’ts when it comes to handling and maintaining fiber optic cables. When removing the connector, do not pull or twist the cable. Pulling on the cable may cause the optical fiber inside the cable to break, or remove the cable sheath from the optical connector. Be careful when bending, folding, or pinching the optical fiber cable. Much like pulling the cable, excessive bending, folding, or pinching can break the fiber optic inside the cable. An optical fiber cable should have a bend radius of 30 mm or more. Avoid hitting the end of an optical connector against any hard surface. Hard surfaces are not by any means limited to brick and concrete. Whacking the end of a connector on your desk or the floor can damage the end of the connector, degrade the connection, or lose the connection altogether. Do not hang anything using a cable. This may sound obvious, but it can’t be stressed enough that hanging something by a cable can severely damage the inside of the cable. Do not touch the end of a broken fiber optic cable. If a cable is broken, touching the end of it will do no good and may cause an injury by piercing the skin. Keep optical connectors assembled. Disassembling the connectors may cause a part to break or lead to diminishing performance. How to Store Fiber Optic Cables Ideally, fiber optic cables should be stored inside, protected from the elements. The reel tag that comes with the cable should be kept so the cable’s origin can be traced in the future, if necessary. Fiber optic cable reels should be stored standing by or supported on both flanges. Sitting it one flange surface will cause strands of cable to gravitate toward one end of the reel. When the cable gathers at one end of the reel, the odds of it being damaged during the unwinding process increase exponentially. If you band your rolls of cable to pallets, the band you use should be placed through the hole in the middle of the reel. The flanges, not the cable package, should come in contact with the pallet. As we discussed, contact with any hard surface can be damaging to the cables. Respooling Requirements for Fiber Optic Cables There are a few simple rules when it comes to respooling cable. When choosing a reel size, ensure that it does not exceed the minimum bend radius of the cable. Also, when respooling the cable, make sure that it is evenly distributed evenly throughout the reel. Respool from and to the top of the reel, ensuring that the cable is snug on the respooler drum and that the cable is not being twisted as it’s being reeling up. Once you’re done respooling, allow a minimum of a 1 to 2 inches between the flange edges and the last cable wrap. Conclusion Fiber optic cables play a major role in our everyday lives, so it’s crucial that they’re kept in premium condition. By following careful handling, proper storage, and meticulous respooling practices, this is easier than it might seem.