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Fiber Optics | Fiberoptics

Visual Fault Locator Overview

Sep 24th 2015 at 7:31 PM

Whether install new fiber links or troubleshooting an existing network, the faster you can locate a problem, the faster you can fix it. To locate the faults in fiber optic cables in a short time, various fiber optic testers are being invited to locate the faults of the fiber optic cable, like OTDR (optical time-domain reflectometer). However, OTDR has dead zone during the testing. Another simple and useful tester which can work in an OTDR dead zone is usually being used to work as an accessory of OTDR. It is known as VFL (visual fault locator) which can also work alone to locate the faults in fiber optic cable in a time saving manner in some situations.

Visual fault locator is now one of the most commonly used fiber optic testing devices to trace optical fibers, check fiber continuity and find faults such as breaks, bad splices and tight, sharp bends in fiber optic cable. The most popular visual fault locators are pen shape VFL and hand-held VFL, which are showed in the following picture respectively.

pen shape VFL and hand-held VFL
How VFL Works
The light used for transmit signals over fiber optic is usually at 1300 to 1650nm wavelength which is invisible to naked eyes. Unlike OTDR which measures the time of the incidence and the amplitude of the reflected pulses sent to the fiber optic cable to locate the faults, VFL uses powerful visible light at the 360 to 670nm wavelength injecting to a fiber to visually and directly locate the faults in fiber optic cable. The visible light travels along the core until it reaches a fault, where it leaks out. Light leaking through the fault can be seen through plastic coating and jackets under suitable illumination. This is how VFL locates the faults in fiber optic cable.

Visual fault locators radiate in continuous wave (CW) or pulse modes. The glint of the light source in VFL is usually at 1 or 2 Hz, kHz range is also being provided in today’s market. The output power is generally at 1 mW or less. The working distance of a VFL is usually in the range of 2 to 5 km.

How to Use VFL
VFL is very easy to use. The steps to use a VFL are provided as following:

Step One: remove the plastic connector covers from both ends of the test fiber cable.
Step Two: connect the fiber optic visual fault locator one end of the fiber. Press the tester button and observe that light emanates from the other end of the fiber. This gives a simple indication of the continuity of the fiber link.
Step Three: repeat with several other fibers. Check for light that can be seen leaking from a faulty splice. This may illustrate an easy way of carrying out visual fault finding on bad splices or joints.
Step Four: disconnect all equipment, put the plastic covers back on the connector ends and return everything to the state it was in before you started the practical so that the next group can carry out the practical in full.

Notes during the using of a VFL:

1.Never look directly into the VFL’s output.
2.Cover the VFL’s output with the dust cap when the VFL is not in use.
3.Not recommended for use on dark colored or armored cables.
Using simple but useful technical principle, visual fault locator individually can provide an economic and time saving solution to locator faults in fiber optic cables in some cases. While working as an accessory of OTDR, VFL, together with OTDR, can provide the fiber technician the best solution to locate fiber faults.

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