Monday, December 16, 2019

Cost Cutting Tools For The Fiber Techs

Whether you're hiring new technicians or cleaning out your own tool bag, so many advancements in fiber tools have come down the pike that you shouldn't put another requisition in without reading this blog. You might need to purchase 5 tools today that were replaced by a single tool. While I will agree that having more than one tool to do the same job in your bag is a good idea, you might find a new favorite with one of these. Most of these low-cost options are designed to serve the installers that are in the highest demand today--the fiber techs.

EXFO Optical Explorer

Do you wish your drop fiber technicians had more testing capability in their hands, but you don't want to spend the money on an OTDR, nor the time to train them? You now have an answer--the Optical Multimeter! EXFO released the Optical Explorer this year, and it combines all the functions a technician would need to diagnose issues intelligently at the edge of the network. And they can do it all for a fraction of the cost of buying separate devices.

The Optical Explorer can measure Insertion Loss (IL), Optical Return Loss (ORL) and span length in 3-5 seconds for up to 40km. That's all as a single sided test! Two additional test parameters can give you distance to a point of failure on the network, and also provide a map of all events along the span. It provides the fault-finding capabilities of an OTDR with a VFL, light source and power meter.

While the Optical Explorer does not export test results in the form of a .sor or other OTDR file format, it provides technicians with a tool that troubleshoots and allows them to act quickly when there are issues. You can also use the Multimeter to test reels of cable in your inventory, and you wouldn't need to pull a valuable OTDR from the field to do it. As the edge becomes more complex with 5G, new fiber to the home builds, and other private network use cases, an Optical Multimeter makes a lot of sense to have in your toolkit. Click here to view the options and configurations of the Optical Explorer on our website.

EasySplicer MK2

While the cost of equipping a fiber technician with a fusion splicer has come down dramatically, it
has never been this low. The EasySplicer MK2 is the perfect solution for Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber MDU installer deployments. Let's face it, you want to reach as many subscribers as you can in one day, month and year. The sheer number of technicians you're deploying in the field is on the rise, and you want to connect as many customers as you can in a single day.

For under $2000, you can now put this simple fixed V-Groove machine in their hands to splice fiber drops. If you had a budget for $10,000 on splicing equipment, that's roughly a 5:1 ratio in the number of EasySplicers you can buy versus a standard Core Alignment splicer. Click here to see the EasySplicer MK2 product page on our website.

Granted, the Core Alignment splicers are still going to produce the speed and results required for the main distribution network, so the EasySplicer shouldn't be the option for your guys hanging out in the splice trailers all day. Concerned about the quality of splices you'll get from the EasySplicer? I used the machine for a full year, and never saw an estimated splice loss of more than 0.03dB, with the majority at 0.01dB.

The EasySplicer MK2 comes in a field-ready kit with fiber holders, cleaver and stripper in a durable plastic case. Additional accessories and splice-on connectors are available as well. The case can easily slip into many tool backpacks on the market, which would help contain your Optical Multimeter, hand tools, drill and fiber cleaning supplies as well. Check out the Klein Tradesman Pro(TM) Backpacks in this blog to help start your full installer kit with the EasySplicer MK2.

Jonard Slit and Ring Fiber Tools

In 2019, Jonard launched their full line of Fiber Slit and Ring tools that re-wrote the book on loose
tube fiber access. With the plethora of buffer tube, central tube and ribbon tube sizes on the market, most cable manufacturers recommend purchasing an array of expensive aluminum tools and dies for the specific sizes you are using. Other low-cost midspan fiber tools have been around for years, but none of them have the range of the Jonard tools. The other low-cost midspan tools also do not have a built-in ring-cut function.

The Jonard Slit and Ring tools cover a range from 1.2mm up to 12mm in 4 different models, priced each at $160 or less. Considering each single-sized insert for the popular Raucut tool is around $100 each, the Jonard tools make cost and buffer tube cutting simple. Click here to see the full range of Jonard fiber tools on our website.

The Zip InnerDuct Slitter (ZIDS)

I carried a Makita Compact Cordless router with me to customers and trade shows this year. Many people would ask, "why does an underground construction guy need a cordless router?" Then I would show them what it does with the Zip InnerDuct Slitter, or ZIDS tool. Faster and safer than any "can
opener/red box" tool, the ZIDS can ring cut and longitudinally slit HDPE with a router. If you pick a variable speed router or cordless drill, you can even use the ZIDS to cut through PVC. Because PVC is more brittle, you need a lower speed to keep the duct from shattering. If you use a cordless drill, you must keep pressure on the tool against the inside wall of the duct since there is no depth control.

Compared to other powered duct slitters on the market, the ZIDS costs less, works faster, and it's safer for your employees and cables. Click here to see the ZIDS and our preferred Makita Cordless Router that will make your crews happy in 2020.

Backpacks for the Fiber Installer

Let's face it, fiber installers need more stuff to do their job effectively than they did when they were dropping with coax or twisted pair. Fusion splicers, optical test, cleaning supplies and cable access tools are just a few pieces of gear that they didn't need before. Plus they still need their drills, bell hangers, can wrench, nines, fishing tools and more.

Rather than equip them with multiple totes, dufflebags, or messenger style bags, you could get a comfortable, ergonomic backpack. The Klein Tradesman Pro(TM) series backpacks come in several sizes with well organized compartments and plenty of space for the compact fiber gear mentioned in this blog. Plus backpacks are well-balanced, and they keep both technicians' hands free in the event they trip on the jobsite. They are a safer, more convenient option.

Estex Manufacturing also offers an external frame backpack for those jobs off the beaten path. While that option is more for the lineman, it could come in handy for fiber technicians working in remote areas.

Looking to build a fiber technician toolkit? Contact your Comstar sales rep today to discuss the options with us. A lot of traditional fiber kits contain outdated tools that cost more money, and most likely won't be used by your team. Using the foundation of the products in this blog, we can create kits that are right-sized to support the edge deployments you'll be tackling in the coming year.