Where did Air Blown Fiber originate, when is it used, and how does it work?
Introduction to Air Blown Fiber
The British Telecom (BT) blown fiber patent implies that the fiber is propelled along the microduct by airflow passing over the cable and traveling at a much higher speed than the cable. This induces the cable to move rather than forcing it by tension.
Air Blown Fiber Advantages
Air blown fiber systems offer various advantages over traditional fiber systems, including reduced material and installation costs with faster installation times, fewer fiber connection points - reducing the number of splices, simplified repair and maintenance, and a migration path for future evolving applications.
Air Blown Fiber Benefits
Adaptation to future needs
Quick and Easy Incremental Installation of Cables
Upgrading network capacity by installing new cable in existing spare microducts
Minimizing the number of fiber splice points along a route
Vastly reduces construction costs (e.g., narrow- or microtrench v. traditional trench / PVC ducted routes)
What is Air Blown Fiber?
Fiber units (without strength members) or compact microcables (with strength members) are installed using a combination of the blowing machine’s drive wheels or belts, and steady airflow from a compressor connected with the machine’s “airbox”. The far end of the microduct is open, so pressure does not build up.
Air Blown Fiber Technology
Air blown fiber cable is not a new technology, although it is relatively new compared with conventional cabling methods that date back to Alexander Graham Bell.
Air Blown Fiber Feeder & Distribution Systems
There are two ways to install fiber optic cables – you can push it or pull it. Traditional installations include pulling fiber. Pushing fiber through jetting equipment is known as a blown fiber system. While many perceive blown fiber to be new, it actually originated with British Telecom in 1982, developed to allow future fiber types to be added as needed with extra space in the ducting. Today, blown fiber optic cabling is an increasingly popular option for business owners, as well as residential developers for both single-family residences and multi-dwelling units (MDUs). ABF allows them to maximize their networks’ efficiency, speed, and future-proofing as fibers can be added on an as-needed basis.
Cable blowing systems use high-pressure, high-velocity airflow combined with a pushing force to install the cable. A hydraulic or pneumatic powered drive wheel or drive belt is used to push the cable into the innerduct or microduct. Blown cable systems have four basic components: 1) the microduct; 2) the blowing apparatus; 3) the optical fiber bundles; and 4) the connecting/terminating hardware. The blown fiber system technology uses compressed air or nitrogen to literally blow (or “jet”) lightweight optical fiber micro cables, or units, through predefined routes at rates up to 500 feet per minute.
The microduct consists of multiple individual tubes, bundled into a single sheath. Tubes are connected by splices and connectors that route the fibers from one continuous pipe to the next.
The microducts, through which these fiber units are blown, are manufactured of tough, flexible materials and bundled in groupings of up to 24 color-coded microducts, forming a multi-duct assembly. These multiducts can be installed above ground, aerially, underground, or within buildings. Using couplers, installers easily connect individual microducts in duct-branching units to provide pathways through which micro cables or fiber units are blown to achieve splice-free, point-to-point, high-speed installations. This reduces total cost and improves overall network performance.
There are two types of blown fiber systems depending on the segment of the network. In the first, the feeder portion of the network utilizes air blown micro cables, typically from 12 to 864 fibers. In the second, for the access (i.e., last mile distribution and drop) FTTH segment, air blown fiber “units” are utilized. These are typically one to 24-fiber units.
Where to Use Air Blown Fiber Systems?
Fibers can be installed in areas that are hard to reach or that have limited access. Air Blown Fiber is also recommended for environments where there will be many changes and additions to the network.
Air blown micro fiber optic cable is generally used in FTTH networks as a feeder section, using air blowing laying to connect the optical branch point and user access point. It is also suitable for application in access networks, backbone networks, and metro networks.
Interested in taking our Introduction to Air Blown Fiber Training Course?
Light Brigade's Introduction to Air Blown Fiber Training Course is aimed at anyone interested in learning the basics of air blown fiber technology or those that have recently purchased blowing equipment and want to learn how and why to use it.
This course serves as an introductory level course focused on installation, maintenance, and machine operation. The two days will be a mix of theory and hands-on exercises that relate to the learned theory.
Subjects covered will be an overview of air blown fiber technology including terminology, components and equipment, best practices, setup, teardown, safety, communication, and various blowing methods and techniques. Hands-on exercises will include calculating fill ratios, duct and microduct joining, proper lubrication methods, duct cleaning, and preparation tests, as well as machine setup and blowing microcables and fiber units.
The primary focus of the content is aimed at OSP/FTTx installations; however, the basic principles can be applied equally to indoor applications and campus installations. This course will be taught by a field application engineer and is best suited to be delivered at a Light Brigade Academy or your facility.
This course will also serve as a preparatory measure for the soon-to-be-released four-day instructor-led ABF for Installers and Technicians class.
Hexatronic, Blown Fiber Cable Systems, White Paper
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