What Materials Are Fiber Optic Cables Made Of

Fiber Optic cable

What Materials Are Fiber Optic Cables Made Of? 

Fiber optic cables are made of materials that allow light to travel through them. They carry a lot of data very quickly on fiber strands which are the width of a human hair! But are you wondering what materials fiber optic cables are made of? The most common materials are glass and plastic. This guide will discuss the different types of fiber materials used to make optic cables as part of the manufacturing process.

What is optical fiber? 

Optical fiber is a type of cable for transmitting data using pulses of light – this is significantly faster than using traditional copper cabling systems. In fact, fiber optics have revolutionized the way we communicate, with data traveling as fast as the speed of light! Fiber optic cables are used in a variety of applications, including:

  • Internet and computer networking
  • Telecommunications
  • Cable TV
  • Military and space applications

What are the types of optic fiber? 

single-mode vs multimode fiber optic cable

There are two main types of optical fiber: single-mode and multimode fiber. They each offer their benefits and drawbacks.

Single-mode fiber is made from a super-thin fiber core of glass or plastic, through which only one ray of light can travel at a time. This makes it ideal for long-distance data transmission, as there is very little signal loss over distance. However, single-mode fiber requires specialized equipment to install, which must be considered at the start of your installation project. 

Multimode fiber has a larger core than single-mode fiber, meaning multiple rays of light can travel down the cable simultaneously. This makes it easier to install; however, it’s not the best choice for long-distance data transmission as there is more signal loss and attenuation. 

What are the three components of a fiber optic cable? 

three components of a fiber optic cable

Optical fiber cables are made up of three components: the core, the cladding, and the buffer.

Core: this is the central part of the cable through which light travels. It is made from either glass or plastic and has a core diameter of between 50 and 125 microns.

Cladding: the material surrounds the core but has a lower index of refraction. This helps to reflect light into the core, preventing it from escaping.

Buffer: this protective coating surrounds the cladding and protects it from damage occurring in either indoor or outdoor installations. 

What materials are fiber optic cables made of? 

The core part of the cable is made from glass or plastic optical fiber, while the cladding is usually made from fluoride-doped silica. Typically, the buffer is manufactured from a material called acrylate, which is a type of plastic.

What’s the difference between using glass or plastic?

As mentioned, fiber optic cables are constructed using either glass or plastic. But what’s the difference between them, and which offers the advantage?

Glass fiber optic cables are made from a material called silica, which is very pure and has a very low index of refraction. This means it can carry data over longer distances with less signal loss. However, glass is more fragile than plastic and can be difficult to work with.

Alternatively, plastic fiber optic cables are made from materials such as acrylate and polyimide. These plastics have a higher index of refraction than glass, meaning they’re not suitable for long-distance data transmission. However, they are much more flexible than glass and easier to work with.

Note: in both cases, additional chemicals may be added during the manufacturing process to improve the performance of the fiber. For example, chemical compounds like germanium tetrachloride and phosphorus oxychloride may be added to the core fiber or cladding. 

What’s the difference in cost between glass and plastic fiber optic cabling?

As you might expect, the decision to use glass or plastic fiber optic cables often comes down to budget too. So, which is more affordable?

Glass fiber optic cables

These are more expensive to manufacture than plastic ones. This is because the silica used to make them is a lot more costly than the materials used for plastic cables. However, glass cables are often seen as a longer-term investment due to their durability and data-carrying capabilities.

Plastic fiber optic cables 

In contrast, plastic fiber optic cables are cheaper to manufacture and easier to work with. However, they are not as durable as glass cables and are not suitable for long-distance data transmission. You may also need to factor in the possibility of replacing plastic fiber optic cables periodically. 

Not sure which is the best solution for your installation? The Network Installers can run through your options in detail to help make the right decision for your project.

What is the optical fiber manufacturing process? 

If you’ve ever seen inside a spliced fiber optic cable, you’ll appreciate the complexities of putting all the components together. So, what exactly is involved in the manufacturing process?

First, the core and cladding materials are mixed in a furnace to create what’s known as a preform. This preform is then drawn into a long, thin strand of glass or plastic called a fiber. Once the fiber has been drawn, it is then coated with the buffer material.

After that, the fiber is ready to be used in your cables! It is typically bundled with other fibers in a tube or sheath and then surrounded by a strength member and jacket to form the final layer.

What are the differences between single-mode fiber and multi-mode fiber cable manufacturing?

The crucible method is typically used in multi-mode fiber cable manufacture. Here, powdered silica is melted down to produce durable multimode cables that are excellent for short-distance transmission.

In comparison, the vapor deposition process is better suited to single-mode fiber manufacture, where a solid cylinder of core and cladding material is heated before being drawn out. These fibers are better for long-distance communications.

Arrange your fiber optic cable installation

So, there you have it: a quick overview of the materials used to make fiber optic cables. If you’re thinking of installing fiber optic cabling in your business, get in touch with the Network Installers today. We’ll be happy to answer any of your questions and provide you with a free quote.

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About Us
The Network Installers is a low voltage electrical contractor that provides data cabling, network installation, fiberoptic installation, and WIFI installation. We've been serving commercial customers since 2008 with exceptional quality, consistency, and professionalism.

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