Last Updated: July 18, 2022
We are looking for a replacement of isopropyl alcohol as a fiber optic cleaning fluid (specifically the isopropyl alcohol that is used to clean the stripped fiber before gluing the connector). Our goal is to get rid of any alcohol used in the connector assembly process.
Can you tell us a little more about Microcare Sticklers MCC-POC03M and MCL Eco-Clean cleaning fluids on your website or alternative fluids?
Also, we are using Schleuniger equipment for fiber stripping. The fiber is very clean. Can we proceed directly to connector assembly without cleaning fluid? Is static charge a problem?
Short Answer: If optimum health / safety is the target, the Stickler fluid will be an improvement over IPA, and should also clean fibers well. I have not used the MCL fluid in production, but the published marketing advantages seem to be similar to Stickers, so I’m assuming they have similar performance.
I’d recommend always cleaning after stripping.
Very Long Answer:
Sticklers fluid: I’ve only used 99%+ IPA for this cleaning in manufacturing environment. I’ve used Stickler fluid for low-volume cleaning (doing demo’s of equipment, where I need to clean a few connectors here and there—-the little bottle is very easy for carrying for field use.). It’s always worked well, though I have never done any real experiment specifically to quantify / compare the cleaning effectiveness. I think the Stickler fluid is certainly a good option, performance-wise. And it’s non-flammable, “non-hazardous”, etc. Certainly smells like IPA, but doesn’t support a flame for more than a second or two.
MCL Fluid: I’ve zero experience with it, can’t really comment. I would have to guess the chemical makeup would be similar enough to Stickler fluid—–the marketing bullet-points seem similar.
There are a few risks associated with not cleaning after stripping:
- Oils or other film / residue on the fiber prevents good bonding of the epoxy to the fiber. This can / will result in reduction in long-term performance / reliability. On a “PFMEA” analysis, this would be a high “Severity” of 7, 8 or 9. But what’s worse is that the effects of this are nearly impossible to detect in the short-term, so , again in a PFMEA analysis, the “Detection” rating would be huge—-9 or 10.
- Gross contamination may clog the ferrule hole, making insertion of fiber difficult (leading to increased mfg costs, including likely increased scrap). This is less of a worry about customer satisfaction, and more a question of keeping your manufacturing costs / throughput on-target.
- Cleaning with a moistened cleaning tissue usually provides an additional service: By “squeaky cleaning” (cleaning with moist tissue until you hear the fiber “squeaking”), the “squeak” comes from the fiber vibrating very quickly. This vibration serves as one test of fiber integrity——if there are nicks, scratches, or other defects in the stripped fiber, the hope is that this vibration may cause the defect to propogate due to the vibration, and fail now (rather than after the customer receives the product). I’ve been trained that this is true, and it seems sensible, but have never objectively measured if this is a real benefit or not.
Thus: after stripping, I’d highly recommend additional cleaning of the fibers regardless, UNLESS the following conditions are met:
- You can determine that
- the fiber is indeed perfectly clean after stripping—-cleaner than you can get with using IPA or some other fluid / cleaning method,
- and there is very low risk of the stripping process resulting in unclean fibers.
- The fiber is immediately inserted into a connector, without ever putting the stripped fiber down or transporting it in the production line to next step, where there is some risk of fibers contacting a contaminated surface.
- ALL fiber types / manufacturers in your production line strip with the same cleanliness. (I’d not like to have a variety of strip / clean procedures and have to depend on the production line controls to ensure proper stripping / cleaning procedures are used, based on the fiber manufacturer or type of buffer material, etc).
I do believe static charge can certainly create several issues, mostly in terms of attracting loose dust particles from the room air—a relatively minor problem (easy to re-clean—it’s not attracting residue or oils, etc). Efforts to reduce static charge should be implemented if cost-effective to do so. I’m not well-versed in where the static charges are usually created and best way to avoid, but I *think* the stripper process itself can generate static. Cleaning with lab-wipe and IPQ certainly can / does create static charge.
If the Stickler or MCL fluid does indeed reduce static charge (as claimed), I’d say this is a “moderate” advantage in connectorization. I have seen situations where engineers introduced an ionized air “wash” at the stripping / cleaning stations to remove static charge on the fibers during cleaning (an ionized air line at the bench—I don’t know any other details on the ionizing of the air), seemed cheap and effective solution—–but again, if you achieve the same with a special cleaning fluid instead of IPA, then even better.
ADDITIONAL CONTENT & RESOURCES:
- Category Resource: FOC Cleaning Page
- Find More Information in this Blog: The art of cleaning: Follow these specific cleaning techniques during fiber optic cable assembly manufacturing and installation
Answered by AskFOC Technical Team March 16, 2017
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