Types Of Fiber Optic Connectors

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Fiber optic connectors are unique. Fiber cables transmit pulses of light instead of electrical signals, so the terminations must be much more precise. Instead of merely allowing pins to make metal-to-metal contact, fiber optic connectors must align microscopic glass fibers perfectly in order to allow for communication. While there are many different types of fiber connectors, they share similar design characteristics. Simplex vs. duplex: Simplex means 1 connector per end while duplex means 2 connectors per end. There are three major components of a fiber connector: the ferrule, the connector body, and the coupling mechanism.

Ferrule — this is a thin structure (often cylindrical) that actually holds the glass fiber. It has a hollowed-out center that forms a tight grip on the fiber. Ferrules are usually made from ceramic, metal, or high-quality plastic, and typically will hold one strand of fiber.

Connector body — this is a plastic or metal structure that holds the ferrule and attaches to the jacket and strengthens members of the fiber cable itself.

Coupling mechanism — this is a part of the connector body that holds the connector in place when it gets attached to another device (a switch, NIC, bulkhead coupler, etc.). It may be a latch clip, a bayonet-style nut, or similar device.

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There are many fiber optic connector types available, but only a few types are widespread. They are as follows:

SMA 906: SMA connector represent an old, first generation design now decling in use. They are still used in some miltary applications because of their ability to withstand high temeratures. Overall, they are difficult to use, generally have poor performance and are suitable only for multimode fiber. They are typically used with 100/140 um fiber or larger.

ST: ST connectors are very widespread in the U.S. and are used predominately with multimode fiber. The design features a spring loading twist and lock bayonet coupling that keeps the fiber and ferrule from rotating during multiple connectors. The cylindrical ferrule may be made of plastic, ceramic, or stainless stell. ST connectors offer very good features, cost and performance. This connector is still popular in miltary and commercial application where vibration and shock levels are high. The bayonet coupling is uniquely suited to this environment.

FC: (Also available as FC/PC and FC/APC.) The FC connector features as flat end face on the ferrule that provides “face contact” between joing connectors. The FC represents a very good second generation connector design with very good features and performance but relatively high cost. It offers excellent single-mode and multimode performance and was one of the first connectors to address backreflection. FC ‘s are still widely used for analog systems or high bit-rate systems where backreflection management is important. FC/PC conenctors incorporate a “physical contact” curved polished fiber end face that greatly reduces backreflections. The angled polish connector (APC) version combines a curved end face with an 8 “angle to all but eliminate backflections, even from an unterminated connector.

SC: The SC (subscripiton channel) connector uses a locking mechanism that gives an audible click when pushed in or pulled out. This push-pull design prevents rotational misalignment and is intended to be pull proof, meaning the ferrule is decoupled from the cable and the connector body. A slight pull on the cable will not cause the ferrule to lose optical contact at the interconnection. A duplex version of the SC connector is gaining popularity in networks and other applications requiring full-duplex transmission. The connector is suitable for single-mode and multimode fibers. The SC APC connector offers excellent packing density as well as exceptional performance and cost. This connector is also popular in an APC configuraiton.

LC: The duplex LC connector was developed for permise wiring applicatons. It uses a body similar to the RJ-45 telephone style housing and a 1.25 mm diameter ferrule that is half the diameter of most other fiber optic connectors.

FDDI: FDDI stands for Fiber Distributed Data Interface, and it actually refers to a local area network standard such as Ethernet or Token Ring. The termination on the fiber optic cable itself is called an FDDI connector, or is also known as a MIC (Media Interface Connector) connector. It contains two ferrules in a large, bulky plastic housing that uses a squeeze-tab retention mechanism.

MTRJ: This is another popular SFF connector. Based on a specification by NTT, it was developed by AMP/Tyco and Corning, and stands for Mechanical Transfer-Registered Jack. The MTRJ connector closely resembles an RJ-style modular plug, even getting part of its name from the resemblance. MTRJ connectors are always duplex in that they hold two fibers. The body and ferrule are normally made from plastic or plastic composite, and lock into place with a tab (just like a modular RJ-style plug).

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