Fiber optic splice closures play a crucial role in protecting optical fiber splices and maintaining signal quality in fiber optic networks. Selecting the appropriate splice closure is essential for enabling reliable network connections and performance. This article will provide in-depth guidance on the key factors to consider when choosing a fiber optic splice closure to meet the needs of your specific application and environment.
Types of Fiber Optic Splice Closures
There are several major types of fiber optic splice closures available, and each is designed for different applications and network settings:
Dome/D-Shaped Closures – These round, dome-shaped enclosures provide a large, unobstructed interior space for organizing splices and fiber. The curved shape allows cables to enter and exit at any angle without bend radius issues. Dome closures are ideal for underground applications and locations with space constraints. They offer maximum splice capacity but limited space for slack fiber storage.
Rectangular/Box-Shaped Closures – The rectangular design of these closures provides ample room for splice trays, slack basket storage, and cable routing. They allow for easy access from multiple sides. Box-shaped closures are commonly used for aerial, direct-buried, and handhole applications. The large space facilitates splicing operations and re-entry.
Inline Closures – Inline or butt-end closures mount directly on cable ends and provide splice protection for limited fibers. They offer a streamlined form factor popular for aerial and handhole deployments with minimal space. Inline closures have restricted capacity and access.
Terminal Closures – As the name implies, these closures are used to terminate fiber optic cables and house fiber breakouts. Terminal closures facilitate transitions from distribution to drop cables and offer sizable splice and storage space. They are utilized in aerial terminals and fiber distribution hubs.
Aerial Closures – Designed for installation on aerial cables and strands, aerial closures provide stability against vibration and wind loading. Many feature an aerodynamic shape and lightweight composite housing. Aerial closures require excellent sealing and weather resistance.
Underground Closures – Used for direct burial and underground vault applications, these closures offer rugged housings that protect against soil loads, water infiltration, and chemical exposure. They utilize compression sealing systems and heavy-duty components.
Each closure type has advantages and disadvantages depending on the deployment scenario. Network architects should consider application, space requirements, access needs, and environmental factors when selecting an appropriate closure.
A fiber optic closure’s sealing system is one of the most important components, as it prevents the ingress of moisture, dirt, debris, and other contaminants. Moisture in particular can be detrimental to fiber splices and optics, potentially causing signal loss and network outages. There are several key aspects to evaluate regarding a closure’s sealing performance:
Gasket Materials – Most closures utilize rubber, silicone, or thermoplastic gaskets to seal the main housing, cable ports, and splice trays. The material should be durable, resilient, and maintain sealing properties across a wide temperature range. Some synthetic rubbers offer increased chemical resistance.
Door Sealing Mechanisms – Doors and hatches seal against the housing opening using compression of the gasket material. Compression may be achieved via clamps, bolted flanges, quick-release latches, or other mechanisms. Proper door closure force must be applied for the gasket to function optimally.
Ingress Protection Rating – IP ratings (such as IP68) provide standardized specifications for the level of sealing performance provided. Ratings indicate the degree of protection against solid particle ingress and liquid moisture penetration. High IP ratings are required for underwater and direct-buried closures.
Pressure Testing – Most manufacturers factory pressure test closures using vacuum, compressed air, or water methods. Pressure testing after installation is also critical to validate the sealing integrity. Some closures include dedicated test ports for field verification.
Valves – One-way pressure release valves allow any accumulated moisture or air to escape without letting external contaminants in. Closures intended for flooded environments incorporate valves to balance internal and external pressures.
Maintaining Seal Integrity – Proper closure selection, gasket material, and installation practices are vital to achieving long-lasting protection. Periodic inspections should confirm doors, ports, and valves remain sealed over years of environmental exposure and thermal cycling.
Interior Space and Layout
Fiber optic splice closures must provide adequate interior space to accommodate the types of cables, fiber count, and associated splices required. Space is also needed for routing, securing, and protecting the internal fibers and cables. Key considerations for enclosure space and layout include:
Cable Ports – Ports allow cable entry and exit while maintaining proper bending radius. Most closures offer multiple ports in different sizes to accommodate various cable diameters. Port positions and angles should match site cable routing needs.
Slack Storage – Sufficient space for slack fiber storage allows technicians to access splices while keeping bend radius above the minimum. Slack baskets, raceways, and retention loops help prevent tight bends.
Splice Trays – Modular splice trays organize and protect splices, with each tray housing up to 24 fusible or mechanical splices. Larger closures can accommodate many trays to match fiber count.
Securing – Internal cable and buffer tubes must be secured and routed in a protected manner. Strain relief, routing guides, and tie-downs keep fibers organized and prevent snagging.
Future Growth – It is wise to select closures with the spare capacity for additional splice trays and ports. Provisioning for future expansion or augmentation avoids the need to replace the entire closure later.
Careful space planning as early as the network design phase helps specify a closure matched to the true capacity needs, reducing complexity during installation. Technicians also recommend choosing closures one size larger than calculated requirements to allow headroom.
Accessibility and Craft-Friendliness
Fiber optic splicing and maintenance involves very meticulous procedures. It is imperative closures provide adequate accessibility and craft-friendliness features that make installations, initial turn-ups, and ongoing operations as efficient as possible:
Initial Installation – Closures should be simple for technicians to install in the field, with ports positioned for natural cable routing and splice trays that are easy to populate. Mounting provisions must provide stability.
Accessing Trays – Interior access should facilitate quick splice tray extraction and insertion during turn-ups and reconfigurations. Common arrangements include hinged covers, removable tray carriers, or sliding drawer designs.
Trayidentifiers – Clear visible labeling assists technicians in identifying the correct splice tray to access, avoiding mis-splicing errors. Numbers, letters, colors, or translucent map windows help.
Work Space – Sufficient work space adjacent to trays aids performing splices, repairs, and additions. Bend radius must be maintained when extracting slack fibers. Rotating or removable organizers help create work space.
Mounting Flexibility – Multiple mounting and cable entry orientations are preferable to accommodate different sites. Wall, pedestal, aerial strand, and pole mounting provisions enable optimized field installation.
With thoughtful craft-friendly designs, technicians can achieve quality, reliable splices in a reasonable timeframe. User-centered closure features enhance field efficiency.
Materials and Durability
Splice closures installed outdoors and in demanding environments must withstand years of punishing weather, temperature swings, ultraviolet exposure, wildlife damage, and more. The materials composition and durability rating of the closure housing play a major role in long-term performance and preventing outages.
Housing Material – Common housing materials include high-density polyethylene (HDPE), fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP), stainless steel, and engineered thermoplastics which offer excellent corrosion resistance. Metal and composites each provide distinct advantages.
Weather Resistance – All exterior closures require weatherproofing against rain, snow, ice, and humidity through IP-rated seals, cable drip collars, and protection of pathways into the closure body.
Chemical Resistance – For installation in certain soils or industrial environments, verify the closure provides chemical resistance against solvents, fuels, or corrosive compounds it may contact.
UV Resistance – Plastics and sealants must be UV-stabilized to avoid solar damage. Exposure testing is performed to validate durability. Metallic closures avoid potential UV degradation concerns.
Impact Strength – Closures installed in public rights-of-way require sufficient impact strength or external armor to withstand incidental hits. Testing verifies housings and ports withstand applied loads.
Fatigue Resistance – Temperature swings, vibrations, loading cycles, and other factors can fatigue materials over decades of service. Closures must retain structural life and sealing performance after extended fatigue testing.
Corrosion Protection – Metallic closures incorporate coatings, specialized alloys, or cathodic protection systems to prevent corrosion in harsh environments. Periodic inspection monitors for corrosion over time.
Careful material selection and design is imperative so that closures maintain integrity and effectively protect splices over the planned service lifetime.
Installation Best Practices
Proper installation of fiber optic splice closures according to manufacturer specifications helps ensure the closures meet sealing, durability, and performance expectations. Recommended best practices for closure installation include:
- Selecting the appropriate closure type for the deployment environment and conditions.
- Choosing suitable mounting locations that provide stability, easy access, and protection from environmental hazards or tampering.
- Following manufacturer torque requirements when mounting the closure to avoid under-tightening or over-compression.
- Applying weatherproof cable sealing tape, heat shrink collars, or other drip collars at cable entry locations.
- Securing cables to internal routing guides and strain relief brackets to prevent movement or tight bends.
- Adhering to bend radius limits when coiling slack fiber inside the closure, using retention clips.
- Following manufacturer procedures to properly inspect and pressure test seals after installation.
- Affixing durable and highly visible external labels for identification.
- Ensuring grounding/bonding connections are made per applicable codes.
- Installing new closures adjacent to existing sites in a consistent and orderly manner.
By adhering to installation best practices and manufacturer guidance, technicians can deploy fiber optic splice closures in a manner that maximizes lifespan, reliability, craft-accessibility, and network performance.
Fiber optic splice closures are a critical network element – they protect the physical fiber splices and connections essential for maintaining signal integrity and reliability. It is important for network engineers to understand key selection criteria such as sealing performance, space requirements, accessibility, materials, and installation methods when specifying splice closures. With careful attention to these design factors and by choosing closures suited for the deployment conditions, operators can be confident in achieving a robust, long-lasting fiber optic splicing solution. Utilizing quality closures matched to the application enables fiber networks to deliver many years of optimal performance and availability.