How Do I Clean Fiber Optic Components on PCB Circuit Cards?

Using a fiber smaller than human hair, digital fiber optic networks have transformed our world. Today’s highly mobile world, with email anywhere, video on-demand and endless streaming video all is a direct result of powerful, reliable fiber optic networks. But amazingly, the signal carried by the fiber is astoundingly fragile. So cleaning connectors and end-faces is not merely important; it is critical to the speed and the long-term reliability of any network. If fiber end-faces and connectors are not cleaned properly, the network will not run at its best, guaranteed.

Almost every fiber network is connected at each end to printed circuit boards using fiber optic transceivers. These are tiny devices mounted on the PCB that takes the optical signal and converts it to an electrical pulse. Manufacturers know that the boards need to be clean to operate successfully, preventing signal noise, dendrite growth and corrosion. But the optical end of the fiber optic transceiver can’t be cleaned with a the same products used on the PCB itself; that will not nearly be clean enough.

Here are the tools needed for successful end-face cleaning:

  • Wipes: The  wipes need to be lint-free prevent leaving glue residue or lint on the fiber end faces.
  • Cleaning Sticks:  Avoid foam swabs since they tend to hold  the contamination and deposit them back onto the surfaces being cleaned. Opt for ultra-clean synthetic polymer tipped stick instead.
  • Fluids. Don’t use alcohol since it is difficult to keep clean and uncontaminated during day-to-day operations. For the very best results, technicians should be provided cleaning fluids that are ultra-pure, water-free, not refillable, and have a fast rate of evaporation. These characteristics will ensure that cleaning fluid will not leave excessive moisture or residues on the fiber.

One last thing: Never re-use any stick or wipe. Contamination can easily be transferred from one end-face to the next by reusing these tools.

Sticklers Cleaner