Signal Fire AI-8/AI-8C/AI-9 - how to begin fusion splicing?

From August 2019, the offer includes splicers with the following markings: AI-8C L5870 and AI-9 L5875. All information presented below regarding: configuration, calibration, splicing and heating remain valid also for new models.
  • AI-8C L5870 - a direct successor of the AI-8 model with a redesigned power system, increased battery life and the "intelligent lock" function
  • AI-9 L5875 - additionally equipped with optical power meter and visual fault locator; minimum splicing time 5 seconds
Fusion Splicer: Signal Fire AI-8 (with toolbox and tools)
Fusion Splicer: Signal Fire AI-9 (with toolbox and tools)
Signal Fire AI-8C L5870
Signal Fire AI-9 L5875
Signal Fire is a dynamically developing company specializing in the manufacture of fiber optic splicers. Headquartered in Chengdu, it employs nearly 200 professionals. The devices are built with top-of-the-line components from renown manufacturers (including European ones), and based on technological solutions protected by numerous patents. The characteristic feature of splicing machines from Signal Fire is the use of smartphones for their configuration, archiving of operation data and for diagnostics. Products of this company have gained recognition in the markets of the whole world. The high quality of the offered devices is confirmed by the warranty policy providing a replacement after 50,000 splices.
Signal Fire AI-8, AI-8C, AI-9
Signal Fire AI-8, AI-8C, AI-9 employs core alignment technology (there is option of cladding alignment) that ensures minimum attenuation of the splices. Fiber ends are positioned by 6 stepper motors from Siemens, which is an absolute exception in this price category. The splicers can be used both for deployment of hundred-kilometer-long fiber optic trunks and in FTTH systems requiring short point-to-point connections, in LAN installations and fiber-based video surveillance systems. All models are controlled by a quad-core processor providing fast response times (the splicer is ready to work after 3 seconds) and ensuring short splicing and sleeve heating operations. The splicer are one of the fastest devices of its kind currently available on the market and the fastest in its price class.
Key features:
  • 6 motors for fiber positioning,
  • core alignment or cladding alignment options,
  • AUTO mode option,
  • x300 magnification factor,
  • quad-core processor providing fast response times,
  • splicing time from 6 seconds (AI-9 - 5 seconds),
  • quick sleeve heating period (15 s for 40 mm sleeve),
  • configuration with dedicated smartphone app (Android/iOS),
  • the app can create operation reports (export to xls),
  • large (5.1'') display with adjustable brightness,
  • metal casing underneath covered with rubber layer,
  • built-in LED lamp (AI-8 only),
  • high-capacity exchangeable battery (7800 mAh, ca. 200 splicing and heating operations, for AI-8C and AI-9 240 cycles),
  • battery charging time: ca 3.5 h,
  • USB port for charging a smartphone,
  • universal fiber holders,
  • high quality practical toolbox,
  • large set of accessories.
More on Signal Fire AI-8C fusion splicer can be found in the product description.

More on Signal Fire AI-9 fusion splicer can be found in the product description.
How to begin splicing? - preliminary steps and configuration
The prerequisite is to download the dedicated application for an Android device from Google Play store, or for an iOS device from AppStore. In most cases the device is a smartphone, so it will further be referred to as the phone.
The preliminary steps include running the downloaded app, switching on the splicer and selecting "Connect device" option. The connection uses Bluetooth technology. After selecting the splicer from the list of devices visible on the phone, the activation of the connection will be confirmed with an appropriate message in the main application window.
One of the advantages of the solution consisting in the configuration of the splicer using the app running on a mobile device is the ability to quickly and easily verify the availability of newer software versions. The user does not have to remember to check for a new software on the website of the manufacturer or distributor. It is enough to select the "Software update" option in the main window of the app.
In the case of a firmware update, it will be automatically downloaded to the phone and uploaded to the splicer. This process may take several minutes. It is recommended to periodically check the availability of the new software.
After entering the "Splice settings'' menu, select the type of the fibers to be welded ("Mode": SM - single-mode, MM - multimode, Auto - single-mode and multimode), "Endface quality" requirement (we recommend the "Standard" option), and "Align mode" (aligning to the core or cladding).
The other settings apply to the arc parameters. Their correct values are the consequence of the calibration described later in this article. Generally, it is not recommended to manually change any value of the parameters.
The "Function configuration" menu provides control of functions available before of after the splicing operation. By switching off some of them, the whole procedure can be shortened, but we do not recommend to change the default settings. The detailed description of each function can be found in the user manual.
By default, the shrinkage time for the heating reinforcement sleeve is set to 15 seconds. This period should be sufficient for most 40 mm sleeves. In the case of 60 mm sleeves we recommend to increase the time to 20 s. In each case, the time should depend on the obtained results (sleeves from various manufacturers may require a little bit different settings).
The calibration of a fiber optic fusion splicer consists in adjusting the power and temperature of the electric arc to the prevailing environmental conditions. Properly adjusted arc parameters guarantee high quality of the splices, - both in terms of optical attenuation and mechanical strength. Therefore, the calibration should always be performed before splicing operations - at the beginning of work or in the case of changing the environment (e.g. from indoor to outdoor part of a system, especially when the difference in temperature between the locations is high).
Signal Fire fusion splicers use popular calibration method - the fibers located in the splicing chamber are subjected to a number of electric arcs. The fibers are melted and the software of the splicer measures and analyzes the distance at which the fiber faces move backward. On the basis of the measurements, the splicer determines the appropriate parameters of the electric arc.
The calibration of Signal Fire AI-8 is done by selecting "ARC calibration" option in the management application. When the fibers are inserted into the splicing chamber and the cover is closed (as in the case of normal splicing), the calibration process starts automatically. The whole procedure may take several minutes and sometimes should be repeated. When finished, the splicer switches to normal mode, i.e. is prepared for regular splicing operations. This fact is indicated by an icon on the display.
Calibration of Signal Fire AI-8 L5870
Fibers should be prepared before splicing, starting with the removal of the acrylic protective coating (jacket) over a length of about 3-4 cm. Next, the fiber should be cleaned using a dust-free wipe and IPA alcohol. The cleaned fiber then goes into the cleaver:
When placing the fiber in the cleaver, make sure that the jacket lies between 10 and 15 mm of the scale. Depending on the fiber diameter (250 μm or 900 μm), use the appropriate v-groove in the cleaver. On the left side, you can see the fiber of a cable, on the right side, the fiber of a pigtail.
When placing the fiber in the splicing chamber, it is advisable to rest the front of the fiber on the v-groove (the photo above), then place there the rest of the fiber and close the cover. The end face of the fiber should be approximately halfway between the v-groove and the electrodes. It is not recommended to move the fiber when placing it in the v-groove, as this may result in the accumulation of dirt on the end face.
The process of splicing optical fibers
Heating protection sleeve
After finishing the splicing process, the splice should be protected with a heat-shrinkable sleeve. The heater is integrated in the splicer. The heating time has been preset in the application (15 s by default). Signal Fire A-8 starts heating automatically after closing the cover of the heater and the heat indication light is on (the photo below). After the end of the heating process the light goes off and a short sound signal is generated (the sound signalling can be turned off in the application). It should be remembered that before placing the new splice in a cassette, the protective sleeve should have enough time to cool down.
LEDs indicating the process of heating