Catching Up With...: Cleerline Technology Group
Technology Integrator: Tell us about Cleerline Technology Group, and the sub-categories and businesses that fall under that umbrella. What does each division bring to the custom integrator community that is unique, in terms of products and services?
Rob D’Addario: Cleerline Technology Group was formed Jan. 2, 2012. This was a new company started as an affiliate of D’Addario & Co., Inc. The formation of Cleerline was specifically to address the desire to capitalize on the innovative technologies developed under Planet Waves Custom Installation, and Custom Install Supply independently, the core technology being Cleerline’s NSF, or non-strip-fiber. Cleerline’s mission is to develop solutions that make the installer/integrator’s job easier and more profitable. The business is structured and supports three product areas. Cleerline NSF is a revolutionary fiber technology that makes terminating fiber in the field a much simpler job. Planet Waves Custom Installation is a product line that simplifies the installation of coax cable and connectors. Also, PW includes HDMI solutions a well as other installer-/integrator-centric innovative products around HDMI. Distributed Parts is a one-stop shop for all of the parts and pieces of an installation that, generally, our customers overlook, or spend too much time trying to source.
TI: A recent focus of Cleerline’s has been to promote and explain the advantages and benefits of the new NSF fiber optics line. What is the technology, and why it is unique?
D’Addario: Cleerline NSF was developed with the simple principle of making fiber optic termination something an installation technician no longer fears. Fiber is the future of all connectivity in the home and office; it will be the medium that the 21st Century is built on. Understanding the installation process for typical fiber optics and the reviewing the termination process, we felt there was a ton of room for improvement, and simplification.
The simple premise we focused on was similar to our PW Coax solution, where we matched the outer diameter of the cable with the diameter of the connector. In superimposing this same principle on fiber, we stumbled upon many other benefits for our customers and pretty much anyone involved with fiber optic installation. Basically, instead of a core + cladding with a 900um buffer, our fiber is core + cladding + integral polymer coating to 125um (the connector standard diameter) + a 250um soft peel buffer (for identification, and color coding).
First, the preparation time for terminating a mechanical splice connector is cut in half. By this advancement alone, we are able to reduce the labor time involved in terminating fiber by 80 percent, taking a job that, with a skilled technician that routinely terminates fiber in about five minutes on average, to an average time of less than one minute.
In addition, the training to become proficient at fiber termination is dramatically reduced. Standard fiber optic training courses typically take eight to 16 hours of class time, and practice in the field. With NSF, we can have someone watch a 10 minute video, have them experience the process, and by the tenth time they have terminated a connector, they are up to speed and completing the process routinely in less than one minute. Any technician working with NSF can be proficient at terminating fiber in well under an hour.
For those experienced in fiber, the benefits go even further. First, the fiber is never exposed, or, better put, the glass is never exposed. This changes things for the long-term stability of the connection. Previously the weakest link in a fiber system is caused by exposing glass to the elements. Dust, oils, humidity, dirt, etc., will all erode the glass; it is a significant problem, and one we have overcome with this fiber design. Since we are never stripping the fiber down to the actual glass, the fiber is more stable in the long term, and connection is more stable.
Next, our glass has a smaller cladding outer diameter, which improves its bend performance. This allows the glass to be much more impervious to sharp bends around corners, but in addition, it makes it nearly impossible for the fiber to penetrate the skin. In fact, we have yet to see this happen. After three years in development and countless efforts in testing and now close to two years of actual field installation, the fiber has never pierced the skin of any of our testers or customers. This is an incredible step forward in the process of fiber optic installation. Fiber has been known to be dangerous and difficult to handle, much like fiberglass installation, but with significantly longer-term health risks and complications, all stemming from glass penetrating the skin.
Another significant advantage is based upon our current soft peel buffer design that is purposely made to be removed by the installer’s fingers. The outer diameter of our soft peel is 250um, which is significantly smaller than the standard fiber buffer 900um equivalents. This allows more strands of fiber in smaller packages. Every millimeter of space you can save in construction is crucial, especially in conduits and space-limited installations.
The durability of our fiber is literally 10,000 times stronger and more mechanically durable, compared to the competition. We have the data to prove this, and it is truly remarkable. This allowed us to design a fiber cable that looks, feels, and acts like cat5 or RG6, but is exponentially stronger and more resilient than both of them. In addition, it weighs less and has infinitely more bandwidth potential.