What is heat shrink tubing?
Heat shrink tubing is expanded, extruded plastic tubing that is designed to shrink when heated. This tubing can be used to provide sealing, termination, identification, insulation, and strain relief for cables. Though commonly made from polyolefin, special applications may call for tubing made from neoprene, PVDF, PTFE, FEP, or Viton®.
Choosing the Proper Heat Shrink for Your Application
Heat shrink has many uses in electrical, electronic, telecommunications, cable management, and virtually all other industries, so there are many varieties to meet these needs. For labeling lightly used unexposed applications, cheap heat shrink makes a great economical solution. For various automotive and aerospace/military wiring, selections range from general purpose to high temperature. In moist, dusty, or direct burial uses that require a tight seal, adhesive-lined tubing is available in all ratios and many sizes.
Choosing the proper ratio is just as important as choosing the correct material. Shrink ratio refers how many times smaller the cable will be after shrinking. For example, 3:1 will shrink to 1/3 of its original size, and so on. For most termination or cable labeling applications 2:1 is the standard. The larger your connector [or other obstruction] is in relation to your cable, the higher the ratio you will need. This will allow the tubing to be installed over the connector while preventing loose ends on the cable.
Applying Heat Shrink
The most common method for shrinking tube is the heat gun. Heat guns range from moderate heat, fixed temperature versions for general use to variable temperature models with digital readouts. The higher the degree of adjustability, the wider the range of temperature, the more types of tubing that particular gun will accurately shrink.
Another common tool is the heat shrink oven. Though more costly than the heat shrink gun, the oven has many advantages and is often a more feasible option for larger operations in the long run. Firstly, the tube is placed entirely into the oven, creating the most even and accurate shrink possible. Since the oven remains in a fixed position and is triggered by foot, it also has a significant ergonomic advantage over the gun. Heat shrink ovens also use need much less energy to run than guns, so they pay for themselves over time in manufacturing and other high volume operations.
Despite our massive selection of tubing, we realize that material alone won't get the job done. We also have the cabling, heat shrink guns, termination tools, connectors you need to take your project from start to finish.