If you thought that Teflon® was just for non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics, think again. We’re used to using the slippery stuff around the house pretty much every day, but did you know that it can actually be spun into filaments and braided into a protective sleeving for cables and wire assemblies? I know – it blew my mind, too.
Teflon braided sleeving isn’t the stuff you’d use to snazz up A/V cables or organize computer wires – it is, in short, what the proverbial Big Dogs use to create a protective, friction-reducing shield around wiring in military vehicles, aircraft, and other high-intensity environments. Temps up to 550°F? Teflon’s the heat shield for the job. Abrasion? Don’t make me laugh (try scraping up something that repels pretty much everything). And chemicals, solvents and fuels? Teflon® sleeving was tested in the presence of 16 of the toughest common industrial substances, and it barely batted an eyelash.
With something so rugged, you’d think that it might be a handful to work with, but thanks to Teflon’s notoriously slick characteristics, it slides gently though your hands as you maneuver it along cable assembles, unlike some other more run-of-the-mill braids that can have a slight sandpaper effect after a while. It’s the classic “tough-guy-turns-out-to-be-a-softy” scenario – and if you ask me, that’s one situation you would want any mission-critical cable to be in.
Around the office, we’ve been talking about different types of cable management products for film sets. Thinking about all of the possibilities reminded me of a very cool product that I’ve been acquainted with for quite some time, but (for some reason that I can’t figure out) haven’t yet blogged about. So this afternoon, I’m introducing you to non-skid braided sleeving.
Remember the Banana Peel gag that used to be the standby in old movies? You know, a character goes strolling along the sidewalk, whistling happily, hands in pockets, and then his heel suddenly comes down on a slippery old banana peel, and he’s flat on his back before he knows what hit him. A classic. Well, it turns out that the Banana Peel Effect didn’t end with Charlie Chaplin or the Three Stooges – it’s still happening on film sets and sound stages, but instead of an actual banana peel, cables are now the culprit.
Film sets and broadcast studios are overrun with cables, many of which wind their way right across the floor in high-traffic areas. There are power cords, boom-mic cables, camera and monitor wiring – you get the idea. It’s not uncommon for wiring to be gathered together into bundles (or “cable snakes”) and covered in braided sleeving. Braided sleeving is, as a rule, a great product, but much of it is plastic-based, and that means it can easily slide around on smooth flooring. Enter a preoccupied sound engineer, camera person, or on-a-mission assistant, and someone’s bound to step in the wrong place and take the spill of their life.
That’s why slip-resistant braided sleeving is such a lifesaver for film crews. It protects critical cables from under-foot damage, but also gives the people on set much less reason to slip and fall. Non-skid braided sleeving works so well because while half of its filaments are standard PET (plastic), the rest are made of a high-friction polymer that actually grabs onto floor surfaces when stepped on, instead of skidding under the weight and momentum of the person trampling it. To make a long story very short, step on it, and it doesn’t move – and neither do you, for that matter (at least not in any unplanned way).
It’s sounds like a product worth getting to know better, right? If I were you, I’d definitely take it to the movies.
Braided sleeving is a great product for customizing, organizing and protecting cables and hoses, but if there are large connectors involved or you need cable breakouts along the way, it can have its limitations. Sure, there are side-slit, wrap-style braided sleevings that you can use, but these either use their molded-in, heat-treated contours to stay “closed,” or otherwise rely on hook-and-loop edging, which tends to add bulk and can only be sealed edge-to-edge, regardless of whether or not a snug fit has been achieved.
All that said, side-entry braided sleeving has recently become a lot more, well, usable, thanks to the invention of Grip Wrap. Grip Wrap braided sleeving may look like other wraparound sleevings out there, but has one ingenious little difference: do you remember that hook-and-loop edging we just talked about? It’s built into the edge of Grip Wrap, too, but this time, it’s only the hook part. That all-hook edging is actually able to bond right to the outer surface of the sleeving, at absolutely any point. No more being a slave to hook and loop strips that have to match up with each other in order to work – now, you just wrap your sleeving until it’s as tight as you want, and then press the hook edge against the rest of the covered cable bundle. That’s it.
Not only do you get a bulk-free custom fit, you can also break cables out anywhere along the way, or just make things tighter or looser as needed. I don’t know about you, but if I can get a bunch of things done with a single product instead of multiple versions of it, I’m going to take the single product. And this would be it.
There was a time when you had two choices, braided sleeving-wise: you could have metal, which had tough-guy good looks and shielded against EMI, but was less than ideal in the flexibility department (way too stiff). Or there was plastic, which was flexible and abrasion-resistant, but couldn’t do a thing to block interference. Both types are great in their own respects, but if you needed the characteristics of both, it was more or less a “pick your poison” scenario.
Enter HellermannTyton and their braided sleeving brainchild, otherwise known as Helagaine. It makes me wonder if the stuff was named by someone from NoCal, because with this stuff, you get hella gains over what you might with a less brilliant product. Okay, that was pretty bad, but what did you think of when you read that name? Thought so.
Anyway, here’s the deal: Helagaine braided sleeving combines the best attributes of both metal and plastic-based braids into one sweet sleeving that has the flexibility and almost glove-like fit of a plastic expandable braid, but the sleekly badass appearance and EMI-repellant powers of a stainless steel or copper sleeving. It’s great for radio equipment, heavy machinery and military vehicles whose cables need a little extra something in the way of protection, but can’t settle for a sloppy fit. Or, you could just use it to snazz up some hoses or wiring for your boat or custom car.
Filed under: Braided Sleeving, Heat Shrink Tubing
I know you’re not tuning into this blog for a weather report, but it’s 52°F in South Florida. Considering that it’s late December, that’s nothing to shake a stick at for most other people in the United States, but to all of us who have devolved into wusses from living in a warm climate, it’s cold. After seeing one of our coworkers wrapped up in a stylish shawl to ward off the chill, my office mates and I began wishing we had something similar. Somehow that led to Snuggie™ jokes. Talk about a quirky hybrid – 50% blanket, 50% robe, 100% “what the heck?”
Anyway – I am going somewhere with this, I promise. All of this stream of conciousness stuff that led me to think about unusual product hybrids ultimately brought to mind Shrinkflex Fabric Heat Shrink Tubing. Shrinkflex is a new type of cable protection product that recently came our way, and while it’s tempting to call it just “braided sleeving” or “heat shrink tubing,” you can’t, because it’s both! Sounds strangely cool, doesn’t it? It is.
Shrinkflex 2:1 (the “2:1″ describes its shrink ratio, and means that the product is able to shrink down to half of its original diameter) is actually woven just like braided sleeving, but incorporated into the blend of yarns is polyolfin, which is a cross-linked polymer that shrinks when exposed to heat. When you combine these features, you end up with a product that has the good looks and flexibility of braided sleeving, but the “like a glove” fit that you can only get from heat shrink tubing.
So why would one want to use Shrinkflex? It provides great protection for cables, wires and hoses found in harsh environments that dish out high heat, vibration, and abrasive conditions. It stands up to liquids and chemicals like oil, antifreeze, gasoline, Diesel, brake and hydraulic fluids, battery acid and water, and can be used at a continuous maximum temperarture of 257°F.
It’s Day 3 of our pre-Chirstmas countdown, and when I was getting into blog mode this morning, I went into momentary panic, thinking that I had already run out of of Christmassy items to talk about (like I mentioned in a previous post, I already covered most of those products months ago). But I was saved – by braided sleeving, no less. Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “What kind of loon would think that braided sleeving has anything to do with the holidays?” Well, I’ll tell you – or rather, show you. Just take a gander at the photo to the right, and you’ll understand my reasoning.
Do you see that stuff? It’s like a beautiful candy cane wrap for your cables. I know that there are a lot of cables out there that need protection no matter what season it is, but there’s no question that this stuff was made for the most wonderful time of the year. I’m not about to suggest this as a great gift idea, but if you’re the kind of person who loves to spruce things up outdoors with lights and other electrical decorations, this could be right up your alley.
Outdoor lights and motorized Santas can’t get by without extension cords, which have to withstand the wear and tear of weather, rough outdoor surfaces, and ever-threatening pedestrian traffic. All of these stresses can cause the extension cords’ outer insulation to wear down and eventually crack – something that you really don’t want to happen. An overlay of festive red, green and gold braided sleeving is just the ticket to prevent abrasion and prolong the life of your extension cords, and will add a really nice visual touch to your outdoor Christmas display as well.
We’ve been talking an awful lot about practical products lately, so I think that today we’ll take a little detour into a product I like just for it’s shininess and other decorative qualities. Far shinier and much lighter weight than stainless steel and aluminum braided sleevings, Mylar® braided sleeving gives custom cables a metallic sparkle, but for a lot less money than heavy duty metal braid. These particular attributes are due to the fact that Mylar is actually a polyester film that’s been metalized (it’s the same stuff that’s used to make helium balloons), so you can imagine how light it is when it’s made into filaments and braided.
Like I mentioned before, Mylar® sleeving is primarily used for decoration – don’t mistake it as an even exchange for ultra-protective stainless steel sleeving, because it’s really not going to make your cables any tougher. But it’s the perfect alternative when you want to dress up A/V cables that will never leave your home or be subjected to harsh elements. It’s great when used as an underlay or overlay with colored PET sleeving – you can create some really cool visual effects. And with Mylar® sleeving, you also have the benefit of choice, because unlike a lot of other metal-look braided sleevings, it’s not limited to silver – you can actually get it in gold, too.
Because of its cost-effectiveness, great looks and flexibility, Mylar® braid is also a perfect material for hobbies and crafts. As a matter of fact, it’s very popular with anglers who make their own flies and lures – it gives lures a life-like glint that mimics naturally iridescent fish scales, and helps to attract the attention of potential catches.
When you need to protect wiring and hoses from high temps and potential fire, leave the job to overlays like this Flame Retardant PET Wrap. PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) is a material that’s pretty commonly used in braided sleeving, and with good reason: it’s strong, and has excellent resistance to cuts and abrasion. But in this case, it’s taken a step further with the addition of an organic flame inhibitor, which helps to ward off fire even when temperatures soar and nearby components ignite.
Unlike many other braided sleevings that are tubular and must be worked gradually over cables and components, this sleeving is wrap-style, which means that it’s slit along its length for super fast and easy installation. This is a really great feature when the wiring or hoses you need to protect are already in place and can’t be removed or disassembled for sleeving installation – just pull open the sleeving and slip it around from the side. Once it’s on, Flame Retardant PET wrap stays securely in place thanks to the hook-and-loop (“Velcro”) edging along the slit – just overlap the sides, press, and everything will stay in place.
Flame retardant PET sleeving is terrific for use in hot engine bays, as well on theater and nightclub lighting wires, which, due to their close proximity to high temperatures, are often put at risk for fire. Should they ever ignite, the flame retardant wrap can help inhibit the spread of flame to other nearby components.
Today’s featured product, Stainless Steel Braided Sleeving, is very popular with the custom car and motorcycle crowd. When slipped over hoses and wiring in your engine bay, this shiny, non-corrosive sleeving not only protects components from high temps and abrasion, but also helps to hold hoses together in the event of a rupture. And you can’t forget about its great looks — this is the DIY solution for a high-end looking custom vehicle. As a matter of fact, it will save you a bundle compared to the purchase price of custom-overbraided hoses, and no one will be able to tell the difference.
As I mentioned before, the sleeving is non-corrosive, meaning that it won’t rust or discolor. It’s also easy to cut with shears, which means you don’t have to worry about having a hot knife or any other special cutter on hand, as you would with most other braided sleevings.
In addition to the automotive uses, stainless steel sleeving is an excellent for protecting cables outdoors, where gnawing animals can wreak havoc on them. Just like chewing on a piece of foil (only harder), stainless steel braid repels rodents with the unpleasant sensation it creates against their teeth. It works so well, in fact, that several government agencies actually use this sleeving to protect critical communications cabling in the wilderness.
Ever heard the expression “like a hot knife through butter?” We keep a bench mount hot knife out in our warehouse for cutting by-the-foot products, and every time I see it in action, that saying is all I can think of. With a blade that heats up to 1200 degrees (Fahrenheit), this zips through rope and braided sleeving in no time.
The high heat not only makes for super-fast cutting (this hot knife can slice through a 1-inch-thick nylon rope in less than 10 seconds), but also seals cut ends to prevent fraying. This really comes in handy for anyone who regularly works with braided sleevings or synthetic lines that would fray if their ends weren’t melted together. We hear from customers who use our hot knife for everything from marine rigging and rock-climbing lines to equestrian rope halters and automotive customization.
But let’s not ignore the first two words in this product’s name: bench mount. The fact that this hot knife can be affixed to a table or workbench not only increases the convenience factor, but makes it much, much safer. When you’re working with a 1200-degree blade, you need all the stability you can get. Since the knife bolts down onto a surface, you don’t need to worry about it being knocked over or pushed off your work surface.