Having been a die-hard Shrinky Dink fan growing up in the ’80s, there’s one particular variety of cable management product that I never seem to get tired of: heat shrink tubing. What’s not to love? It’s easy (and dare I say fun?) to use, comes in lots of bright colors, and, like my old pals the Shrinky Dinks, transforms before your eyes with the simple application of heat. Come to think of it, said heat application doesn’t seem to release the same burning plastic fumes that my little hand-colored charms did while they baked, so maybe heat shrink tubing is even better than the Dinks (but I digress). And the concepts of “heat” and “shrink” just make sense together; if you don’t believe me, try accidentally throwing a “hand wash cold only, line dry” item of clothing into a warm wash cycle and then the dryer. Ouch.
So you can imagine my confusion when I began hearing talk of a little product called “cold shrink tubing.” What? How is that possible? And now I finally know, and can in fact introduce you to some extremely handy cold shrink tubing.
The reason why cold shrink can be shrunken into place cold is because it’s made of stretchy, highly-conforming rubber, unlike traditional heat shrink tubing, which is made of cross-linked plastic that requires relatively high temperatures to go into shape-shifting mode. Heat shrink is basically pre-expanded, irradiated plastic tubing that “remembers” its smaller original diameter when heat is applied. In the case of cold shrink, a length of rubber tubing is stretched over a hollow, larger-diameter plastic inner core, which is slid over a cable or splice until it’s right where you need it, at which point the inner core is removed, and the cold shrink tubing basically snaps back down to its original smaller diameter, creating a snug, weatherproof seal over the wire connection point.
I don’t know about you, but now that I know the complete story behind cold shrink, I’m a little embarrassed that the mere thought of it used to puzzle me. That said, here are a few fast facts and benefits, lest you’re wondering about actual practical applications. First off, it’s only suitable for low voltage applications (like A/V, voice & data, and coax), is UV-resistant (so it’s great outdoors), and obviously, eliminates the risk of burns and overall charring (to components and people alike) due to misuse, or overuse, of heat guns and torches. And since there are no heat tools in the picture, it’s great for using in the field, and tends to free up quite a bit of real estate in your tool kit, which is never a bad thing.
Filed under: Cable Ties, Clips and Grommets, Heat Shrink Tubing
Happy Friday! It’s time again for our Weekly Video Rewind. I know that a lot of you are probably itching to bust out of the office and head to the movies to catch The Dictator or Battleship, but before you do that, here are a couple of our more recent video demos that show you how to do useful stuff with cool products. So stop fidgeting through your Friday afternoon and check these out, okay? You never know – you may learn something that could make your life (and job) easier come Monday. Roll ‘em!
PRT Wraparound Heat Shrink Tubing: Tiffani, our New Product Expert Extraordinaire, is back in this video, this time to show us a very interesting concept in heat shrink: wraparound tubing. If you’ve never used standard heat shrink tubing before, the whole idea is that you slide the tube-shaped sleeve over the end of a cable, and basically slip the tubing along the length of the cable until it reaches the exact location where it’s needed. This means weaseling heat shrink over the initial obstacle of a plug or connector, and that can be tricky and sometimes completely impractical, especially if there’s such a large size discrepancy between cable and connector that by time you find something that will fit over the plug, it’s too big (even when shrunk) to fully conform to the cable. Sigh. Enter Zippertubing and their PRT wraparound shrink tubing, which is slit all the way along its length so it can be wrapped around cables from the side. Add peel-and stick adhesive edging to the already genius design, and you have a product that turns out a very respectable finished product with nowhere near the hassle of regular heat shrink.
HellermannTyton EVO 7 Cable Tie Gun: When you watch this video, you’ll see that Tiffani’s back again, this time demonstrating a tool that’s a lifesaver for cables and fingers alike: the EVO 7 Cable Tie Gun from HellermannTyton. If you’ve ever installed more than 10 or 20 cable ties in one sitting, you probably know that they have a habit of leaving the fingers a little raw – and then there’s that pesky universal cable tie probelm of overtightening, which can impede signals and damage insulation by essentially strangling your cables. Tiffani shows how to use a cable tie gun to quicky and correctly tension and trim cable ties, all while keeping your hands comfortable.
Heat shrink tubing: it’s such a simple and inexpensive product, but there aren’t many other materials out there that are as useful or versatile. Sure, most people use it for insulating cables or protecting wire splices, but there are a million other ways to put heat shrink to work. We hear from customers all the time who have invented uses for heat shrink that would put even MacGyver to shame. There’s the guy who repaired his glasses, a young lady who reassembled a broken curling iron, and a fitness enthusiast who needed to improve the grip on his home pull-up bar. It’s true that necessity is the mother of invention, but it seems that that whole “invention” thing is a lot easier when one has some heat shrink laying around.
While the most die-hard heat shrink users (network technicians, electricians, custom car hobbyists and case modders) tend to keep multiple feet or even spools worth of the stuff around, buying heat shrink in quantity may not make sense to others who just want to use it for odd repairs around the house. In cases like these, a heat shrink tubing kit is the way to go. These kits include a variety of heat shrink in different sizes and colors, which has been pre-cut into usable lengths so you just have to choose a piece that suits your project, and shrink away. You’ll find that heat shrink is perfect for protecting soldered joints or spliced wires, for holding mlutiple cables together, and even for providing some much-needed strain relief to older cords that have a tendency to hang heavily from their connectors when plugged in. But like I said before, those are just a few standard uses – we think you’ll cook up some far more inventive ways to use heat shrink when the need for a quick fix arises.
To read more about our customers’ and employees’ heat shrink improv, check out “The Handyman’s Guide to Improvisation: 7 New Ways to Use Heat Shrink Tubing” in the CableOrganizer.com Learning Center.
Whether you’re a hobbyist who’s into case modding or automotive customization, or you just want to lend some extra strength and insulation to cables and hoses, heat shrink tubing is an easy and affordable way to get the job done. If you’re not familiar with heat shrink, it’s a flexible plastic tubing that fits over wires, cables, splices, hoses — anything generally cylindrical in shape — and shrinks snugly to the object it’s covering when heat is applied. This happens because the plastic used in heat shrink tubing is “crosslinked” (exposed to radiation) so that it’s physical properties change and it shrinks propotionately when exposed to heat.
As I mentioned briefly at the beginning of the post, heat shrink tubing is a great way to add extra support and insulation to cables, wire splices and hoses without adding extra bulk. Even though it only forms a thin skin over things, that “skin” greatly increases resistance to chemicals and fluids, provides strain relief for cable connectors, and just plain looks good. That’s right — many people use heat shrink for no reason other than the fact that it gives cables a custom, cosmetically-enhanced look. Heat shrink is also terrific for color-coding cables that need to be easily identifiable.
Our heat shrink tubing comes in a 2:1 shrink ratio, which means that its original, unshrunk state is twice the diameter of the smallest shrunken diameter it can achieve. Shrink ratio and diameter measurements are very important to keep in mind when you order heat shrink, so know the diameter of the object you want to cover, as well as how snugly you need the heat shrink to fit. For example, if you need 2:1 heat shrink to fit tightly around a cord with a ⅛” diameter, you wouldn’t want to use tubing that has a diameter more than ¼”.