What Is Heat Shrink Tubing and How Does It Work?

If you’re tired of replacing or repairing wires due to environmental damage, you may want to use heat shrink tubing. Whether solid copper or copper-clad aluminum, it can protect nearly all types of wires from environmental damage. What is heat shrink tubing exactly, and how does it work?

What Is Heat Shrink Tubing?

Also known simply as heat shrink, heat shrink tubing consists of a hollow plastic tube that shrinks when exposed to heat. It’s used to insulate and protect wires from environmental damage. Heat shrink tubing looks like a sleeve. You can slide wires through it, and after exposing it to heat, the tubing will shrink while simultaneously compressing against the wires.

Benefits of Heat Shrink Tubing

By compressing against wires, heat shrink tubing acts as insulation. It will contain the electrical current within the wires. If the jacket encompassing a wire is torn, it may lose some of its electrical current. Heat shrink tubing can seal torn jackets so that the electrical current stays within the damaged wires.

Heat shrink tubing will also protect the wires from heat and moisture. When installed outdoors, wires may be exposed to heat and moisture. Over time, wires may sustain damage due to this exposure. Heat shrink tubing will create a protective barrier over wires so that they are less likely to sustain heat- or moisture-related damage.

You can find heat shrink tubing in different materials. While nearly all heat shrink tubing is made of plastic, there are many different types of plastic used in its construction.

Some of the most common materials in which heat shrink tubing is made include:

  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)
  • Neoprene
  • Polyolefin
  • Polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF)
  • Viton
  • and more…

How Heat Shrink Tubing Works

Heat shrink tubing is easy to use. You just need to cut a piece of tubing in the appropriate size and slide it over the wire. If the wire has a missing or damaged section of jacket, for instance, you can slide the tubing over this section of the wire.

After positioning the heat shrink tubing over the wire, you’ll need to shrink it. Heat shrink tubing, of course, shrinks when exposed to heat. You can refer to the shrink ratio to determine how much it will shrink. A shrink ratio of 2:1 means that the tubing will shrink to half of its size. A shrink ratio of 3:1 means the tubing will shrink to one-third of its size. Using a heat gun, apply heat to the tubing so that it shrinks and compresses the wire.

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