Engineers are constantly looking for innovative ways to protect wiring and other sensitive electrical components. Unprotected wiring can be exposed to heat, moisture, and external electrical charges, easily damaging a circuit. While there are various solutions to electrical wire protection, one of the most popular and reliable is heat shrink tubing. This blog will discuss how heat shrink tubing works and why it is favorable for electrical wiring insulation.
Heat shrink tubing was initially invented during the Cold War when a chemical engineer named Paul Cook looked to create commercial applications for radio-treated polymers. After discovering how to manufacture this specialized tubing, Cook created the Raychem Corporation which would be the leading heat shrink manufacturer for many years. Many of the unique features that heat shrink tubing displays come from its material and the manufacturing process. The material used must have certain qualities like flame retardance, cost efficiency, and abrasion resistance. Most importantly, it must have the capability to stretch radially while maintaining its longitudinal length. The two most common materials used to make heat shrink tubing are polyolefin and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). After choosing a material, manufacturers form a tube from raw material with the desired diameter and wall thickness. Then, it is put through a process called cross-linking in which the bonds of two adjacent pieces of material are chemically bonded using radiation. Once the plastic polymer tubes are bonded, they will be expanded in diameter by the use of air pressure to the final pre-shrink dimensions. The line will remain this width until heat is applied. Depending on the ratio of the original tubing to its shrunken final diameter, tubing can be classified as 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, etc.
The application process of heat shrink tubing is quick and intuitive. After choosing the correct size tubing, the person applying it will slide it over the part of the wire to be insulated or spliced. If splicing two wires together, it is crucial to allow equal overlap on either wire to ensure a secure connection. When it comes to shrinking, most manufacturers recommend using a heat gun or heat shrink oven. Here, an open flame is not recommended as it can potentially damage the cable assembly to be protected, and uncontrolled heat will lead to uneven shrinkage.
The benefits of using heat shrink tubing to protect or splice cable assemblies are several:
1.Heat shrink tubing will create a water-tight and heat-resistant seal, protecting underlying wires from moisture and temperature threats.
2. They allow for the organization of wires into easily handled bundles. This point is crucial for consumers running potentially hundreds of cables.
3. Most manufacturers now create heat shrink tubing in various colors, which allows for easy cable identification.
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