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Heat shrink tubing is a mechanically expanded extruded
plastic tube that shrinks to between one fifth and one sixth
its original size when heat is applied. The most common
materials for heat shrink tubing are nylon and polyolefin.
Manufacturers produce heat shrink tubing in a wide array
of varieties. The exact chemical composition is
determined by the intended purpose. Heat shrink tubing
can be microscopically thin or thick, heavy and rigid.
Manufacturers grade the quality of heat shrink tubing by
the expansion ratio, which compares the expansion rate
to the recovery rate of the tubing. Heat shrink tubing is
used to insulate the wires of electrical systems. Heat
wire, conductors, connections, joints and terminals. If the
insulation surrounding wires has been damaged, heat
shrink tubing can be applied to protect the exposed wires.
Raw heat shrink tubing, meaning tubing to which has not
been applied, is first fitted to the wiring. After the tubing is
snugly in place, an over or heat gun is used to raise the
temperature of the shrink tubing. It is possible to apply
heat to apply heat to the tube with a soldering iron or even
the heat from an ordinary lighter; however, when using
these methods there is less control of the heat, which can
lead to an uneven finish, and can even damage the shrink
tube. Manufacturers of heat shrink tubing typically caution
against using a lighter or soldering iron to apply heat to
the tubes because it can damage the tubing or lead to its
malfunction. When the heat is applied to the heat shrink
tubing, the diameter of the material will reduce by 15% 50%, depending on the type of material used.
The Raychem Corporation, which was
located in Menlo Park, California from
1957 until it was acquired by Tyco
International in 1999. In 2007, Tyco
International split, Covidien and Tyco
Electronics. Tyco Electronics still sells
shrink tubing under the Raychem brand.
Manufacturers of heat shrink tubing out of
thermoplastic materials. Common thermoplastic
materials include polyolefin, fluoropolymer, Polyvinyl
chloride, neoprene, silicone elastomer and Viton.
The material used determines how the heat shrink
tubing will react when heat is applied. If the
manufacturer wants the heat material that was
shrunk to become denser when heat is applied,
material containing monomers, or molecules that
bind chemically to other molecules for a polymer.
When the monomers chemically bond, they take up
less space. As the volume of the material decreases,
its density increases.
Materials used to manufacture heat shrink
tubing vary by their operating temperature
range. Fluoropolymer operates from -55 to 175
°C. Viton operates from -55 to 220 °C.
Elastomeric tubes use a range of -75 to
150°C. Polyolefin has a range of of -55 to 135
An additional function of heat shrink tubing is
the color coding of wires. In the 2000s,
computer manufacturers began heat shrinking
the interior wiring of computers in order to
create a tidy appearance.