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    3m Heat-Shrink & Cold-Shrink Sleeves

    Heat shrink tubing, also called electrical shrink tubing or heat shrink sleeves when used with cables, is a type of plastic tubing that shrinks when heated at high temperatures. Hence the name "heat shrink." It is commonly used to serve electricians, engineers, and similar pros for electrical insulation, protection from dust, checmicals and moisture, easy identification and bundling of wires, cables, and other components. The tubing is typically made from materials like polyolefin, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or fluoropolymers. It is also available in various sizes and colours to accommodate different applications; some even feature adhesive liners for added security. The tubing's diameter reduces when heated, and it conforms tightly to the shape of the object it is covering. As mentioned, this provides an effective barrier against moisture, dust, chemicals, and physical damage.

    What Are The Benefits of Heat Shrink Tubing?

    Heat shrink tubing offers a range of benefits that make it an essential component in various applications, particularly in electrical and electronic industries. Consider the following benefits:

    • Electrical Insulation: Heat shrink tubing provides an excellent protective barrier around wires and cables. This prevents short circuits and electrical hazards by insulating exposed conductive parts, which is crucial in preventing electrical failures and enhancing safety in electrical installations.
    • Strain Relief: The tubing tightly conforms to the shape of cables and wires when heated and shrunk, which helps relieve stress on the connection points. This prevents the wires from bending at sharp angles or breaking at the connectors, thereby extending the life of your electrical components.
    • Environmental Protection: Made from materials like polyolefin, PVC, and fluoropolymers, heat shrink tubing is designed to resist adverse environmental conditions. It effectively protects wires from moisture, chemicals, abrasion, and UV radiation, making it ideal for use both indoors and outdoors.
    • Organisation and Bundling: Heat shrink tubing is perfect for tidying up cable assemblies and wire harnesses. It allows for the neat grouping of cables, which simplifies maintenance and repairs, improves air circulation, and reduces the risk of overheating in bundled cables.
    • Identification and Colour Coding: Available in a variety of colours, heat shrink tubing helps in the visual identification and colour coding of different wires or cables. This simplifies troubleshooting and repairs, particularly in complex systems, by making it easy to distinguish between different circuits and functions. For example, using red for power lines, blue for data cables, or green for earth connections can help technicians and engineers quickly identify the right cables during installation and maintenance.
    • Versatility in Sizes: Heat shrink tubing comes in a range of sizes and can even be found in large heat shrink tubing formats, suitable for big cables or bundling multiple wires together. The availability of different sizes ensures that there is a heat shrink option for almost any diameter of cable, providing a snug fit and reliable protection. This adaptability makes it invaluable in both simple household wiring tasks and complex industrial applications.

    What Are The Materials and Types of Heat Shrink Tubing?

    • Polyolefin (PO): Polyolefin tubing is the most widely used and versatile type of heat shrink tubing. This popularity stems from its excellent balance of electrical, chemical, and physical properties, making it suitable for a broad range of applications. Polyolefin heat shrink is highly effective in insulating wires, offering environmental protection and strain relief. It is also known for its high shrink ratio, which allows it to fit snugly over irregular shapes and large connectors.
    • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): PVC heat shrink tubing is known for its flexibility, durability, and flame-retardant properties, making it ideal for protecting cables and wires in environments where there is a potential for fire. PVC tubing is also resistant to oils, fuels, and chemicals, providing a reliable insulation solution for automotive wiring and cables exposed to harsh substances.
    • Fluoropolymer (e.g., Teflon): Fluoropolymer heat shrink tubing offers exceptional resistance to high temperatures, chemicals, and solvents. This makes it a preferred choice in industrial applications, including aerospace, automotive, and chemical processing, where high-performance and durability under extreme conditions are required.
    • Neoprene Heat Shrink Tubing: Neoprene heat shrink tubing provides good resistance to oils, fuels, and chemicals, similar to PVC but adds enhanced flexibility and durability. This type of tubing is often used in environments where tubing might be subject to physical stress, such as mechanical abrasion or bending, making it suitable for protecting hydraulic hoses or bundling cables that are frequently handled or moved.
    • Dual-Wall Heat Shrink Tubing: Dual-wall tubing consists of an inner layer of adhesive and an outer layer of heat-shrinkable material. When heated, the tubing shrinks, and the inner adhesive layer melts and creates a moisture-resistant seal. This type is especially valuable in outdoor or automotive applications where exposure to moisture is a concern, as it ensures a durable, moisture-resistant seal.
    • Specialty Heat Shrink Tubing: There are various speciality heat shrink tubing options available for specific applications. These may include versions with ultra-high temperature capabilities, increased flexibility, or additional mechanical strength. Specialty tubings are often used in applications such as fiber-optic cable protection, environmental research equipment, or medical devices, where standard tubing does not provide adequate protection or performance.

    Industrial Applications of Heat Shrink Tubing

    Heat shrink tubing is a critical component in various industrial settings due to its versatility and protective qualities. Here’s an overview of how it's used across different sectors:

    1. Automotive Industry

    In the automotive sector, heat shrink tubing is used extensively to protect wiring and electrical systems that are exposed to high temperatures and abrasive chemicals. It provides insulation and seals connections against moisture and dirt, which is crucial in under-hood applications. This tubing also helps in organising wires, thereby simplifying maintenance and repairs, and enhancing the overall reliability and safety of automotive electrical systems.

    2. Aerospace and Aviation

    The aerospace industry requires components that can withstand extreme conditions, including dramatic temperature fluctuations and exposure to harsh chemicals. Heat shrink tubing, especially those made from fluoropolymers, is used for its superior resistance to high temperatures and chemical degradation. It is used to insulate wires and cables within aircraft, helping to protect these critical components from damage during operation.

    3. Electronics Manufacturing

    Heat shrink tubing is indispensable in electronics manufacturing, where it is used to protect and insulate printed circuit boards (PCBs). It can provide physical protection for sensitive components and improve electrical insulation in compact spaces. Furthermore, the availability of clear heat shrink tubing allows for visual inspection of covered parts, which is particularly valuable in quality control processes.

    4. Marine Applications

    In marine environments, where moisture exposure is a constant challenge, dual wall heat shrink tubing, which combines an outer layer of polyolefin and an inner layer of adhesive, is used to create watertight seals on cable and wire joints. This prevents saltwater corrosion and electrical failures, ensuring the longevity and reliability of marine electrical systems.

    5. Energy Sector

    Heat shrink tubing is also crucial in energy applications, particularly in renewable energy systems like wind turbines and solar panels. It helps protect connections and provide insulation in environments that are prone to weather extremes. For high-voltage connections, such as those found in power distribution and transmission equipment, large heat shrink tubing and high temperature heat shrink tubing offer additional protection and durability.

    6. Telecommunications

    In telecommunications, maintaining the integrity of signal transmission is vital. Heat shrink tubing helps organise fibre optic cables and protects them from physical damage, which could disrupt communications. It also aids in the identification of different cables through colour-coding, reducing errors during maintenance.

    7. Medical Equipment

    Heat shrink tubing is used in medical devices for its biocompatibility and ability to provide a sterile barrier. Specialty tubing that can withstand sterilisation processes without degrading is particularly valuable for protecting sensitive instrumentation and devices used in medical procedures.

    By integrating heat shrink tubing in these applications, industries can enhance the durability and performance of their equipment, ensure compliance with safety standards, and reduce maintenance costs and downtime. This adaptability underscores the tubing’s critical role in modern industrial applications, where protection and reliability are paramount.

    More Information

    Read our Heat Shrink Tubing Complete Guide to learn more about heat shrink tubing, including how to use it, the most commonly used materials, and the standards and certificates for heat shrink tubing.

    **For accessories that are used with Heat Shrink Tubing please check the following categories: ****Heat Shrink Connectors ** Heat Guns

    How to Order Heat Shrink Tubing from RS?

    RS, a trusted supplier and distributor, offers a vast selection of heat shrink tubing, ranging from double wall heat shrink tubing to clear heat shrink tubing,from top brands such as RS PRO, HellermannTyton, TE Connectivity, and Alpha Wire. From cable ties to electrical conduits, buy these products that cater to a variety of applications, from electrical insulation to wire bundling, serving industries like automotive, aerospace, and telecommunications.

    Customers can access RS’s comprehensive and user-friendly online platform to browse and select products. The platform is designed to facilitate easy navigation and detailed product exploration to help you find the right solutions for your project needs. For those who prefer traditional methods or require a more personalised service, RS also accepts orders via telephone, email, or fax.

    Delivery Information for Australia

    RS offers a range of reliable delivery options across Australia, ensuring your orders arrive on time and in excellent condition.

    Place your order before 5 pm AEST on weekdays for next-day delivery on locally stocked items. This service targets delivery between 8 am and 5 pm the following day. For orders placed after 5 pm on Friday, expect delivery by Tuesday. Please note, some regional areas may have extended lead times.

    For more information, refer to our delivery information page.

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