A heat shrink tube is a type of extruded plastic tubing which reduces in size when heated to a predetermined shrink ratio to fit a specific application. It should be selected in a size larger than required to cover both the cable wire and components it is to be used with, before being shrunk to fit. Once the heat shrink connectors are installed, the sleeving will provide lasting durability. For help selecting the right size of heat shrink tube, please refer to our heat shrink guide.
Heat activated shrinking tubes come in various materials, colours, sizes, and shrink rations, to suit different applications. Some are available with an adhesive lining that helps to bond the tubing with the cables and components.
Polyolefin is most commonly used due to its highly durable nature and can withstand high temperatures without a restricted shelf life. They are also manufactured from PVC, fluoropolymer, neoprene, and elastomeric materials. This material is often cross-linked to assist with the shrinking of the tube back to its original dimensions.
The predetermined shrink ratio - for example, 2:1 or 3:1 - is the measurement of how small the sleeve goes in comparison to its expanded size. A higher number in the shrink ratio means that the tape shrinkage will be greater. This allows for a precise and secure fit which will not come off easily.
From clear to coloured heat shrink tubing, you will find a wide range of different designs and functionalities at RS to suit your deployment, making your cable management more effective.
Heat shrink tubing is versatile and easy to use, and can therefore be applied in an assortment of electrical wire applications. The most common uses for a shrink tube or wrap are:
Electrical insulation: To cover joints and conduct repairs.
Strain relief: To relieve pressure from the cable.
Wire bundling: Used in harness building and cable organisation.
Environmental and mechanical protection: Aids in preventing damage from abrasion, moisture, dust, and chemicals.
Identification: The wide range of heat shrink tube colours offer visual identification of cables and can be used for colour coding and component ID. For example, cables near a sink can be in red to warn users of possible water damage.
Heat shrink tape is a versatile and useful material that is used in a variety of applications, including insulation and protection of wires and cables, bundling & securing items, sealing & repairing, and labelling. It is available different sizes, colours, and materials to suit different needs and applications.
When selecting the right size for your shrink tubing, you should consider the maximum and minimum diameter of what you are covering. Use this information to check against the recovered diameter (the diameter after shrinking) and expanded diameter (the pre-shrinkage diameter) of the sleeve.
You can cut most of the shrinking tube to a suitable length using standard scissors. The unshrunk tubing can be slid over the area or objects it is to cover. Then, with a handheld gun or heat shrink oven, the sleeve is shrunk tightly. To prevent uneven shrinkage or overheating, check the recommended heating temperature beforehand.