Heat shrink tubing is commonly used as an insulator to offer protection for connections, joints, and terminals in electrical products. The tubing is used for routing and bundling wires, protecting small parts, sealing cable entry areas, and protecting exposed wiring from wear and tear or abrasion.
More recently, heat shrink tubing has been used for non-engineering purposes, for example to seal aglets on shoelaces.
Clear heat shrink tubing is often used in cases where the components that need to be protected have markings or labels on them. Before purchasing this kind of tubing, you should carefully consider how it will be used, to ensure that you choose a brand that fits the purpose.
Some brands of clear heat shrink tubing are flame retardant, while others are not. All brands should be flexible, and have good insulation properties, however.
The preferred method for shrinking tubing is to use a hot air gun. Hobbyists who cannot afford one of these often use makeshift methods such as a soldering iron or a lighter. In these cases, the user must take care to ensure that the heat source does not come into direct contact with the tube. Some modern brands of heat shrink tubing have been designed so that it is easy to shrink the product with a mild heat source – for example hot air from a standard home hairdryer.
Once the tubing has been shrunk, it is durable, flexible, and hardwearing. The tubing will stay at it’s new size, and is not likely to tear or crack under standard day-to-day use.
Heat shrink tubing can be purchased from most specialist electronics catalogues and online stores, including Maplin. The tubes are available in a wide range of sizes, from 1mm to 5mm in diameter, and in lengths ranging from 1 metre to 5 metres. In some cases, buyers who purchase multiple lengths will be given their desired amount of tubing as one continuous length. This policy varies from retailer to retailer, so if you need a very long continuous strip of heat shrink tubing, you should contact the retailer to confirm that your tubing will be provided in that form.
Clear heat shrink tubing is produced by several different companies. The first heat shrink tubes were made by Raychem Corporation, but today there are many other brands, including ones produced by Tyco, 3M, and Sumitomo Electric Industries. Well known brand names include FiniTube, GTI, and Demon Shrink.