How to Use Heat Shrink Tape

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How to Use Heat Shrink Tape

Heat shrinkable tape is a fantastic tool that makes it easier than ever to protect something, like wires or a wire harness, with heat shrink tubing.

Heat shrink tape gets around the limitations of heat shrink tubing, which typically would need to have wires or a wire harness run through the tubing before the tubing is shrunk down. If you have wires, a hose, a wire harness, etc. that has already been installed, it would be difficult and in some cases impossible to get heat shrink tubing around or over it.  In these situations, heat shrink tape can easily wrap around what you are trying to protect, and then be shrunk down.

How to Use Heat Shrink Tape

Below we’ve listed step-by-step instructions on how to install our heat shrinkable tape, in addition to a video which also goes through the process in a little more than 2 minutes.

Watch Our Install Video

FIX-105 Heat Shrinkable Tape

Our FIX-105 Tape is a heat shrinkable tape that is available in different widths, lengths, and colors, in addition to having a heavy wall option.

Adhesive Lined Cross-Linked Heat Shrinkable Tape

1 –  Wear Gloves

Wear Gloves

When using any type of heat shrink tubing product you should always wear gloves to protect yourself from the heat coming off of either a heat gun, or in some cases, a blow-torch.

2 –  Cut the Heat Shrink Tape

Wear Gloves

Unroll the tape and cut to your desired length using an everyday pair of scissors.

3 –  Heat One End of the Tape Until it Curls

Use a heat gun to heat one end of the heat shrink tape until that end curls.  This makes it easy for the curled end to be applied to whatever you are wrapping the tape around.

If you prefer, you can also use a zip tie to hold the tape end in place.  You simply want to make sure that the tape will hold its position during the heat shrinking process.

Note: Gamma FIX-105 tape needs to be heated to a temperature of about 200° F in order to shrink, for this reason we do not recommend using a hair dryer, as hair or blow dryers, at their best, only tend to heat up to about 140° F.

4 –  Apply Curled End of Tape

Take the heated/curled end of the heat shrinkable tape and apply it to what you desire to wrap the tape  over.  The heated end should stick, making the next step easier.

5 –  Wrap the Tape with Each Wrap Overlapping Itself

Wrap the tape around the cables/wires, (or whatever it is you are wanting to protect), making sure to overlap the heat shrink tape over itself so that once it shrinks, it adheres to itself.

6 –  Place a Zip Tie Over the End of the Heat Shrink Tape

Wrap the tape around the cables/wires, (or whatever it is you are wanting to protect), making sure to overlap the heat shrink tape over itself so that once it shrinks, it adheres to itself.

7 –  Use a Heat Gun to Shrink the Heat Shrinkable Tape

Use a heat gun to shrink the heat shrinkable tape.  Make sure to move the heat around the heat shrink tape, heating it as evenly as possible.

8 –  Remove the Cable Tie

Once the heat shrink tape has shrunk down small enough or it is completely shrunk down and in place, move the zip tie off of the tape, and completely remove it by cutting it with a pair of scissors.  Make sure you still have gloves on given that the heat shrink tape will be hot if you happen to touch it, and the zip tie will likely be hot as well.

9 –  Installation is Complete

Wear Gloves

Let the tape cool and installation is complete.

Purchase Heat Shrinkable Tape

Our FIX-105 Tape is a heat shrinkable tape that is available in different widths, lengths, and colors, in addition to having a heavy wall option.

Gamma Electronics FIX-105 Tape

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How to Use Heat Shrink Tubing

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How to Use Heat Shrink Tubing

You may not be fully aware but heat shrink tubing is a part of your daily life.  Heat shrink tubing is used on products ranging from phone cords to motor homes to airplanes and beyond.  Heat shrink tubing isn’t very difficult to install but can be a little intimidating if you’ve never done it before.  Below are some instructions to get you started with using heat shrink tubing.

We also have a post, “What is Heat Shrink Tubing?” where we answer a number of frequently asked questions for those new to heat shrink tubing.

How to Use Heat Shrink

Watch our video on how to use and/or install heat shrink tubing, or check out the step-by-step instructions below.

Watch Our Video

Heat Shrink Tubing

Heat Shrink Tubing comes in a variety of sizes and shrink ratios.  There are heat shrink variations made for some of the most unique circumstances, like gas and diesel resistant heat shrink, UV resistant heat shrink, or even heat shrinkable tape.  You can learn more about our many heat shrink offerings by clicking here, or on the button below.

Adhesive Lined Cross-Linked Heat Shrinkable Tape

How to Install Heat Shrink Tubing

Step-by-Step Instructions

1 – Identify Where You Need to Install the Heat Shrink Tubing

The first thing to do is identify where you want to install your heat shrink tubing.  In this example we are going to install heat shrink over an iPhone charging cable that has seen better days.  The cable has lost a portion of its cable jacket making the wire(s) underneath vulnerable.  Exposed wires like these can result in cables/wires not working, and in some cases exposed electrical wires are very hazardous.  Heat shrink tubing is a great way to cover the cable and resolve these issues.

2 – Choose the Right Heat Shrink Tubing for Your Needs

If you’re new to heat shrink tubing, choosing the right tubing can be a bit tricky.  Heat shrink tubing comes in many different sizes, different shrink ratios, and there are many different types that offer unique characteristics.  The first thing to know is that heat shrink tubing sizes are listed in a before shrinking size.  So measure what it is you need the heat shrink to fit over and make sure you choose a size larger a little larger than that. To make sure our heat shrink tubing would fit over the iPhone cable and the connector at the end of the cable, we chose a 3/8 of an inch heat shrink tubing for this example.

The next thing to know, is the shrink ratio.  Shrink ratio measures the difference between the size of the tubing before and after it shrinks.  For example, we chose to use a 3 to 1, (usually written in ratio form as 3:1), heat shrink tubing on the iPhone cord, which means the tubing starts 3 times larger than what it shrinks down to.    We offer heat shrink tubing in 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:1 shrink ratios.

The last thing to be aware of when selecting your heat shrink tubing are any additional special qualities or characteristics that you might need.  For example, there are diesel and fluid resistant types of heat shrink out there, as well as heat shrink that is UV resistant.  For the iPhone cord we chose to use an adhesive lined heat shrink tubing that will make sure the heat shrink glues itself in place.

3 – Measure your Heat Shrink Tubing

Make sure to measure your heat shrink tubing so that it comfortably covers the exposed wire, or whatever vulnerability it is you want to cover.  It doesn’t have to be an exact science but you want the tubing to easily extend beyond whatever it is you want to protect.

You can mark where you would like to cut the heat shrink with a pencil to make things easier.

4 – Cut the Heat Shrink Tubing

Once you’ve measured the heat shrink tubing simply cut the tubing. The vast majority of heat shrink tubing can be cut with a normal, everyday pair of scissors.  

5 – Cover the Exposed Wire (Vulnerability) with the Heat Shrink Tubing

Once you’ve cut the heat shrink tubing, take the cut piece and place it on the cable in preparation to shrink it into place.

6 –  Turn on Heat Gun

We highly recommend using a heat gun for installing heat shrink as heat guns reach the necessary temperatures for installing heat shrink in the safest way possible.  However, heat shrink tubing can be installed using a lighter, blow torches, or in some cases even a hair dryer.

7 –  Place Cable with Heat Shrink Tubing Over the Heat

It’s time to start shrinking the heat shrink.  Take the cable with the heat shrink on it and put it over the heat gun, or whatever your heat source may be.  If there is enough heat the heat shrink should start shrinking almost immediately.

8 –  Rotate & Move the Heat Shrink Tubing (or Heat Source)

In this example the heat gun is stationary, so make sure that you keep moving the heat shrink tubing so that it shrinks evenly and completely.  You also want to make sure that you don’t keep the heat in one place on the heat shrink for too long, as it can burn through the heat shrink and potentially damage the cable underneath.

In many installation cases, the heat shrink might be stationary while the heat gun/heat source is what is moving.  Regardless of the methodology, make sure that the heat source does not stay in one place for too long and that the heat gets all around the tubing for an even and complete installation.

9 –  Installation is Complete

You will be able to see that the heat shrink has conformed to what is underneath it, in this case the cable and connection.  Make sure you don’t touch the heat shrink as it will still be hot. Let it cool and you are done.

C

Heat Shrink Tubing

Heat Shrink Tubing comes in a variety of sizes and shrink ratios.  There are heat shrink variations made for some of the most unique circumstances, like gas and diesel resistant heat shrink, UV resistant heat shrink, or even heat shrinkable tape.  You can learn more about our many heat shrink offerings by clicking here, or on the button below.

Adhesive Lined Cross-Linked Heat Shrinkable Tape

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Prevent Wildfires with Heat Shrink Alternatives

Gamma Electronics Blog

Prevent Wildfires with Heat Shrink Alternatives

Wildfires are a growing problem.  Want proof?  The National Interagency Fire Center has been keeping statistics on wildfires since 1983.  Since that time wildfires have increased by 223%.  In more recent history, wildfires increased between 2019 and 2021 by 17%.  Over 10 million acres were burned by wildfires in 2020 alone.1

As the leading provider of weatherproofing products for the telecommunications industry we are accustomed to talking about products that will be used on cell phone towers, on buildings and rooftops, etc.  What has surprised us however, (initially anyway), is that in recent months more companies have started looking at heat shrink alternatives.  The primary reason?  Wildfires.

Prevent Wildfires with Heat Shrink Alternatives

The more we looked into the issue, the more sense it made to get away from heat shrink in outdoor applications.  Nearly 85% of wildfires are started by humans according to the U.S. Forest Service Research Data Archive.2  The National Park Service states that most of these fires “result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.”3

So, how do humans do a better job of preventing these devastating wildfires?  Issues like unattended campfires, the burning of debris, and negligently discarded cigarettes are largely matters of education, (just ask Smokey Bear).  Arson must obviously be dealt with as a criminal issue.  Equipment use and malfunctions however, present glaring issues that can be handled better.  And unfortunately, equipment use and malfunctions have resulted in some of the largest wildfires in United States history.4

%

Increase in Wildfires since 1983 in the United States

%

Increase in Wildfires from 2019 to 2021 in US

%

Percentage of wildfires in the US caused by humans.

Unfortunately, California is a prime example of wildfires resulting from equipment use and malfunctions.  Just last year, the Dixie Fire burned nearly 1 million acres and over 1,300 structures, including the entire town of Greenville, CA.  Investigations now show that a tree that should have been removed, fell across a powerline operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), sparking the fire.  However, the powerline in question was part of a 10 mile stretch set to be buried5, a move which would have prevented the fire altogether.

The Dixie Fire adds to PG&E’s already poor record with wildfires over the last several years.  In 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for having started California’s massive Camp Fire in 2018  Former PG&E CEO and President, Bill Johnson made PG&E’s fault in the matter plain when he said, “Our equipment started that fire.”6.  Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who put together a report about the 2018 Camp Fire, stated that PG&E was guilty of “reckless behavior,” and that PG&E’s use of badly outdated technology was “evidence of absolute indifference.”7

Some critics will point out that California’s forest management also plays a role in these wildfires, which is a valid point.  California’s lack of forest management creates a massive amount of fuel for these fires, with experts estimating that California needs to improve its forest management efforts to “around ten times its current level.”8

Business Ramifications

How well a state deals with forest management issues however, is outside of a company’s control.  What should matter to companies are the liability issues.  PG&E has faced “tens of billions of dollars in potential fire liabilities,” leading them to file for bankruptcy in 2019.  PG&E has since restructured their debts, agreeing “to pay $25.5 billion in fire-related claims.”9  Just last month, PG&E agreed to another $55 million dollar settlement in relation to the Dixie and Kincaide Fires.10

Wildfires can be absolutely devastating, destroying property, livelihoods, and in some cases, even human lives. That should be reason enough for businesses to take as many preventative measures as possible.  From a purely financial perspective however, the cost of upgrading to better, wildfire preventative equipment and practices surely costs less than the millions and potentially billions of dollars lost to wildfire related claims.

Just ask PG&E.  Shortly after the Dixie Fire started, the company announced a plan to bury 10,000 miles of power lines so they won’t spark wildfires.  The plan had apparently been in the works but was expedited by several months after the start of the Dixie Fire.  As PG&E’s CEO, Patricia “Patti” Pope said to reporters on the day of the announcement, “It’s too expensive not to do it.  Lives are on the line.” 11

The Heat Shrink Problem

All this leads us back to heat shrink tubing.  An easy, wildfire preventative measure that many companies could start making right away is to stop using heat shrink tubing in outdoor applications.  More specifically, if the heat shrink is being installed outdoors than it should be replaced with an alternative product that does not require a blow torch or heat gun to install.  California is already urging companies to make this standard practice and it’s completely understandable as to why.

Heat shrink tubing is typically used in these outdoor applications as a protective measure.  To make sure that electrical connections keep out water and weather in general, heat shrink is installed over mated connections.  The heat shrink adds a protective layer to ensure the connection is not interfered with, keeps water out, stays mated, etc.

As a heat shrink tubing company, we don’t like to see heat shrink tubing being phased out, but from a safety perspective it makes too much sense.  This is especially true when you consider the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “10 Tips to Prevent Wildfires.” Number 8 on that list states to “Keep Sparks Away from Dry Vegetation,” and to “make sure you never operate equipment that produces sparks near dry vegetation.”12  Using a blow torch or heat gun is quite literally doing the opposite from what the Department of the Interior recommends.  Using a blow torch or heat gun in such scenarios could easily be considered reckless.

All of this may seem obvious, but unfortunately, heat shrink is still seeing regular use in compromising situations.  For example, there are cable boxes all over the United States in which heat shrink is being utilized.  These cable boxes are outdoors and can be found frequently, very frequently.  You have more than likely seen some of these boxes, (many of them are green), which house cables and connections that contractors need access to.  By the nature of their locations these boxes are often found around dry vegetation.  Heat shrink is being installed via blowtorches or heat guns inside these boxes regularly.

For those who might be wondering, yes, blowtorches are quite often used instead of heat guns.  The reason being, heat gun batteries are not known to last very long and having multiple batteries can add up, (in terms of cost).  It’s far more cost effective to have a blowtorch, as propane is far cheaper than batteries for a heat gun and the blowtorch is going to give you much more “bang for buck.”  What this really means is that blowtorches, or open flames, are regularly being used around dry vegetation.

In truth it’s a miracle more fires have not been started by means of heat shrink installation.  That’s a credit to the contractors using these tools.  However, if you were to speak to these contractors, (as we have), they too prefer getting away from the use of heat shrink tubing.  After all, the contractors understand it only takes one bad heat shrink installation to start a fire and they don’t want to bear the responsibility for a fire.

Why Does Heat Shrink Continue to be Used?

The simple answer is cost.  Heat shrink tubing alternatives admittedly cost more and there are a lot of connections out there which do need to be covered and protected.  It’s understandable that companies are trying to save money, but that savings quickly disappears as soon as a fire breaks out.  The larger the fire the more foolish that decision looks.

Looking at Heat Shrink Alternatives

As stated previously, Gamma Electronics is a heat shrink tubing company.  We started out as a heat shrink tubing company and we continue to be a leading heat shrink supplier for numerous industries.  

Cold Shrink Tubing

In outdoor applications like those described above however, we strongly encourage customers to look at an alternative like cold shrink tubing, which requires no heat to be installed. In fact, cold shrink does not require any tools for installation, and it can be installed in seconds.  Cold Shrink tubing is the most similar product to heat shrink tubing in terms of functionality, and has become the product that our customers have turned to when heat shrink isn’t an option.  Even better, we have already manufactured cold shrink solutions sized for the cables and connections in the aforementioned, green cable boxes seen above.

Slide Locks & RF Weatherproof Boots

Of course, there are other alternatives, including slide locks, (a type of clam shell enclosure), and silicone rubber boots.  These can be very specific however in terms of needing to match both a cable and a connector in order to provide a watertight seal.

Magic Tape (Self-Amalgamating Tape)

Another alternative is Magic Tape, (often referred to as self-amalgamating tape).  Magic Tape is a cut-to-size solution that could see implementation right away.  Magic tape adheres to itself and does not require heat or adhesive to create a watertight seal.

Conclusion

Companies, and more specifically utiltiy and cable companies, may very well continue to use heat shrink tubing outdoors, but it only takes one fire before it becomes obvious that doing so was a bad idea.  Many companies love the low cost of heat shrink, but when you consider the literal billions of dollars that can quickly accrue from fire-related claims, is it worth it?  Using heat shrink in outdoor scenarios is reckless.  Heat shrink alternatives might be more expensive, but they will only save you money and headaches in the end.

Citations

1 “Wildfires and Acres,” National Interagency Fire Center, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.nifc.gov/fire-information/statistics/wildfires.

2Karen C. Short, “Spatial wildfire occurrence data for the United States, 1992-2018” United States Department of Agriculture, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.fs.usda.gov/rds/archive/Catalog/RDS-2013-0009.5.

3 “Wildfire Causes and Evaluations,” National Park Service, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.nps.gov/articles/wildfire-causes-and-evaluation.htm

4 “Worst Wildfires in U.S. History,” Earth.org, accessed May 10, 2022, https://earth.org/worst-wildfires-in-us-history/

5 “Power line suspected in Dixie Fire was set to be buried underground in safety move,” LATimes.com, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-08-10/pge-power-line-dixie-fire-scheduled-to-be-buried-underground.

6 Phil Helsel, “PG&E pleads guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter in devastating Camp Fire,” NBC News, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/pg-e-pleads-guilty-84-counts-manslaughter-devastating-camp-fire-n1231256

7 Colby Bermel, “PG&E showed ‘absolute indifference’ ahead of Camp Fire, DA says,” Politico.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/06/16/pg-e-showed-absolute-indifference-ahead-of-camp-fire-da-says-1293295

8 Bill Chappell, “The Dixie Fire Is The 2nd Largest In California History And Is Only 21% Contained” NPR.org, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/09/1026078606/dixie-fire-california-only-21-percent-contained.

9 Carolyn Cole, “Meet the New PG&E, it Looks A Lot Like the Old PG&E” LATimes.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-06-17/pge-bankruptcy-new-pge-looks-like-old-pge.

10 Olga R. Rodriguez, “PG&E to pay $55 million for two massive California wildfires,” PBS.org, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/pge-to-pay-55-million-for-two-massive-california-wildfires

11“PG&E Will Bury 10,000 Miles of Power Lines So They Don’t Spark Wildfires,” NPR.org, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2021/07/21/1019058925/utility-bury-power-lines-wildfires-california

12“10 Tips to Prevent Wildfires” U.S. Department of the Interior, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.doi.gov/blog/10-tips-prevent-wildfires

Additional References

Colby Bermel, “Dixie Fire becomes largest single wildfire in California history,” Politico.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2021/08/06/dixie-fire-becomes-largest-single-wildfire-in-california-history-1389651.

Ivan Penn & Peter Eavis, “PG&E Pleads Guilty to 84 Counts of Manslaughter in Camp Fire Case,” NYTimes.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/business/energy-environment/pge-camp-fire-california-wildfires.html

Eric Ting, “Everything we know about PG&E’s link to California’s raging Dixie Fire,” SFGate.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/california-wildfires/article/Dixie-Fire-PG-E-power-lines-tree-what-started-burn-16377413.php

Molly Taft, “The Dixie Fire Is Now the Largest Single Wildfire in California History,” Gizmodo, accessed August 12, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/the-dixie-fire-is-now-the-largest-single-wildfire-in-ca-1847459144

“PG&E power line that possibly sparked massive Dixie Fire was set to be buried in safety move,” KTLA.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://ktla.com/news/california/pge-power-line-that-possibly-sparked-massive-dixie-fire-was-set-to-be-buried-in-safety-move/

Lena Borrelli, “U.S. Wildfire Statistics 2022, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/homeowners-insurance/wildfire-statistics/

“Top 20 Largest California Wildfires,” Fire.CA.gov, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/4jandlhh/top20_acres.pdf

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How to Weatherproof Coaxial Connectors

Gamma Electronics Blog

How to Weatherproof Coaxial Connectors

What Are Your Coaxial Connector Weatherproofing Options and What You Should Know About Each of Them

Coaxial, (or coax), connections are vital to modern day infrastructure.  Coaxial connections see heavy use in the world of telecommunications, (i.e. cell phone service), but they are also frequently used by internet service providers, radio and television broadcasting companies, and more.  With such frequent use, it’s important to ensure that coaxial connections are properly protected and maintained to ensure optimal performance.

How to Weatherproof Coax Connectors

More often than not coaxial connections are found outdoors, exposed to the elements.  This is why weatherproofing coaxial connections has become a priority for many companies in recent years, as better weatherproofing results in more reliable connectivity.

This leads to the question, how do you successfully weatherproof coax connectors?

Coaxial Connector Weatherproofing Options

There are numerous weatherproofing solutions for coaxial connectors, each of them being beneficial for different scenarios.    6 of the most popular RF weatherproofing options are:

Below we take a quick look at the pro’s and con’s of each of these types of coax connector weatherproofing.

Cold Shrink Tubing is a rubber sleeve that slides directly over the coax connector you are trying to protect.  The tubing has an inner plastic core that is holding it in place.  The inner plastic core is perforated so it can be pulled free.  As the plastic core is removed the cold shrink instantly shrinks down over the coax connector.

Cold shrink tubing can be installed in seconds and is quite possibly the best form of coax connector weatherproofing available, (depending on your needs and the circumstances).  It is a true “set it and forget it” form of weatherproofing that creates a watertight seal over connections and has incredible weather resistant capabilities, (including extreme temperatures).

Gamma Silicone Cold Shrink Tubing

There are a couple things to know about cold shrink tubing however that may not make it ideal weatherproofing for every situation.  First, cold shrink tubing is not a “one size fits all” solution.  You cannot buy one size of cold shrink tubing and expect it to simply work for all of your connections.  A larger size cold shrink tube may not shrink down small enough for a smaller connector.  This is why we created numerous cold shrink tubing sizes that we have tested and perfectly matched to different coax connector and cable combos, as seen below.

There are two other things you should know about cold shrink tubing before you buy.  First, cold shrink is not reusable.  Once installed, it is meant to stay on the cable.  It has no adhesive, so removal is fairly easy, but, again, it is meant to be a “set it and forget it” option.

Secondly, there are two types of cold shrink tubing, Silicone and EPDM, and you should know which one you need before you buy.  For the purpose of weatherproofing coax connectors you will almost always want silicone.  Silicone shrinks down smaller and tighter than EPDM and is also able to endure more extreme temperatures.  EPDM is better suited for use in environments where abrasion is more likely.  You can read more about EPDM vs Silicone cold shrink here.

SDL-1A-125 Cold Shrink before and after

Our silicone cold shrink tubing is our most popular form of coaxial connector weatherproofing.  Customers like AT&T use it because it means less return trips to towers and it typically only needs replacement when an antenna, radio, etc. needs replacement.  Our cold shrink tubing has become an industry standard as it has helped to massively reduce maintenance costs for companies using it for coax weatherproofing.

Slide Locks have an outer plastic shell and an inner silicone gel that wraps itself around the connection to create a watertight seal.  The outer shell has a sliding lock to hold it into place, and unlike cold shrink tubing, slide locks are reusable.   In other words, Slide Locks can be removed and reapplied.  Despite the option of being reusable, Slide Locks are still a great “set it and forget it” option, in the right circumstances. 

In order to truly be watertight, Slide Locks must be made to very specifically match coax connector and cable combinations.  For example, if the cable type going into the slide lock is too small, it may be impossible for the Slide Lock to create a watertight seal over the cable.  For this reason, Slide Locks are only available in 3 sizes, as can be seen in the photos below, (where each Slide Lock is shown both open and closed).

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Slide Lock

As you might expect, not all coaxial connectors will fit into Slide Locks.  For example, field-terminated connectors, (like JMA connectors), will not fit into Slide Locks, even if they match one of the three types of connectors we make Slide Locks for.  Field terminated connectors are simply too large to fit into a Slide Lock.  Slide Locks are made to fit very specific dimensions and if your connector or cable does not match than it often becomes a better idea to use a different RF weatherproofing option.

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Slide Lock

The last thing to note is that although Slide Locks are reusable, the longer they are left up the less reusable they become.  If you leave a Slide Lock up on a connection for several years, for example, the inner silicone gel will become more like a permanent mold around the connection.

We find that many of our customers who utilize Slide Locks use them as a permanent solution and love having the option to re-access connections easily, or possibly re-use the Slide Lock if circumstances permit it.

RF Weatherproof Boots are incredibly easy to install as they simply slide up and over the connection.  They slide back off of the connection just as easily, making them a great coax connector weatherproofing solution, especially when you are concerned about re-accessibility to the connection.

There are several types of boots on the market and we take pride in having a one-piece boot solution.  Some boots have a two piece, interlocking design but in our testing we have not noticed any noticeable improvements that merit the two piece design.  Our one piece boots are tested to meet IP68 standards, meaning that we place our boots over a coax connector and dunk it into a tank of water over 3 meters deep and for over 30 minutes.  Once removed, we carefully remove the boot and inspect the connection for any signs of water.  There must be no signs of water ingress in order for our boots to meet IP68 standards, which all of our boots do.

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Boot

Beyond the weatherproofing results however, we take pride in our one piece solution because of the ease of installation. Two-piece boots typically need to be custom cut at the time of installation.  Not only does this result in a much longer installation, but we have heard many stories of dropped parts and bad cuts happening on site.  Our boots avoid these problems entirely.

Weatherproof Boot for SMA Connectors on LMR195 Cables

Like all RF weatherproofing, there are things with the boots you should be aware of.  First, boots must be made to match both your connector and cable.  We offer 12 different types of boots to match different connector and cable combinations, all of which are IP68 rated.

Secondly, for best results boots should be placed on a cable before the cable is terminated, (aka connector is installed on the cable).  We sell cables with our boots already on the cable to help solve this problem.  We also sell the boots on their own for those who are terminating their own cables. RF Weatherproof Boots also have the added benefit of being one of the only types of weatherproofing for coax connectors that has a right-angle option.

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Boot

In some cases it might be possible to put a boot onto a cable that has already been terminated, (connector has already been installed).  However, we cannot guarantee that a boot will be able to be installed in these cases, nor can we guarantee the results of the boot.

Our customers love boots, but typically they order them already on cables or they are going to terminate the cables themselves.  We also offer another type of boot, called the Suppressor Boot, that not only weatherproofs coax connectors, but also reduces RF interference at those connections.  You can learn more about Suppressor Boots here.

Magic Tape is known by many names: self-amalgamating tape, self-fusing tape, cold shrink tape, etc.  Whatever the name may be, the key feature that makes this tape so appealing is that it does not have adhesive.  This is important when it comes to RF weatherproofing in general,  as adhesive tends to melt in the heat and becomes brittle and less effective in the cold.  Long story short, adhesive and outdoor weatherproofing is, more often than not, a bad idea.

This is what makes Magic Tape so appealing, (it’s also why all of Gamma Electronics’ RF Weatherproofing products do not utilize adhesive).  When you stretch Magic Tape and layer it on top of itself the two layers of tape interweave, or “self-amalgamate.”  It creates an incredible bond often described as “self-fusing,” and because it does not require heat or adhesive  it has also earned the nickname of “cold shrink tape.”

Gamma Magic Tape Roll

You can see Magic Tape in use in the video below.

Magic Tape is a fantastic solution but it should be noted that how successful it is as weatherproofing is highly dependent on the person installing it.  Cold Shrink Tubing, Slide Locks, and RF Weatherproof Boots are all a bit more foolproof when it comes to the installation process.  Magic Tape is easier to install than other solutions, (see Tape & Butyl below), but still requires some know-how.

We largely recommend Magic Tape for odd shaped connections that you might have trouble finding a solution like cold shrink, slide locks, or boots for.  Magic Tape is also great to keep around in case of repairs/maintenance.  You may not always have the exact size cold shrink or slide lock you need, but it’s pretty easy to keep magic tape on hand.

Gamma Electronics Magic Tape stretched out

Tape & Butyl is one of the most commonly used forms of weatherproofing because it is typically the cheapest.  As the saying goes however, you get what you pay for.

Tape & Butyl is in all actuality two types of weatherproofing being used together.  The tape is almost always electrical tape, which is typically applied as the first layer around the connection. After a layer of tape, butyl is applied.  Butyl is a thick, clay-like material that is meant to block any water from working its way into the connection.  The butyl is applied by hand and molded around the connection.  Afterwards, another layer of tape, (or more), is layered around the butyl to hold everything together.

While tape and butyl can work, (in certain conditions), it is very likely that it will need to be replaced within a year.  The reason for this is that the adhesive on the tape tends to break down, leading to the tape unraveling around the butyl.  In addition to the adhesive breakdown, butyl tends to melt and become runny in the heat.  Butyl is well known to melt its way into coaxial connectors, often causing VSWR issues.

Cold is also problematic for butyl, as butyl tends to become brittle and starts to crack in the cold.  These cracks eventually mean you have openings for water to work it’s way into the connection.

Lastly, tape and butyl is a long install process, and a terrible uninstall process.  Oftentimes cables are simply replaced after tape and butyl have been applied to them rather than even trying to cleanly remove the tape and butyl.

Over the years tape and butyl have slowly been seeing less use, but they certainly have not been phased out altogether.  We nearly always recommend avoiding tape and butyl as they have much longer installation times and require far more maintenance than other weatherproofing solutions.

 

Tape & Butyl Weatherproofing Cut Open
Tape in the Wind

Heat shrink tubing, like cold shrink tubing, is a rubber sleeve that can slide up and over a connector and be shrunk down with heat to create a protective layer over a coax connector

Can you use Heat Shrink Tubing for coaxial connectors?  While it is possible, we do not recommend it.  There are a few reasons as to why.

First, to create a watertight seal you would need to use a heat shrink tubing that has adhesive.  As discussed in the above sections, adhesive is not reliable outdoors, specifically when you need your weatherproofing to hold up against both the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

Secondly, most heat shrink tubing is made to work inside machinery like cars, tractors, and aircraft.  That means that the vast majority of heat shrink is not meant to see direct exposure to sunlight or have direct contact with rain and/or snow.  There is heat shrink tubing that is made to be UV resistant, (we offer one), but it is unlikely to create a watertight seal the likes of cold shrink, Slide Locks, Boots, etc..  This returns us back to our first point about heat shrink tubing, which is that it requires adhesive/glue to create a watertight seal: not ideal.

Closeup of heat shrink melting
Gamma Electronics Heat Shrink Available in Multiple Colors

Lastly, as the name suggests, heat shrink tubing requires heat to be installed, and typically very high temperatures at that.  Most heat shrink tubing will only start to shrink around 200° Fahrenheit, (with some tubing requiring much higher temperatures), which means a heat gun or blow torch is needed.  Heat guns and blow torches not only make the installation process more complicated and time consuming, but also more dangerous.

To make a long story short, as much as we love heat shrink tubing, (and we really do), we cannot recommend it as weatherproofing for coaxial connectors.

Conclusion

There are numerous ways to weatherproof a coax connector but ultimately the decision on what to use comes down to your needs.  We often find that customers will purchase different types of weatherproofing that all go on the same tower.  It is truly, highly dependent on your needs.

What is important to consider however, is that choosing the right coax weatherproofing can vastly reduce your maintenance and your installation times.  Choosing the wrong RF weatherproofing in the beginning will almost always come back to haunt you in the end.

Try 3 for $15

We’ve made it easy for you to try something new with your coax weatherproofing.  Try 3 of our coax weatherproofing products for only $15, including shipping.

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What is Heat Shrink Tubing?

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What is Heat Shrink Tubing?

You may not be fully aware but heat shrink tubing is a part of your daily life.  Heat shrink tubing is used on products ranging from phone cords to motor homes, to boats and airplanes.  So what exactly is heat shrink tubing and when and where would you use it?

What is Heat Shrink Tubing?

Heat shrink tubing, (often just called heat shrink), is a rubber sleeve that shrinks down in size when it comes into contact with heat, specifically temperatures around 90° Celsius, (around 200° Fahrenheit).  Once it shrinks down it stays shrunk down in an attempt to more permanently seal whatever it is covering.

Closeup of heat shrink melting

What is Heat Shrink Tubing Used For?

Heat shrink tubing, more often than not, is used to shrink down over a point of vulnerability and create a permanent to semi-permanent seal that protects that point of vulnerability.  The heat shrink, upon shrinking into place, is able to create a seal intended to shield the point of vulnerability from moisture, abrasion, dust, etc.  Because heat shrink tubing is able to shrink it becomes a great tool that is able to fit over things like cables, and then shrunk into place as needed.

It is very common to see heat shrink utilized with electronics for these reasons.  For example, phone charging cords often have a point of vulnerability between where the cord attaches to the connector at the end of the cord, (like a USB connection).  Heat shrink is what is typically used to help seal/protect that point of vulnerability between the cord and the connection.

This is why we say that heat shrink is a form of cable protection, as heat shrink is commonly used on wires, joints, splices etc., but it also is often used to protect connectors, terminals, and more.

What is Heat Shrink Made Of?

The most commonly used material for heat shrink tubing is polyolefin.  Polyolefin is a very durable material with a high temperature threshold, which for good use in applications that have high operating temperatures like manufacturing, mechanical, and industrial settings.  Industries that often use polyolefin include the military, aerospace, railway, and electronics.

PVC is another popular material used for heat shrink tubing, although it does not have as high of a temperature threshold as does polyolefin, and it sees more limited usage as a result.  It is however, highly abrasion resistant and a great option when higher operating temperatures are not a concern.

There are many other materials used for heat shrink tubing, many of which are specific to the needs of different industries.  For example, we manufacture heat shrink tubing from materials, (besides polyolefin and PVC), that include neoprene, viton, polyvinylidene fluoride, and more.

How Do I Choose the Right Heat Shrink Tubing?

If you’re new to heat shrink tubing, choosing the right tubing can be a bit tricky.  Heat shrink tubing comes in many different sizes, different shrink ratios, and there are many different types that offer unique characteristics.  The first thing to know is that heat shrink tubing sizes are listed in a before shrinking size.  So measure what it is you need the heat shrink to fit over and make sure you choose a size larger a little larger than that.  For example, if we wanted to make sure our heat shrink tubing would fit over an iPhone cable, (like we did in the section below), we would need to make sure the heat shrink was larger than the cable and the connector at the end of the cable.  For an iPhone cable we chose a heat shrink tubing sized at 3/8 of an inch.

The next thing to know, is the shrink ratio.  Shrink ratio measures the difference between the size of the tubing before and after it shrinks.  For example, we chose to use a 3 to 1, (usually written in ratio form as 3:1), heat shrink tubing on the iPhone cord, which means the tubing starts 3 times larger than what it shrinks down to.    We offer heat shrink tubing in 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:1 shrink ratios.

The last thing to be aware of when selecting your heat shrink tubing are any additional special qualities or characteristics that you might need.  For example, there are diesel and fluid resistant types of heat shrink out there, as well as heat shrink that is UV resistant.  For the iPhone cord we chose to use an adhesive lined heat shrink tubing that will make sure the heat shrink glues itself in place.

Of course, we also offer different colors of heat shrink tubing, which includes clear heat shrink tubing.   If you need help in choosing the right heat shrink for your project feel free to contact us.  You can also see all our heat shrink tubing by clicking here, or on the button below.

How to Use Heat Shrink Tubing

Heat shrink tubing is pretty easy to install as all it requires is a good heat source.  We’ve created a step-by-step guide on “How to Use Heat Shrink Tubing,” which you can find here.  You can also watch our video in which we take you through those same steps in 2 minutes.

How to Use Heat Shrink Tubing Without a Heat Gun

If you’re able, the safest choice for shrinking heat shrink is to use a heat gun, as it does not have an open flame.  If you don’t have a heat gun the next easiest solution, (but not as safe), is to use a lighter or blow torch.

The installation process is essentially the same.  Rotate the heat shrink as you have the heat next to it, making sure to not hold heat in one spot for too long as it can burn through the heat shrink, (this becomes even more important when using a lighter or blow torch).  You need to be especially careful with a lighter or blow torch to make sure to not damage the cable etc. you are applying the heat shrink to.

Will a Hair Dryer Shrink Heat Shrink Tubing?

Maybe. We have tried shrinking heat shrink with hair/blow dryers before and it produces mixed results.  Sometimes the heat shrink doesn’t shrink as well as it could or the blow dryer just takes a lot longer to get the heat shrink to fully shrink.

The issue is that most hair dryers, (or blow dryers), don’t reach the same temperatures as a heat gun.  As we said before, most heat shrink will shrink around 200° Fahrenheit, (about 90° Celsius).  Hair/blow dryers on the other hand tend to range in temperatures from about 80° to 140° Fahrenheit.  If you get a hair/blow dryer that is capable of reaching those higher temperatures it might work on the heat shrink, but it will take longer to shrink down than it would if you were using a heat gun, lighter, or a blow torch.  

As you might imagine, the results can vary depending on the temperature of your hair/blow dryer, but also on the type of heat shrink tubing you are trying to shrink. Different heat shrinks will shrink at different temperatures and if your hair/blow dryer doesn’t reach that temperature then there is no way to guarantee it will work.

What is the Difference Between Heat Shrink vs. Cold Shrink?

As the name implies, heat shrink requires heat in order to shrink/be installed.  Cold shrink does not require any form of heat for installation.  This is why cold shrink is called “cold shrink,” because it does not require heat.

Beyond the installation method there are a lot of other differences between heat shrink and cold shrink, with each of them having their pro’s and con’s.  The short answer is that cold shrink is typically better for use outdoors as it has far better weatherproofing capabilities.  That isn’t to say you can’t use heat shrink outdoors, (we have a UV resistant heat shrink as a prime example of heat shrink you can use outdoors), but the vast majority of the time cold shrink will outperform heat shrink in outdoor scenarios where weather is a concern.

Check out our video, “Heat Shrink vs. Cold Shrink,” where we explain the differences between the two in greater detail.  You can also learn more about cold shrink by clicking here.

Conclusion

Heat shrink tubing is an amazing tool that has seemingly endless possibilities/applications.  At Gamma Electronics we are pleased to offer some of the industry’s best heat shrink tubing products, ranging from printable heat shrink to clear, medical grade heat shrink tubingContact Us to get help on choosing the best heat shrink for your next project, or click here to view all of our heat shrink tubing products.

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Gamma Heat Shrink Tubing has received some of the industry’s top approvals while still being kind to your wallet.  We would love to help you on your next project.

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Changes to 5 of Gamma’s Heat Shrink Part Numbers

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Changes to 5 of Gamma’s Heat Shrink Part Numbers

In recent weeks we’ve been making changes to the Heat Shrink portion of our website and thought it would also be a good time to make some minor changes to some of our heat shrink part numbers, (5 changes in total).  These changes are being made to better standardize and clarify some of our heat shrink product numbers.

For example, all of our adhesive lined heat shrink products usually have “AL”, (or “Adhesive Lined”), in the part number, (with exceptions being for some of our specialty heat shrink products).  Our lone 6:1 Heat Shrink product is adhesive lined yet did not have AL in the product number.  As a result we have changed the 6:1 Heat Shrink product number from GMT-621 to GMT-621AL.

Previous Part Number

New Part Number

Image

GMT-201AL
GMT-221AL
GMT-221
GMT-221M
GMT-221M Heat Shrink
GMT-301ALSR
GMT-321ALSR
GMT-320AL
GMT-321AL
GMT-621
GMT-621AL
GMT-621AL Heat Shrink

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