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cable sleeving 101

What are sleeving products used for?

Sleeving serves a similar function to heat shrink tubing in wire and cable applications. While heat shrink tubing is generally the preferred option, sleeving can often meet the same basic needs at a lower cost and without the added step of heating and shrinking the product.

Depending on the priorities of an application, sleeving could be the more appropriate choice. The primary purposes of sleeving are added protection, organization, and insulation. They can also aid in component identification and improve the aesthetics of unsightly cabling bundles.

Sleeving Types and Applications

Sleeving doesn’t shrink down to fit cables like heat shrink tubing, but it can provide a comfortably snug casing for wire components. It can also be coated with different materials to meet thermal and dielectric requirements.

Polyester Expandable Sleeving is one popular category of sleeving. It is a sturdy and versatile product used for added external protection in demanding environments, from standard industrial settings to hazardous marine applications. Many styles are designed to meet the MIL-I-61D specification and are RoHS compliant.

Expandable Braided Sleeving (Expando) is another type of sleeving. Most polyester sleeving features an expandable braided construction, which permits it to expand and contract to fit a wide array of cable shapes and sizes. The lightweight protective sleeve prevents condensation, making it highly resistant to rot and fungus. Strong chemical and cut resistance makes it ideal for covering pneumatic hoses and hydraulic lines, in addition to standard bundling and harnessing uses.

Flame-Retardant Expandable Braided Sleeving (Expando-FR) shares the great benefits of standard Expando sleeving, but they also pass the UL VW-1 Flame Test, making them appropriate for applications requiring flame resistance.

Non-Fraying Expandable Braided Sleeving requires a hot knife to cut and seal the polyester against fraying. For more involved applications that require field installation, this type of sleeving is available as a convenient, time-saving option. Because it does not fray, it can also be used on automated cutting machines.

Polyester Webbed Expandable Sleeving isn't used as widely as other types of sleeving. Unlike braided expandable sleeving, webbed sleeving has velcro-like enclosures that allow for unlimited breakouts in wire bundling and harnessing.

Fiberglass Sleeving is another common option. Like the majority of sleeving, it features a braided construction, however, it is not as flexible in its expansion as the polyester sleeving. It is specifically designed to protect cables in extremely high-temperature applications. Different material coatings on the sleeving can enhance certain traits.

Acrylic Coated Fiberglass Sleeving is known to be flexible and maintain its dielectric strength throughout its length. An extra bonus, it is highly resistant to acids and solvents. It is frequently used in radio circuits and transformers as well as in lead/crossover protection on motors.

Silicone Coated Fiberglass Sleeving is durable, flexible, resistant to solvents and abrasion, making it a top choice for engineers in the racing industry and other demanding fields. 

When to Choose Sleeving Over Heat Shrink Tubing

Heat shrink tubing is great because it’s available in a wide range of shrink ratios to ensure the perfect fit, making for effective bundling, mechanical protection, strain relief, identification, and even insulation. It’s flexible and does not come off with age. It can also be used for temporary or permanent repairs.

However, you may find that some of the features heat shrinkable tubing boasts are unnecessary for your applications and that one of these alternatives meets the needs that you do have. If that’s the case, you’re in luck, because sleeving solutions are generally cheaper and more convenient. They don’t require specialized tools to install and installation takes less time and effort overall.

If you’re not sure what kind of tubing and harnessing products are the best fit for your project, visit the accessories section of our website, or email Allied Wire and Cable at customerservices@awcwire.com.