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Can You Cut Heat Shrink Tubing?

By 9th August 2017
Cut pieces of heat shrink tubing

Can you cut heat shrink tubing? The quick answer is most definitely yes! (But not lengthways).

Doing it yourself

A ruler and a pair of scissors (or a sharp knife) will mostly do the job especially if exact lengths aren’t required and you are cutting just a small amount yourself.

If the heat shrink tubing you have won’t fit over obstructions (like a connector), then what you have won’t do the job. As they say in Hollywood, “we’re gonna need a bigger heat shrink” (or something like that). This might be with a bigger shrink ratio too as it still has to drop down to the size you need.

Why can’t you cut heat shrink length-ways?

Heat shrink is manufactured to the shrunk size, stretched and then sold. (Wikipedia explains the manufacturing process in a bit more detail).  Cutting it cross-ways is fine. But, when you cut tubing length-ways it loses integrity which is why we don’t recommend it. There are various forums where people have tried different suggestions – spiral cuts, glueing etc but they all have the same problem, lack of integrity – eg no longer waterproof and it no longer protects against the environment. (And so fiddly).

If you’re struggling with an “interesting” configuration, have you considered heat shrink boots and/or moulded parts?

Do bear in mind there is some shrinkage lengthwise. You should factor in about 10% reduction. So if you need 1.0cm, cut to 1.1cm.

However, if you need exact dimensions, or need to scale up the quantity (or both) then you’ll need bigger (read more expensive) cutting equipment. That can be a big outlay, so …

Get someone else to do the cutting

We have our own in-house cutting shop. This means we can supply specific lengths on almost all of the tubings and sleevings we sell.  We can cut to just about any length needed and our equipment allows for very tight tolerances.

As you’d hope, we’re a bit more advanced than the ruler and scissors method we mentioned earlier. Here’s a quick list of methods available from our cutting shop:

  • Hot knife cutters – for cutting braid and prevent fraying
  • Standard vertical blade cutters – for accurate and clean heat shrink sleeve cutting
  • Tolerance cutters – for tight cut length tolerances, as well as controlled angle of the cut
  • High volume commercial – used for high quantity runs

Also, we provide, as standard, bags containing tubing cut into:

  • 100 pieces
  • 250 pieces
  • 500 pieces
  • 1000 pieces

That should save you getting a cramp from too much work with the scissors!

If you need something different to the standard offerings above, eg bulk enquiries or small batch runs, then do let us know. We’re more than happy to help and numbers can be customised to suit.

To sum up …

Can you cut heat shrink tubing? Yes you can. So how would you like it cut?