Plastic tubing refers to any number of tubes and pipes produced using plastic.
The versatility of plastic tubing makes it a presence in countless industries, from the rugged industrial standards of aerospace and industrial applications to the sterile safety standards of medicine and beverage tubing.
The applications of plastic tubing are endless, but for the most part come down to the general idea of transferring fluids, gases, or certain solids from one point to another.
Plastic tubing sees use over steel tubes and competing materials for a few reasons. One, plastic tubing can be designed to be flexible in a way other tubes and pipes cannot. Second, plastic offers an extremely wide range of material options, such that a manufacturer can produce tubes as at home in extreme industrial applications at extreme temperatures and pressures as they are in mundane day-to-day applications. Plastic tubes are also generally quite cost effective compared to similar alternatives.
Nearly every industry on the planet uses plastic tubing in one form or another. Any industry which needs to convey flowing materials from one location to another will probably use some form of plastic tubing to achieve it as some point in the process. Just a few notable industries to use plastic tubing in major roles include:
Plastic Tubing Manufacturers - NewAge Industries, Inc.
Plastic Tubing Suppliers - NewAge Industries, Inc.
Plastic Tubing Manufacturers - Polytec Plastics, Inc.
Plastic Tubing Suppliers - NewAge Industries, Inc.
Plastic Tubing Suppliers - NewAge Industries, Inc.
Plastic Tubing Suppliers - Britech Industries
The history of plastic tubing largely follows the history of plastic in general.
It's difficult to determine who created the first plastic tubes, but we can point to the invention of parkesine in 1856 for the creation of the first man-made plastic. Over the course of the next century, several forms and applications of plastics were invented, with the chemical discoveries of World War I leading to an explosion in usage and inventions by the 1940s and 1950s. Plastic tubes began replacing predecessors in various industries as new technologies developed. For example, the earliest use of a plastic catheter for intravenous delivery in medicine dates to 1945.
Today, plastic tubing is a ubiquitous component in every industry and field around the world.
There are two major forms of plastic tube manufacturing, each offering its own set of pros and cons. Despite the significant differences in the details of manufacturing and the end products, they are simple explained as plastic pultrusion, a process which pulls material through a die, and plastic extrusions, a process which pushes material through a die.
Pultrusion is a form of plastic tubing production in which fibers are pulled through a shaped die while resin is simultaneously injected. This creates products with all fibers oriented along the length of the tube, which in turn results in exceptionally high performance in applications involving bending and pulling forces. Conversely, this uniformity of fiber orientation leads to pultruded plastic tubing being unsuitable for applications involving loads such as torque or crushing force.
Extrusion, on the other hand, produces end products with a much wider variety of traits, and can be produced at a very high speed with high volumes while maintaining lower costs. To extrude plastic is a relatively simpler process, in which raw plastic is melted and forced through a shaped die to produce a consistent cross-section or profile.
Tubing can be constructed from a variety of plastic materials. Below are a few examples of materials tubing is commonly constructed from.
The relative simplicity of basic plastic tubing combined with the incredible versatility of modern manufacturing techniques introduces a near limitless selection of design factors one might need to consider to acquire their optimal tubing. In no particular order, a given application may require careful consideration of:
Plastic tubing is a rather simple product with near limitless application scenarios. In many cases, the use of plastic tubing depends more upon the fittings and devices connected to the tube than anything inherent to the tube.
Of course, some tubes installed for drainage and similar applications work simply by offering a path of least resistance to fluids. A simple corrugated tube laid down in the right place in a yard might prevent puddles, erosion, or basement flooding without any need for additional materials, for example.
Characteristics and features also vary significantly between different materials and production methods, as described earlier; industrial PVC pipe and latex surgical tube have little in common.
The versatility of plastic tubing has resulted in countless types and categories being described. Many of these types overlap in basic design or function, while others may be wholly unique and quite different from any other form of plastic tube. Here are just a few of the most common types of plastic tubing you may see described or referred to elsewhere:
Like most plastic products, it's the sheer versatility of plastics which makes plastic tubing so endlessly useful in so many industries. Plastic can be designed as rugged and inflexible as metal tubes, or be made as flexible plastic tubing. Plastic can be made to withstand the greatest extremes of temperature, pressure, and corrosion imaginable. And all of these features can be shared with plastic tubing produced from appropriate materials using the right methods. In other words, the advantages of plastic tubing depend on how good your engineering team is and how good the tubing manufacturer you select is. In the right hands, plastic tubing can meet nearly any application goal effectively and cost-efficiently.
Plastic tubing rarely works well without various fixtures and connectors to maintain strong, effective seals. When looking at plastic tubing as a solution for a given application scenario, make sure you also take into account any and all necessary fittings for your task and how they'll work with your tubes, including but not limited to:
Anything you use to connect two plastic tubes together, or to connect a plastic tube to another device or material, needs to be carefully designed and matched to the application and sizes at hand. A garden hose, for example, isn't nearly as useful without an appropriate nozzle at one end and a valve at the other.
When caring for plastic tubing, you'll want to keep the traits of the materials used in mind throughout. Check for corrosion, cracks, tears, and leaks as necessary for your application. While many forms of plastic tubing are designed to fail safe, others may have a risk of shattering or explosive failure; for these, be particularly alert to any problems and complete repairs in a timely manner.
If you're not quite sure how to care for a particular type of plastic tubing, asking your engineers and your manufacturer for input should be a high priority. This can help you avoid costly or unsafe mistakes down the line.
Many industries have strong recommendations or firm regulations in place on the specifications and materials allowed for plastic tubing used in certain tasks. Surgical tubing and drinking straws, for example, must meet standards of safety and non-toxicity. Tubing for fuel piping systems must be reliable and safe, while industrial tubing must be resistant to the unique environmental forces present in that industry.
There is no single fixed standard to adhere to, due to the sheer versatility of plastic tubing. Instead, make sure to investigate standards and compliance issues specific to your application in advance, or work with a plastic tubing manufacturer that can handle compliance and standards on your behalf.
Because of the sheer number of options and applications out there for plastic tubing, it's more important that your manufacturer match your needs than that they meet some hypothetical perfect standard.
Ideally, a manufacturer should have experience producing plastic tubing for your industry or application, or something very similar. If you're working on an especially exotic or hyper-specific application and can't find a manufacturer with matching experience, a manufacturer with a history of work with custom plastic tubing would be your next best bet.
If you're working in a field with extremely stringent compliance considerations, it's even more important that you select tubing manufacturers carefully. A good contract manufacturer can help you maintain compliance even if you're unfamiliar with the nuances of regulations regarding tubes for your application.
Outside of specific experience, look for manufacturers with generally positive customer feedback, plenty of references, good communication skills, and general transparency of pricing and expenses. General standards of professionalism apply to plastic tube manufacturers as well.
Plastic Tubing Terms
- Small cracks close to the surface of
the plastic tubing.
- The amount of strain that plastic tubing can handle before breaking.
- The process in which the diameter of a plastic tubes is enlarged while its wall thickness is reduced. This process is often used to create heat shrinkable tubing.
- A process in which a solid plastic resin is melted and pushed by a screw through a heating chamber.
- A small mass in a transparent material, such as plastic used in plastic tubing, created by incomplete blending.
- A process in which mechanical pressure works to increase the diameter of plastic tubes from the inside.
- The outer part of a heat shrinkable tube's dual wall.
- A solution also referred to as rubber that usually consists of water and polymer.
- The inner part of a heat shrinkable tube's dual wall.
- A process typically carried out by a catalyst in which a large number of simple molecules combine to form a more complex, chain-like compound (polymer).
- A flammable, transparent plastic that is an excellent electrical and thermal insulator because of its high strength and impact resistance.
- A general term for a broad class of thermoplastic polymers that have good resistance to solvents and abrasion and can be either solid or foam (cellular).
- A process that produces reinforced plastic shapes with constant cross sections by pulling the reinforcing fibers, wetted by a thermoset resin mix, through a heated steel die.
- Scale used to measure the hardness of an object. Although there are different scales (plastic tubing uses the "A" scale), they are consistent in that the larger the number, the harder the object.
- A process in which plastic tubing is used as an outer cover for an object in order to reduce the stress that is being placed on the object by providing additional support and stiffness.
- Small cracks, typically found in clusters, which occur in plastic tubing due to mechanical stress.
- A material that remains hardened, even when reheated, due to its having undergone a chemical reaction.
- A rating given to highly-flame retardant plastic tubing by the Underwriter's Laboratories (UL).