Know Your Product: Shrink Tape for Composites

Shrink Tape: Putting the Squeeze on Composties

Bicycle Frame

Fabricating yards of Carbon fiber tubing for robotic machinery, patching large fiberglass chemical tanks, and building a high quality bicycle frame; what do all of these projects have in common? Quite a lot, actually.

First, each application requires the highest level of safety and performance from the parts involved. In order to accomplish this, many fabricators will use a technique known as vacuum bagging to fabricate their parts. The compression of the vacuum bagging process helps to maximize the properties of the materials, ultimately creating a better finished part.
However, this leads to a second thing these projects all have in common; all of them have the potential to have complex shapes, that can be large, cumbersome or unique enough that it might seem too labor intensive for the vacuum bagging process. So what is a fabricator to do?

Say hello to shrink tape

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Shrink tapeShrink Tape can be a great alternative to traditional vacuum bagging techniques, when large, cumbersome, or difficultly shaped parts prove too impractical to vacuum bag successfully. Fibre Glast carries 1 1/4" and 2 1/2" sizes of Shrink Tape.

What is Shrink Tape?

Shrink Tape on Roll

Shrink tape is a polyester compaction film that can be easily wrapped around laminates to create mechanical pressure. Unlike vacuum bagging, this tape creates pressure by way of heat, rather than vacuum. When heated, let’s say with a heat gun for example, it shrinks up to twenty percent, squeezing the composite material within.

Like vacuum bagging, this eliminates excess air and resin, and gets composite parts closer to an ideal resin-to-reinforcement ratio. As a result, finished parts are improved physical properties. It is important to note that “shrink tape” is tape in name only. This is not an adhesive, its size makes it easy to handle and wrap, especially on a job site.

Using Shrink Tape for Composites

When wrapping a part, the tape should be applied reasonably tight. If the tape is wrapped too loosely, less shrink force is left for applying final pressure. For more pressure, multiple layers of shrink tape can be applied.

Shrink Tape with Heat Gun

When taping, the start end of the tape can be locked by one or two overlaps. The finish end can be scured using heat-resistant flash tape. Ideal usage temperatures range from 175°F to 300°F. The tape will finish shrinking in about 20 minutes and has an easy removal process thanks to a release coating on the tape. After use, this tape should be thrown away.

 

Other questions? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. If you’d like to know more about Vacuuming bagging for composites, check out our blog post on Basic Vacuum Bagging Set-up, or head over to the Fibre Glast Learning Center and check out our white papers on Vacuum Bagging Techniques and Equipment. Be sure to check out our facebook, and follow us on twitter @Fibreglast for more information the composites industry.

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4 comments

1 Cam { 09.12.16 at 9:18 pm }

How well does this product shrink around non circular parts? For example, a rectangular rod. Or, even sharper angled parts (greater than 90 degrees).
Do you have any examples of this being used on larger/longer parts rather than just the width of the tape?

Thanks
Cam

2 Treadwell Group Pty Ltd { 11.04.16 at 10:17 am }

Your article described nicely and also very much informative for our industry. Thank you…

3 Sandie { 10.12.17 at 2:02 pm }

Hi there,
We are wrapping an oval mandrel and are having difficulties getting the end product to come out without any bumps on the surface(this being low and high spots not marks from the tape)…any suggestions would be much appreciated. We are currently doing a 8mm pitch as we have discovered this works slightly better than the 1mm pitch suggested.

4 ccaldwell@fibreglast.com { 10.30.17 at 7:28 pm }

We would be happy to help you troubleshoot. Please contact us at customerservice@fibreglast.com or call 1-800-838-8984

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