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Stranded Wire vs. Solid Wire in Electrical Applications

Solid and stranded wires see frequent use in electrical equipment, such as cable assemblies and wire harnesses. Solid wires consist of a solid core, whereas stranded wire consists of several thinner wires twisted into a bundle. Each has distinct advantages, with the right choice for an application depending on the specific project details. Some of the factors that may influence the choice between stranded vs. solid wire include:

  • Amperage load
  • Use case
  • Costs
  • Metal type
  • Wire gauge

Learning more about the difference between the two types of wires will make it easier to determine the best choice for your needs. The following information should help to inform the selection process.

What is Stranded Wire?

stranded wire

These thin, bundled wires are compressed and insulated with non-conductive materials. Stranded wire is more flexible, making it ideal for connecting electronic components in cramped spaces or for twisting and bending to fit intricate geometries. Stranded wire is more flexible and malleable than solid wire, and it won’t split or sever. It is often used for indoor applications such as electronic devices, circuit boards, and speaker wires.

What is Solid Wire?

Solid metal core wire is a much heavier, thicker product than stranded wire. It is ideal for outdoor use where more durability and higher currents are required. This rugged, low-cost wire is resistant to weather, extreme environmental conditions, and frequent movement. It is often used for carrying high currents throughout building infrastructure, vehicle controls, and various outdoor applications.

Stranded vs. Solid Wires: The Key Differences

Comparing stranded vs. solid wire involves exploring the advantages and disadvantages of the two very different types of wire. A comparison narrows down the choices based on how the specific wire characteristics relate to their expected use and the project requirements. You must first determine your application’s requirements for weather resistance, flexibility, and resistance to splitting or severing. Then, choose the wire that most closely meets those needs. 

Some key differences of stranded vs. solid copper wire include:

  • Stranded vs. solid wire current capacity. Solid wire is thicker, which means less surface area for dissipation. The thinner wires in stranded wire contain air gaps and greater surface area with the individual strands, translating to more dissipation. When choosing between solid or stranded wire for house wiring, the solid wire offers higher current capacity. 
  • Routing. Stranded wires offer superior bendability and flexibility, making them easier to route around obstacles than solid wires.
  • Flexibility. Stranded wires are more flexible and can sustain more vibration and flexing without breaking. Solid wires may require more frequent replacement than stranded wires in applications with significant movement or vibrations.
  • Cost. The production costs of solid wire are much lower than stranded wire, which makes solid wire the more affordable choice. Printed Cable Jacket Portfolio
  • Ease of manufacturing. The single-core nature of solid wire makes it much simpler to manufacture. Stranded wires require more complex manufacturing processes to twist the thinner wires together. 
  • Distance. For longer runs, solid wires are the better choice because they feature less current dissipation. Stranded wire will perform well over shorter distances.
  • Superiority. When it comes down to stranded vs. solid wire, there is no clear choice. Each option offers distinct advantages in particular situations.

Wire Solutions From Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable

Consolidated Electronic Wire & Cable has been a leading manufacturer of high-quality standard and custom electronic wire, molded cable assemblies, wiring harnesses, cable, and power supply cords for over 100 years. Our longevity is due to our versatility, adaptability, and commitment to continuous improvement in processes and products. Our many industry certifications are a testament to our commitment to quality and innovation, including:

  • ISO 9001
  • RoHS
  • CE Mark
  • NEC
  • UL
  • CSA
  • VDE
  • LF
  • MIL-Spec

When you partner with us, you will gain the full expertise of our entire team to ensure the success of your project. For more information on our capabilities and product lines, please contact us or submit a quote request today. 

Heat Shrink Tubing: What is It and How is It Used?

Custom Cables

Heat shrink tubing — also called electrical shrink tubing — is a critical protective and organizational product used in various electrical arrays. This blog post will answer the question: What is heat shrink tubing used for?

In general, heat shrink tubing is a common element in most electrical setups that insulates electrical components from external factors such as moisture, dust, abrasion, and sharp objects that might otherwise damage wires and electrical components. This type of damage ultimately results in shorts and failures. It will also bind loose wires, connectors, joints, terminals, and splices together, creating more organized and manageable bundles. Using color-coded heat shrink tubing helps to facilitate easy wire and component identification.

What Is Heat Shrink Tubing?

Cable TypeHeat shrink tubing is a thermoplastic tube that shrinks when exposed to heat. When placed around wire arrays and electrical components, heat shrink tubing collapses radially to fit the equipment’s contours, creating a protective layer. It may cover parts of individual wires or bundle entire arrays and protect against abrasion, low impact, cuts, moisture, and dust.

To create heat shrink tubing, plastic manufacturers first use extrusion to make a tube of thermoplastic material. The materials used in heat shrink tubing vary depending on the intended application. Once the desired plastic has been extruded, the material is heated and forced to expand, increasing the tube’s diameter. The expanded tubing is allowed to cool to room temperature and set.

This expanded thermoplastic tube is then placed around the wires or other desired components and heated to a specific temperature. The heat causes the tube to soften and shrink back to its original extruded size, effectively enclosing the wires or other components within a tight layer of protective plastic.

Benefits of Heat Shrink Tubing

Product-tinned-wireVersatile and easy to use, heat shrink tubing offers many unique benefits, including:

  • Protection against abrasion, low impacts, and sharp cutting edges
  • Defense against water, chemicals, dust, and other intrusive contaminants
  • Organization of wires and cables into easy-to-handle bundles
  • A smoother texture and finished appearance
  • Electrical and thermal insulation
  • Enhanced structural support for less strain on wires, connectors, and components
  • Compatible with color additives to aid wire identification

Heat Shrink Tubing Materials

Heat shrink tubing can be manufactured from a wide range of thermoplastic materials and is often combined with additives to enhance specific characteristics. Common materials used for heat shrink tubing include:

  • Polyolefin: Polyolefin is the most popular material for shrink tubing due to its thermal resistance. It is more expensive than PVC but capable of withstanding temperatures as high as 125-135°C. This property makes it ideal for manufacturing, industrial, and mechanical applications with high operating temperatures.
  • Adhesive-Lined Polyolefin: To provide a more secure tube that will not slip in critical conditions, manufacturers have created a polyolefin heat shrink tubing with an adhesive inner layer that melts and adheres to the wires and components inside the tube to fill voids and ensure a close fit. An added adhesive offers more support and increased protection from moisture and harsh conditions.
  • PVC: PVC is less expensive than polyolefin but has a lower temperature threshold of approximately 105°C. PVC is durable, strong, and highly abrasion-resistant. It can be manufactured with high clarity, bright colors, and flame-retardant qualities, making it a highly versatile and cost-effective option for low-temperature applications.

Other materials used for heat shrink tubing include PTFE, FEP, elastomers, silicone rubber, and Viton®. The best material type depends mainly on the conditions in which the equipment will operate and the shrink needed to create the desired seal.

Quality Heat Shrink Tubing From Consolidated Electronic Wire and Cable

Whether for low-impact indoor applications or heavy-duty industrial settings, heat shrink tubing materials can protect and organize wires, connectors, and other electrical components. At Consolidated Electronic Wire and Cable, we offer a comprehensive selection of heat-shrink covered wires, cables, and parts to meet the needs of virtually any application.

To learn more about the best heat shrink tubing for your application or to ask about our selection of quality electronic components, contact us today.

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