Tip #4: Flexibility
Flexibility is a tubing characteristic that varies greatly depending on the plastic or rubber material and the tubing or hose’s construction. Factors that affect flexibility include material softness or hardness, size, wall thickness, reinforcement style and application temperature.
Some plastic tubing and reinforced hose, like that made from polyurethane or soft PVC, is quite flexible. Rubber tubing such as silicone, latex, and Viton™ is also very flexible. Examples of harder durometer flexible plastic tubing include nylon, PTFE fluoropolymer, polyethylene and polypropylene. These are fairly stiff in their straight tubing styles but are still bendable. Customization such as coiling, convoluting and corrugating can increase flexibility.
Certain applications, such as those involving robotics, call for repeated flexing of the tubing, so it must be durable enough to withstand these movements. Instances where the tubing rubs against other equipment should be examined as well. Many materials (polyurethane, for example) offer abrasion resistance along with the ability to withstand repeated flexing and rubbing.
Closely related to flexibility concerns is kink resistance. If your application calls for the tubing or hose to bend around machinery, its resistance to kinking and collapse must be considered. Often a very flexible material – silicone, for instance – can address the issue. But if pressure and/or durability requirements will not allow the use of such soft tubing, braid or wire reinforced hose may be the answer. Stiff materials can also resist kinking, provided that enough length is incorporated into the design.
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