rhino_logo_blogD-Tools Partner Keith Smith, RCDD from RHINO Professional Labeling Tools offers this article on when to use Heat Shrink Tubing for labeling cables for installations.

I’m often questioned about the usage of heat shrink tubing [HST], especially due to its cost.  In this economy, we need to question every dollar spent so that it is used wisely and with maximum return to our wallet.

If we examine the typical length of a VERTICALLY wrapped piece of nylon tape, we’ll find it to be about 2″ in length for a piece of Category 5e or RG6 cable.  Why vertically wrapped?  Well, there’s been so much pressure to improve the pulling resistance of category rated wire in the datacom industry, jacket material has evolved into one that doesn’t lend itself very well for label adhesion HORIZONTALLY down the wire.  Many installers will add a piece of CLEAR heat shrink tubing on top in order to assure themselves of permanent adhesion.  Good idea, but somewhat time consuming and even more expensive than a single label by itself.  VERTICAL wrapping allows the label to overlap & stick to itself, which is pretty much required for the label to be permanent in adhesion.

All of this means that you can have a somewhat abbreviated or “squished” amount of verbiage on a VERTICAL wire wrap to get a larger, more legible font.   Or you can expand the text to show more information, but the font shrinks up.  So personal preference will enter the picture.  Along with cost.


RHINO’s heat shrink tubing allows you to print directly on the material [thermal transfer] … eliminating the double material & double labor efforts of first applying a horizontal label and then locking it into place with a clear HST tube.  Not bad for saving some bottom line dollars.

Now for the sweet part … RHINO’s heat shrink tubing is actually FASTER than positioning regular labels.  Try the following sequence and see the benefits:

  1. Pre-print the HST labels, just as you would any horizontal labeling material, except use the FIXED-LENGTH setting to make them all identical in length [e.g. – 2″]
  2. Slide it onto the non-terminated wire [ important step !!! ], but DON’T shrink it yet
  3. Terminate the wire.  Test the wire.  Be satisfied that it functions as expected.
  4. Plug the connectorized wire into your panel, jack, etc.
  5. Slide all of the HST labels forward … possibly by using a straight edge to align them
  6. Rotate the labels to face you
  7. Use a paint-stripping heat gun [or similar] to shrink them all at one time

The result is an absolutely perfect application!  Looks like you spent days of painstaking work, when you really blew through it faster than anyone would expect!


The trade cost averages somewhere around $30 for a roll of 5 feet of HST … compared to NYLON, the [otherwise] best wire labeling material available, which averages around $22 for an 11½ foot roll.  Let’s compare …

If we assume the same length for either labeling material to be 2″, we get the following

Heat Shrink: 5.0′ ÷ 2″ =   60″ ÷ 2″ = 30 horizontally applied HST labels
$30 ÷ 30 = $1.00 per label
Nylon: 11.5′ ÷ 2″ = 138″ ÷ 2″ = 69 vertically wrapped nylon labels
$22 ÷ 69 = $0.32 per label

So we’re looking at a 3:1 ratio in cost comparison for the two materials.  Is it worth it?
I don’t know … How do you Sign Your Work? For more information please visit www.rhinopromo.com.

Keith I Smith, RCDD
National Accounts Manager
[Security and Pro A/V channels]
RHINO Professional Labelers