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What are the Different Types of Silicone Tubing?

Paul Scott
Paul Scott

Silicone rubber is a versatile material with a host of industrial, domestic, and hobby applications. Silicone tubing is one of the products based on silicone rubber and sees use in a wide variety of industries including automotive, medical, and food production. Silicone tubing is available in a selection of different grades and structures from among three broad groups: general purpose, medical/food grade, and high pressure. All of the many types of silicone tubes do, however, feature silicone's basic characteristics of excellent thermal qualities, low toxicity, and outstanding flexibility.

The compounds used in the manufacture of silicone tubing all possess the basic spectrum of beneficial characteristics inherent in silicone rubber. These include outstanding resistance to temperature extremes, no taste and odor emissions, no toxicity, and excellent flexibility. When enhanced with additional features such as chemical additives and reinforcing braids, silicone tubes feature many other advantages over and above the latent qualities of silicone rubber. These make silicone tubing an excellent option for applications such as in the automotive industry, the highly regulated medical and food industries, and some chemical manufacturing processes. These tube products are also well suited to a large selection of general purpose uses such as in domestic, automotive, and hobby applications.

Medical grade silicone may be used to make catheters.
Medical grade silicone may be used to make catheters.

General purpose silicone tubes are suitable for uses which don't require high pressure hoses or high levels of compound purity. The excellent thermal and flexibility qualities of silicone rubber mean that silicone tubing may be used on most domestic appliances and workshop or hobby applications. When sterile and non-reactive tubing is required in medical and food processing industries, medical grade tubing is then employed. These grades of silicone tubing feature compound compositions which make the rubber completely non-toxic, tasteless and odorless, and with no tendencies to support bacteria growth. The purity of medical grade tubing is often enhanced by processes such as platinum curing of the rubber compound prior to manufacture.

Medical and food grade tubing does not react in any way with sensitive drugs, food ingredients, or body tissues and fluids and may be sterilized in standard autoclaves. It also has surface qualities which resist buildup of transported material on the inside. Tubes for vacuum or high pressure application are reinforced with polyester or wire braids which resist flattening or expansion. These grades of silicone tubing are ideal for applications where pressurized gases or suction are used. Silicone tubing does have a few disadvantages which include low resistance to steam and low tensile strength which makes the tubing prone to tearing if used with sharp edged clamps or fittings.

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    • Medical grade silicone may be used to make catheters.
      By: Jacob Kearns
      Medical grade silicone may be used to make catheters.