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Electrical tape


Electrical tape is a type of pressure-sensitive tape used to insulate electrical wires and other material that conduct electricity. It can be made of many plastics, but vinyl is most popular; it stretches well and gives an effective and long lasting insulation.

Electricians generally use only black tape for insulation purposes. The other colors (and black) are used to indicate the voltage level and phase of the wire. (In fact, the colored tape is referred to as "phasing tape".) This is done on large wire which is available only in black insulation. When wires are phased, a ring of tape is placed on each end near the termination so that the purpose of the wire is obvious. The following table describes this usage.(Applies to earth only)

Tape Color Usage
Black Insulation; Low voltage, Phase A
Red Low voltage, Phase B
Blue Low voltage, Phase C
Brown High voltage, Phase A
Orange High voltage, Phase B
Yellow High voltage, Phase C
Green Earth ground
Green with Yellow Stripe Isolated ground
White / Gray Low voltage Neutral / High voltage Neutral

The tape is usually available in hardware stores. The fact that it is often more UV-resistant than other tapes and its ability to stretch has led to a wide range of uses beyond insulation.

Not all black vinyl tape is safe for electrical usage, some are not even labeled as electrical tape. UL listed tape is certified to not catch fire and burn when overheated, meanwhile non-UL listed tape may contribute or start a fire and burn like a petroleum product.

Alternative usage

Electrical tape is often also used to secure lighting cables to the truss in stagecraft, and is commonly known as LX tape for this reason.

Electrical tape is often used by second rowers and locks in rugby to tape back their ears. This is to prevent abrasion from causing cuts or problems like cauliflower ear.

Electrical tape is also used by youths in cricket playing nations to wrap around tennis balls to make them look and/or act or like cricket balls.

Marching percussionists use electrical tape to wrap their sticks. The purpose is twofold: the first being the increased durability and the second being increased visibility against marching uniforms, making stick movement and uniformity more obvious.

People involved in colorguard use electrical tape to tape their flags, rifles, and sabres

Many martial arts schools use electrical tape, sometimes in different colors, to mark intermediate stages between belts.

Before the introduction of mass produced roller hockey pucks, certain brands of electrical tape were used as a puck substitute given that traditional ice hockey pucks are poorly suited for use on concrete and asphalt. Scotch 88 tape, in particular, was commonly used even in organized leagues during the 1990s.

The fact that electrical tape is stretchy, easily torn by hand, can be written on, and generally removes from smooth surfaces cleanly makes it useful for a number of other applications, including color coding, labeling and temporarily taping objects together.

Electrical tape is torn by grasping it between the pointer fingers and thumbs of both hands with thumbs touching. Pulling the hands apart stretches the tape until it breaks (about 4 inches.) When used to temporarily hold together a bundle of wires (or other objects), a tail is preferred for easy removal. After wrapping the bundle, twisting the roll several times so the tape wraps around itself then pulling away from the bundle creates the tail.

As a quick fix, electrical tape can be used as quite an efficient temporary bandage. This can be said about any other tapes as well.

Israeli soldiers commonly use electrical tape (called "isolierband" in Hebrew) to perform quick fixes and to "upgrade" their equipment. In effect, isolierband is used in the IDF as a substitute for duct tape due to its small roll size and common black color.

Some people use electrical tape to replace the stickers on their Rubik's Cubes, because of the durability and the convenient colors.

Electrical tape is also a very un conventional, functional yet aesthetically pleasing art material, used infrequently in sculpture installation and graphic design.

Additional information

In the early 1940s, vinyl plastic emerged as a highly versatile material for a wide range of applications, from shower curtains to cable insulation. Making it work for tape, however, was a different story.

A major ingredient in vinyl film was tricresyl phosphate (TCP), which was used as a plasticizer. Unfortunately, TCP tended to migrate, giving the surface of the vinyl film an oily quality and degrading every tape adhesive known. Research chemists and engineers at 3M set out to create a dependable, pressure-sensitive tape made of vinyl film that would have the required electrical, physical and chemical properties.

Experiments were conducted combining new plasticizers with the white, flour-like vinyl resin. Finally, in January 1946, inventors Snell, Oace, and Eastwood of 3M applied for a patent for a vinyl electrical tape with a plasticizer system and non-sulfur-based rubber adhesive that were compatible. The first commercially available version of the tape was sold for use as a wire-harness wrapping. Interestingly, this original black tape wasn't black at all. Tapes formulated for high-temperature were yellow, and later versions were white. White tape, because of its instability in ultraviolet light, was eventually replaced with black tape, although colored vinyl tapes are still used as identification and marking tapes. Black became the standard industry color for vinyl standard tape, primarily because of its ultraviolet resistance. Thicknesses originally were 4-mil, 8-mil and 12-mil caliper. These were standardized to 7-mil and 10-mil in 1948.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Electrical_tape". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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