Insights from BCC Research

Keep Calm, Remain Flexible: Product Innovation in Flexible Heaters

Posted by Clayton Luz on Oct 20, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Technology is always on the move, it seems. Certainly the flexible heater industry welcomes it. Recently, a flexible alternative to traditional heat trace heating cable entered the market. A silicone rubber heating tape debuted recently that's ideal for applications where traditional heating cable falls short, claims the manufacturer of the RKF heating tape.

Heating cable, also referred to as heat trace cable, is used for a wide range of applications that include pipe tracing, freeze protection, viscosity control, temperature process maintenance, roof and gutter, and more.

According to Tony Multon, BriskHeat's vice-president of engineered solutions, the extreme flexibility of the RKF silicone rubber heating tape allows it to be easily wrapped around complex systems in tight spaces while providing excellent surface contact for efficient heat distribution.

Global demand for flexible heaters has risen at an unprecedented rate in recent years. The technology behind flexible heaters has evolved in lockstep with developments in the medical, aerospace and defense, electronics, food and beverage, and chemical processing end-user industries.

Flexible heaters mold or conform to the surface of an object that requires heating. Chiefly available as wire-wound or etched-foil heaters, the products feature excellent physical and electrical properties which offer thermal stability over wide temperature ranges. Wire-wound heaters use either a single or multiple strands of wire to transfer heat to a tangent point or arc area of its heating element. An etched-foil heater is available in a flat surface, which provides more uniform heating due to its significantly larger surface area devoted to heat transfer.

Flexible heaters are quite remarkable in that heat can be applied to complex structures, curves, and pipes without sacrificing efficiency and heat distribution.

Silicone rubber and polyimide-based flexible heaters dominate the flexible heater industry, in terms of product volume, holding 67.1% of the total market share. They're both flexible, lightweight, and their excellent thermal properties and dielectric strength have really pushed their adoption lately in various end-user industries.

Silicone-based flexible heaters are popular because they provide excellent thermal transfer, speedy warm-ups, decreased wattage requirements and uniform heat transfer. With silicone-based flexible heaters, you can add more thermal insulation than with polyimide because silicone-based heaters can take longer to reach a specific temperature. Both products serve as carriers for the foil and as dielectric layers covering the top of the heating elements.

What differentiates BriskHeat’s new RKF heating tape from flexible heating cable technology is that its core technology heating element is extruded in silicone rubber. Unlike traditional heat trace products, the RKF tape has a tight bend radius of ¼”, allowing for easier installation and more surface contact, providing a more efficient, reliable, and uniform heater. RKF heating tape is available in standard lengths up to 100ft and custom lengths up to 200ft.

The silicone rubber extrusion process provides extreme durability along with excellent water and chemical resistance. With the capability to reach temperatures of up to 450°F (232°C), the company says it's an excellent alternative for freeze protection to higher temperature maintenance and process control applications.

“We wanted a product that compared to heating cable but made the installation process for small diameter pipes and complex shaped objects easier," Multon says. 

Topics: Instrumentation and Sensors