Neoprene is chemical, heat, flame and abrasion resistant in addition to being waterproof, lightweight, stretchable and buoyant. It is flexible and usually has relatively thick walls compared to other rubber tubing such as surgical or latex tubing.
Neoprene tubing is particularly resistant to petroleum-based products, solvents, hydraulic fluids and lubricating oils and is frequently used around fuels in aircraft, watercraft and automobiles. Though black neoprene tubing is most common, this material is available in a wide range of colors. This kind of tubing can be used not only for fluids but also for cables and wire bundles. Foamed neoprene is available for increased insulation and shock-protecting.
Neoprene tubing is used in rugged applications where tough but flexible coverings are necessary, such as in severe outdoor or marine environments as well as in applications that require high performance in all ranges of temperatures. Neoprene tubing is used in aerospace, military, pharmaceutical, medical, chemical, hydraulic, pneumatic and specialty functions.
Both natural and synthetic rubber tubing are polymers with repeating molecules called monomers. Natural rubber is only made with isoprene monomers, while artificial rubber can be made from many different kinds. Unlike natural rubber, which is produced from latex produced by plants, neoprene comes from a powder called polychloroprene. Other ingredients are added to provide elasticity, color and other beneficial properties. The mixture is formed into a dough-like consistency and, for a sheet of neoprene, would be put into a heat press. For neoprene tubing, however, the tubes are extruded, one of three common methods used to form rubber tubes along with molding and dipping. Rubber extrusion involves forcing raw rubber materials through an extrusion die.
For neoprene tubes that are going to transport liquids or gases, heat shrinking variations are available. This kind of tube will shrink by 50% when hot enough temperatures are applied, providing a very tight covering for the materials inside. Heat shrink neoprene tubes can act as connectors when they are applied over joints or seams in cables, wires or even other rubber tubes. The widths and wall thicknesses of neoprene tubes vary depending on their function.