The Tufcoat propane gas gun weighs in at only 1 Kg, and is a gun is of a very simple construction which has only 10 parts. Feedback from companies using this heat gun is that the reliability is excellent, due to the fact that it has been produced in the UK for many years to a tried and tested design. Heat output is a more than adequate 100,000 BTU’s, this shrink wrap heat gun is supplied with a regulator and 8m of hose. However, one of the main attractions of this gun is that it is significantly cheaper than competitor’s products – expect to pay around £350 for the shrink wrap heat gun, regulator and 8m hose.
Gas consumption for a typical shrink wrap heat gun operating at 100,000 BTU will be around 2Kg/hour if used continuously (typical gas cylinders used are 13 or 19kg). The propane gas bottle is normally moved around the work area on a gas cylinder trolley for safety. Where the operator may have to move around the object it will make the shrink wrap job quicker and less tiring. When the trigger is partly depressed, gas is drawn along the barrel of the gun where it is mixed with air. As the trigger is fully depressed an electrode generates a spark which ignites the gas and air mixture in the burner to create a flame. The burner is normally protected by some kind of cowl to prevent accidental burns. The trigger acts as a safety device – when it is released, or if the gun was accidentally dropped, the flow of gas is cut off and the flame extinguished.
The guns are used during the shrinking process to blow hot air over the surface of the shrink wrap until it has shrunk to the required tightness. These hand held guns are powerful tools, not to be confused with the widely available domestic hot air guns, commonly used for stripping paint etc.
The correct choice of shrink wrap heat gun, and its correct use, is fundamental to the success of the finished job.
Although shrink wrap heat guns are easy to use devices, in daily use by many thousands of companies, you should always ensure that staff have been fully trained on the manufacturer’s instructions and that all risks have been assessed. In addition to the guidance issued by the individual manufacturers of shrink wrap guns, there is further general advice on the correct and safe use of heat guns and the correct use and storage of propane gas.
Gas or electric powered heat guns?
In some environments a gas powered shrink wrap heat gun may not be appropriate. Electric heat guns are commonly used for paint stripping or for shrinking the plastic insulation around cabling, however for shrink wrapping large objects the use of these ‘domestic grade’ tools is clearly impracticable because of the low heat output and the tiny area of heat produced.
Larger ‘industrial grade’ electric shrink wrap are available but they are heavier, more expensive and cannot match the heat output of a gas gun. This means that the hot air must be directed at any point of the film for much longer, which can lead to more heat being transferred through the shrink wrap to the object below. Gas powered guns are by far the most popular choice and it is gas shrink wrap heat guns that we will concentrate on for the rest of this article.
Using a propane gas powered heat gun to shrink plastic film or wrap is very much like spray painting with hot air. Rather, than the heat being held in a single place on the shrink wrap it is kept constantly moving, normally from the bottom to the top of an object, so that the ripples and creases are ‘chased out’ and the shrink wrap is taught and tight. Because the gun is kept moving and not held in a single place for more than a couple of seconds, little heat is transferred through the wrap.
Heat gun extensions
When using shrink wrap to protect particularly large objects, a shrink wrap heat gun extension is commonly used. Using a heat gun extension allows the operator to shrink tall objects without the use of access equipment such as a step ladder or platform. Generally speaking when large objects are being wrapped, by the time the sides have been shrunk, the top of the object will have pulled tight enough so that no further shrinking is necessary. However, objects that are particularly broad or wide, in proportion to their height may require the top shrinking and for this the heat gun extension is very useful. For example, when shrink wrapping a large motor yacht, the centre of the bow area would be very difficult to reach with a regular shrink wrap heat gun but to not shrink this area could possibly lead to pooling of water. By using an extension, the whole of the bow area can be reached without stretching. Most shrink wrap heat gun extensions are limited to around 6′ – any longer and they become difficult to hold steady and the operator would be too far from the area that is being shrunk to see that it has shrunk correctly.
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