Zip Ties and Tensile Strength

Zip ties

Zip tiesOne of the great things about zip ties, other than the myriad of uses people keep finding for them, is the huge variability in zip tie design and function. When it comes to the function end of things, there are a few categories to consider:

Zip Tie Size: the length of a zip tie is generally going to be determined by what you need to attach. To some extent you also want to take easy of use into consideration when evaluating zip tie size. Anyone whose worked with those wee mini-zip ties to bundle wires inside a computer, for example, knows how insanely difficult it can sometimes be to feed the zip tie through the head.

Zip Tie Style: by style I mean whether you need a reusable zip tie, or are good with a standard zip tie. If you need the reusable type, do you want the releasable locking mechanism, or would a beaded cable tie fit better?

Zip Tie Strength: here we get to the point of today’s post. The strength of zip ties varies by the type of material it’s made from (there are different kinds of plastic used), the thickness of material, and the design of the tie. Beaded cable ties, for example, have a design that is particularly conducive to easy breaking.

Tensile Strength

The two terms that you’ll hear most often when referring to the strength of zip ties is Bundling Strength and Tensile Strength. Now, if all you want to do is tie some cables together to keep them neat and out of the way, you probably don’t have to pay any attention to the strength of your zip ties. Just about anything is going to serve for that. But if instead you want to handcuff rabid criminals or attach heavy signs to chainlink fences, or any of hundreds of possible uses that zip ties may be put to, you need to be sure that the tie you’re using is strong enough for the application.

Tensile Strength: according to Wikipedia, tensile strength measures the force required to pull something like a zip tie apart, breaking it. The tensile strength is the maximum amount of stress it can take before breaking.

Thus if you had a zip tie with a tensile strength of 50 lbs, that means that a 50 pound weight would break the zip tie. Of course there is also details of how the force is applies (for example, yanking something fast with 50 lbs of force is more harder on a zip tie than steadily carrying 50 lbs of force).

Common Zip Tie Tensile Strengths

As a general rule of thumb (and a simplification) here are some tensile strengths that you might find for common zip ties:

  • Standard every day zip ties: around 50 lbs
  • Wee tiny zip ties: 18 lbs
  • Standard heavy duty cable ties: 120 lbs
  • The largest and buffest zip ties: 175 lbs

So what do you do if you have something that weighs more (or applies more force) than even the largest zip tie can take? Simple! You just use more than one zip tie. While a standard zip tie shouldn’t be able to hold a 60 lb weight for long, if you attach the same weight with three zip ties (with the weight distributed amongst them) you will now have no problems holding it up.

And with the largest zip ties capable of holding literally 175 lbs all on there own, there isn’t a whole lot that zip ties can’t hold together.

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