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Bending Corsair Satin Black 14mm PMMA tubing - experiences/tips?


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I'm realizing I've set myself quite a challenge for my first hard-tube project, bending 14mm Corsair Satin Black PMMA tubing for a 1000D system with EK Distro plate, a Z690 Glacial motherboard, and a 3090 with the Optimus Absolute block.

While most runs will be relatively straight and parallel for aesthetics, I am going to have to execute some reasonably precise dual-bend runs, so I'm investing a couple of lengths of tubing learning how to bend this stuff.  Those tube walls are thick!  I had no idea.

Now, it's acrylic so I fully expected requiring higher temps and more time to heat up compared to the PETG examples all over youtube, but not quite to this degree.

I've read conflicting instructions on which heatgun temperatures to aim for with acrylic, ranging from 280C to 350C  (536F to 660F respectively).  These of course come from people using different manufacturer's tubing, and some are softer some are harder.  I haven't found anyone bending corsair tube providing specifics.  My heatgun (A Wagner Furno 750) has precise temperature settings so there isn't just a low/high to set for.

First attempt at 280C/536F the tube just never got as flexible as required.  I chalked that up to both low temperature taking longer and me being way too cautious in spreading the heat out for an even bend and distance from the blower mouth - collectively not giving it enough time/heat where needed when factoring in my impatience.

Second attempt at 350C/660F, the tube softened quickly but blistered (my fault, I was way too aggressive trying to correct for the first attempt's errors) and I learned that my silicone core was slightly too narrow for the inner tube diameter as it flattened on bend even there. 

Third attempt I swapped for a slightly wider silicone core that fit much more snugly (yay), and this time the tube softened and sagged away from the core with overheating (oops), and then did a horrible flattening/blistering thing when placed against the bending mandrel.   Again, purely my fault.  It was gonna be trash anyhow given the deformation at the elbow I'd caused, but wow was that ugly.

I've decided that the 350C/660F is simply way too hot for the tubing at least with my lack of skill, and I'm going to head back down toward the 280C/536F even if it takes longer and I have to learn to be more patient and cautious - but not quite so cautious as the first tentative attempt.

I'd be interested to see what advice or experiences others may have had in working with this material.

Toys I'm playing with, for reference:

14mm Corsair XT satin black tubing (about 30 tubes, I expected to fail a lot in learning)
a "10mm" silicone bending core that actually seems close to 10mm, and another cruddy one that's closer to 9mm (yuck)
the EKWB bending template for 14mm tube w/ 45 degree and 90 degree bends
the barrow bending mandrels for 45, 90 and 180 degrees and 14mm tube
a saw and jig for cutting to rough working length
a Primochill RFB 14mm for finishing for length and chamfer/smoothing
Fittings from another company that Corsair sources theirs from, enough said on that

Thanks any and all in advance for your wisdom.

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i usually shoot for 280 as well. you really have to linger in one point to get bubbling acrylic. it's pretty safe to use that temp.

With experience you can go hotter to work faster, but better do it safe.

your failures are due to one word you used a bit : impatience ^^

you have to take your time to warm up the tube properly, and not just at the bending point. If you just heat up one point you may not be able to achieve a large enough radius. 

Regarding the EK templates, i tend to use it as.. a template, and not a mold. if you press the tube on it it will leave an imprint. Just lightly put it in to help get the 90° angle and hold the tube very lightly pushed in while it cools and sets, to avoid marking the tube at the edge of the template.

You could also get rid of the template altogether and freehand your bends. the silicon insert will always guarantee you get a good radius, and you can use anything 90° to get the angle. I tried using a simple cardboard box, bending the tube and placing it inside to get the straight ends at 90°. worked pretty well, and didn't leave marks obviously.

you don't have to buy all the bending gear, you can DIY very simple rigs with what you have laying about : your desk, some scrap 2x4" and a couple of clamps can help you make any angle

 

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Thank you!  I also think I can make 280 work, if I a) have reasonable expectations of time, b) don't keep the tube as far away from the nozzle as I did the first attempt, and c) am not trying to warm up 7cm of tube at the same time as I was that first attempt.  The combination of factors meant I had the tube on heat for about 5 minutes and my arms were killing me before any real bending started, and by that point I had so much heated up in combination with the improper silicone core that the result was off the rails from the start.

That fed my impatience directly for second and third.

I overcorrected on all three aspects on the later attempts, rather than being smart and adjusting one variable at a time.

It is good to hear that 280 is in fact reasonable, and some sane correction on the other points is likely the smart fix here.  I appreciate your input.

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Very next attempt, at 280 -> almost perfect 90.  I heated about 5-6cm of length, very slowly, with a lot of focus on the outer radius of the bend.  Took way longer than any tutorial would have implied, and even at that I still rushed it just a tiny bit when I saw it cooperating and bending and thus got a very slight flattening I can improve upon next time, but huge massive improvement.  I also learned just how much this tube wants to relax out of the bend as it cools lol.  It's gonna spend a lot more time held against the mandrels to cool from here on out before I move it.  I won't be dunking it to cool, I have enough ways to screw this up without introducing any microfractures.

Good learning experience all around to sacrifice one length of tubing getting a feel for the process and material, I expected to waste a lot more (and probably will, once the dual-bends start), but now I have an internal benchmark and a mostly-there idea on how to do it.  Also, iknowing how long this takes, I can sort out the ergonomics of my working station so I don't get exhausted doing it.

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I usually keep a salad bowl half full of hot soapy water for the silicon insert. it sits there in between bends.

When i make a bend, and it starts to hold its shape, i dip it in the water to cool it off. It's still hot water but that's enough to set the tube. That could help 🙂

Regarding the distance to the heat gun, i start like you, 7 - 10 cm away to start to warm up then i get real close, 2 or 3 cm for the zone i want to bend.

The water between the insert and tube will start to boil pretty good when you're close anyway, so that can be a good indication as to when you may want to move the tube away a little bit just before bending... when you don't use opaque black tubing that is 😛

With satin tube it's easy to see when you overheat anyway, the satin finish will dissapear and it will become shiny. So if it doesn't start to do that, you're good !

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Thanks!

While my latest 90 wasn't perfect, as noted, it was close enough to reassure me I could actually do this thing, so i proceeded on to mocking out the compound bend I wanted with some copper wire, and using that to put together a jig using some framing squares, the bending mandrel, and some clamps.  I was able to make a perfect 45 with what I've learned, making a nifty long horizontal out of the distro into a 45 degree keeping coplanar with the motherboard and then a 90 degree to plunge directly down into the motherboard's intake.  Nice!

Since I was continuing to use scrap learning tube it's not gonna be useful, but it did drive home a few more lessons.

Over this next week that I have off I'm going to iterate upon this, because I'm sure I'm still making smaller errors to learn through and I am also certain I haven't perfectly worked out the critical length between bends, but the nice thing about putting together a jig with clamps is it's easy to refine it.

Since this horizontal->45->90 compound bend in two planes is the most complex I'm planning to do, I should be all set to succeed, so long as I manage my impatience and take my time.  Ironically because the end goal is two pipes in parallel accomplishing the same two bends, any deviation on either will stand out like a sore thumb.  Doubles the importance of getting that jig right so that critical distance can be duplicated.

Hopefully my learning will be of use or inspiration to some other person trying for the first time.  I super appreciate everyone's input here, and all the wonderful youtube guides people have made, but actually doing it?  Very different and lots of learning to do.   🙂

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  • 1 month later...

Just wanted to say thanks for doing this topic. Recently started doing a hardline build and have been pulling my hair out over the bends. I'm working with a 5000X case doing a layout nearly identical to what Corsair shows on their own site, save for a vertically mounted videocard, and the heating and bending process has been a nightmare. It seems like Corsair's XT tubing is very thermal resistant compared to other brands, and it didn't help that there was some sort of added insert with my cutting kit that said not to exceed 400F heating temps...which resulted in the tube barely becoming pliable after 5 minutes. Higher temps certainly helped quite a bit. 

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