Hey blog readers, Nathanael here from the Thermaltake AU marketing team, and I’ve got a confession to make – I’m not an expert on custom liquid cooling or PETG tubing. I’m actually pretty far from an expert. I’ve done plenty of work with air cooling and maximising air flow, I’ve used more all-in-one coolers than I can count, but only a few LCS loops, and most of those were with flexi-tube.
The reason I’m making this somewhat startling confession is that I’ve had to learn very quickly how to properly bend tube and set up a liquid-cooling loop. Thankfully the other guys in the office are very good at this sort of thing, so they’ve taught me everything they know about bending PETG tubing.
Through the process, I was thinking about the common mistakes you might make, and if you’re just having a crack at your first LCS build, or looking to increase your skills, here are a few things to keep in mind when working with PETG tubing.
Kink your bends
The first few times you’re bending PETG tubing it can be pretty tense, there’s heat involved and you have a limited number of supplies. But thankfully for me I have experienced folks around to help me out, as well as the tools to keep my bends in line. Fingers crossed I can pass on some of what I learned here.
We used our Pacific Hard Tube bending kits to ensure we nailed all our angles and left as little up to chance as possible. These kits have angled mandrels that give you 90°, 180° and 360° loops, as well as a silicone insert that you put inside the tube to help it keep shape.
But even with the best tools you can still make mistakes. Kinking usually happens when you put too much pressure on the tube as it’s cooling down. That could be pressure in a number of directions, maybe you pushed the tube out of shape with your thumbs when bending it, our maybe you pulled too hard when making the bend.
Temperature is a huge part of bending tube, so taking your time and trying to heat your bend evenly can save you a headache.
PETG tubing begins to be malleable at around 62 degrees celsius, and melts at 260 degrees, so you have plenty of room to work with.
You can very easily create a kink in your tube if you underheat the plastic, or create bubbles and blisters if you overheat. For this reason, heating on a lower setting and using your distance away from the heat gun (rather than cranking the temperature) to control the levels can help you heat the plastic more evenly.
Bending tube is all about consistency and patience, the trick is to take it slow and use the time you’ve got.
Lose your silicone insert
Once you’ve done some basic bends and nailed the right angles in your build, you’ll probably want to do something a bit more complicated. For me that meant that I wanted to create a spiral piece of tube, like a curly pig tail across the front of our Core P3.
The guys in the office decided to let me have a crack at it, which was a matter of heating the pipe and gradually curling it around a cylindrical shape. We used one of the mounting brackets that holds the Core P3 acrylic panel in place. The bending itself went fine, I heated the tube slowly and bent it around the pipe little by little to make sure it didn’t kink.
Only after finishing that bend and pulling the spiral tube piece away from the pipe did I realise that I’d made a mistake. It looked amazing, and just what I wanted to create. However, the silicone insert that I’d used to help the bend keep its shape had become lodged inside the bend, and no amount of pulling could get it out.
It makes sense really, you use the silicone insert to stop the tube from kinking or collapsing, but the more bends you put it through, the more tension there is when you try and pull it out again. The trick here when doing complicated bends is to stop between bends, pull out the insert and work on each section one piece at a time. Otherwise, if you’re planning a particularly complicated bend you can always coat your silicone insert with soap before making the bend to make it easier to remove. Just remember to thoroughly flush out the loop before using it if you use this method.
With those tips, hopefully you won’t get stuck like I did and have to cut your masterpiece apart to retrieve the silicone.
It was a truly harrowing experience.
Mix up your measurements
When all is said and done, the PETG tubing in your new liquid-cooled setup needs to do two things – complete the loop, and not leak. Solving both problems comes down to checking, double-checking and triple-checking your measurements to make sure there aren’t any gaps or breaks in your loop.
There are a whole host of options available to you if you realise you’ve cut a length too short of too long. If it’s too long, you should be able to trim down either end where the tube meets the attachment until it fits.
If it’s too short and you’ve used up all your PETG tubing, you can try using connectors or right-angle fittings to cheat the last few small bends to the end. This means connecting those fittings, lining up your tube and then remeasuring and cutting the tube again until it fits.
If you look closely at the Core P3 build we photographed for this build you can see we used this technique to connect the tubing to the bottom of the reservoir. We used two extra right angle bends and an offcut piece of tube to cover the last little gap and connect it all up.
Remember, its always better to cut the piece too long, so that you can cut it back little by little. You can always take more off, but adding more on is hard.
So that’s how I started bending PETG tube. Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two from reading this. Let us know if you have tips to share or if this helped you at all.
When it comes down to it, setting up your first liquid-cooling loop is all about planning. Check your measurements, work slowly and where possible always try to have too much material, rather than too little.