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What is the difference between Pipe and Tube?

People use the words pipe and tube interchangeably, and they think that both are the same. However, there are significant differences between pipe and tube.

The short answer is: A PIPE is a round tubular to distribute fluids and gases, designated by a nominal pipe size (NPS or DN) that represents a rough indication of the pipe conveyance capacity; a TUBE is a round, rectangular, squared or oval hollow section measured by outside diameter (OD) and wall thickness (WT), expressed in inches or millimeters.

What is Pipe?

Pipe is a hollow section with round cross section for the conveyance of products. The products include fluids, gas, pellets, powders and more.

The most important dimensions for a pipe is the outer diameter (OD) together with the wall thickness (WT). OD minus 2 times WT (SCHEDULE) determine the inside diameter (ID) of a pipe, which determines the liquid capacity of the pipe.




  • NPS 1 actual O.D. = 1.5/16″ (33.4 mm)
  • NPS 2 actual O.D. = 2.3/8″ (60.3 mm)
  • NPS 3 actual O.D. = 3½” (88.9 mm)
  • NPS 4 actual O.D. = 4½” (114.3 mm)
  • NPS 12 actual O.D. = 12¾” (323.9 mm)
  • NPS 14 ACTUAL O.D. = 14″ (355.6 MM)


  • NPS 1-SCH 40 = O.D.33,4 mm – WT. 3,38 mm – I.D. 26,64 mm
  • NPS 1-SCH 80 = O.D.33,4 mm – WT. 4,55 mm – I.D. 24,30 mm
  • NPS 1-SCH 160 = O.D.33,4 mm – WT. 6,35 mm – I.D. 20,70 mm

Such as above defined, the inside diameter is determined by the oudside diameter (OD) and wall thickness (WT).

The most important mechanical parameters for pipes are the pressure rating, the yield strength, and the ductility.

The standard combinations of pipe Nominal Pipe Size and Wall Thickness (schedule) are covered by the ASME B36.10 and ASME B36.19 specifications (respectively, carbon and alloy pipes, and stainless steel pipes).

What is Tube?

The name TUBE refers to round, square, rectangular and oval hollow sections that are used for pressure equipment, for mechanical applications, and for instrumentation systems.

Tubes are indicated with outer diameter and wall thickness, in inches or in millimeters.

Pipe vs Tube, 10 basic differences

Key Dimensions (Pipe and Tube Size Chart)The most important dimensions for a pipe is the outer diameter (OD) together with the wall thickness (WT). OD minus 2 times WT (SCHEDULE) determine the inside diameter (ID) of a pipe, which determines the liquid capacity of the pipe. The NPS does not match the true diameter, it is a rough indicationThe most important dimensions for a steel tube are the outside diameter (OD) and the wall thickness (WT). These parameters are expressed in inches or millimeters and express the true dimensional value of the hollow section.
Wall ThicknessThe thickness of a steel pipe is designated with a “Schedule” value (the most common are Sch. 40, Sch. STD., Sch. XS, Sch. XXS). Two pipes of different NPS and same schedule have different wall thicknesses in inches or millimeters.The wall thickness of a steel tube is expressed in inches or millimeters. For tubing, the wall thickness is measured also with a gage nomenclature.
Types of Pipes and Tubes (Shapes)Round onlyRound, rectangular, square, oval
Production rangeExtensive (up to 80 inches and above)A narrower range for tubing (up to 5 inches), larger for steel tubes for mechanical applications
Tolerances (straightness, dimensions, roundness, etc) and Pipe vs. Tube strengthTolerances are set, but rather loose. Strength is not the major concern.Steel tubes are produced to very strict tolerances. Tubulars undergo several dimensional quality checks, such as straightness, roundness, wall thickness, surface, during the manufacturing process. Mechanical strength is a major concern for tubes.
Production ProcessPipes are generally made to stock with highly automated and efficient processes, i.e. pipe mills produce on a continuous basis and feed distributors stock around the world.Tubes manufacturing is more lengthy and laborious
Delivery timeCan be shortGenerally longer
Market priceRelatively lower price per ton than steel tubesHigher due to lower mills productivity per hour, and due to the stricter requirements in terms of tolerances and inspections
MaterialsA wide range of materials is availableTubing is available in carbon steel, low alloy, stainless steel, and nickel-alloys; steel tubes for mechanical applications are mostly of carbon steel
End ConnectionsThe most common are beveled, plain and screwed endsThreaded and grooved ends are available for quicker connections on site