Thermo=Heat, Plastic=Formable

Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2015 by Paige DiAntonio

Thermoplastics make a great insulation material because they can be repeatedly heated, softened, and formed into any shape when hot, due to their chain of molecules that separate when heat is applied.  Thermoplastics are usually lower in cost, lighter in weight, easier to color, are better electrically, and are the most popular materials in wire and cable.  Here is a list of a few Thermoplastics that can be used as insulation material:

  • Polyvinylchloride (PVC): The most popular material for insulation and jackets. Most PVC compounds can be made flame retardant and UV resistant. Some PVC compounds can also be made oil resistant, and PVC in general has some resistance to water and diluted acids. Temperature ratings ranging from –10°C to +105°C are the most common, such as used in our Xtra-Guard 1 Series.
  • Semi-Rigid Polyvinylchloride (SR-PVC): Commonly used for insulation walls £ 0.010” and temperature range of –10°C up to +105°C.
  • Polypropylene (PP): PP offers good resistance to most acids, alkalis, salts and aliphatic. At elevated temperatures, chlorinated hydrocarbons and low molecular weight aliphatic compounds will cause some swelling, which softens the material. PP with carbon black, offers good UV resistance.
  • Cross-Linked or Irradiated Polyvinylchloride (XL-PVC): Used as both an insulation and a jacket and has a maximum operating temperature rating of 105°C. Cross-linking is a process that transforms the thermoplastic material into a thermoset material. Thermoset materials consist of polymer structures that can become rubber.  This transaction is done either chemically or by irradiation.
  • Nylon 6: Typically used over PVC insulation to improve crush resistance and has a maximum operating temperature rating of 115°C.
  • Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE) or Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR): These materials have rubber-like attributes with the processing assets of thermoplastic materials. It has a temperature range of -60°C to 125°C.  Resistant to fuels, oils, solvents and water. TPE’s can be made highly flame resistant, but have low corrosive outgassing and are acid and alkali resistant. TPE’s and TPR’s also remain flexible at low temperatures.
  • Polyester Elastomer: Used as both an insulation and a jacket and has a maximum operating temperature rating of 90°C. It is a flexible thermoplastic that can be used in place of rubber and some urethanes. It has good chemical resistance properties and performs well under impact testing, with very thin walls. 
  • Modified Polyphenylene Ether (mPPE): This material is inherently lighter, tougher, more durable than PVC and easily recycled.  It contains no halogens, phthalates, or heavy metals.  The superior dielectric properties of mPPE enables reduced wall thickness while maintaining the same electrical properties as PVC. It offers a 10 times better abrasion and pinch resistance than PVC.  This compound is used for Alpha Wire’s EcoGen family of wire and cable.


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