Cable Jacket & Insulation Material Comparison Guide


With hundreds of types to consider, picking the right cable is tricky. After you’ve narrowed your options based on basic needs, there are still dozens of material choices for the protective jacketing and insulation. 

Depending on the end-use environment, your project may need to fend off corrosion, mechanical wear and tear, moisture, and extreme temperatures. On top of that, you’ve got cost and component supply availability to consider. 

A little cable jacket and insulation material comparison pre-shopping will ensure your supplier puts the right type of protection in your industrial assembly.

Cable Material Comparison: Jacketing vs. Insulation

Cable jacketing is the outer layer that protects all other components from moisture, chemical, and mechanical hazards. Jackets’ side jobs include adding flexibility for installation and color-coding for easy identification.

Cable insulation is the non-conductive covering attached to bare wires to separate conductors from each other, both physically and electrically. It not only protects against current leakage; it also offers a second layer to fight heat and moisture. 

A cable’s insulation material type can influence the overall electrical properties of the cable. For example, an insulation’s thickness determines voltage rating, and its ability to withstand high temperatures means it can carry more current without failing. 

Jacketing and insulation share many materials, most of them derivatives of rubber or plastic. However, not all insulation materials can be used for jacketing.

Key Properties of Cable Insulation & Jacketing Materials

There are three main branches of cable jacket and insulation material: thermoplastic, thermoset, and fluoropolymer. (We’ll discuss them further below.) Each has its own family of materials, and manufacturers offer product variations on each material.

It’s a lot to take in. Above all else, watch for these traits that may influence performance in your application.

  • Flexibility – This helps with ease of installation in a rigid environment. It’s also important in dynamic applications (i.e. a robotic arm), as an inflexible cable would degrade quickly and limit nozzle movement. Rigid cables, however, may be more durable than flexible ones.

  • Environmental durability – Many industrial cable applications require the ability to withstand some combination of moisture, chemicals, oil, fire, and UV light.

  • Thermal properties – Cable materials have varying performance in both hot and cold. You don’t want your cabling to melt or become brittle in extreme conditions.

  • Stripability – Some materials are easier than others to remove. Consider this trait if you might later need to terminate or slice a cable.

Thermoset Cable Materials

Affordability 🤑


Heat resistance 🫠


Cold resistance 🥶

Medium-High to High

Flexibility 🤸🏽

Medium-High to High

Durability 💪

Low to High

Stripability 👣

Low to High


Thermoset materials consist of basic polymers that are cured or vulcanized to form a cross-linked structure. Once a thermoset has been cured, you can’t remold it, which makes it a more heat-resistant jacketing material in high-load and short-circuit situations. 

This quality makes thermoset cables the popular choice for circuits prone to a conductor overload.

Other benefits include:

  • Burns to an ash with no drip when exposed to flame
  • Extra-resistant to damage during challenging installations
  • Longer service life in harsh applications
  • Oil- and chemical-resistant

Thermoset jacketing and insulation is common in:

  • Heat treating
  • Glass and ceramic kilns
  • Foundries
  • Aluminum processing

Common Thermoset Jacketing & Insulation Types

Neoprene (Polychloroprene)

   + Resists aging due to sunlight and water
   + Oil- and grease-proof
   + Withstands wear and tear thanks to high flexibility
   - Limited safe-temperature range

  • Rugged environments
  • Mine trailing & dredge cables
  • 3 core neoprene subtype is popular for connecting appliances to outlets

Ethylene Propylene Rubber (EPR)

   + Excellent heat, abrasion, and corrosion resistance
   + Withstands temperatures down to -60 °C
   + Some products have above-average flame retardance

  • Marine
  • Power cables
  • Mining
  • Motors

CPE – Thermoset Version

   + Excellent physical properties
   + Resistant to ozone and UV degradation
   + Some products withstand prolonged water immersion
   + Resistant to most oils, chemicals, and other corrosives
   + Cheaper than CSPE

  • Hygienic washdowns
  • Chemical plants
  • Burial applications

Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR)

   + Resistant to a broad range of temperatures
   + Resistant to UV radiation and physical wear 
   + Surprisingly flexible

  • Control cables
  • Medical
  • Robotics
  • Automotive

Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR)

   + Better hot/cold resistance than neoprene (-55 to 85 °C)
   + Excellent abrasion resistance

  • Insulation for Mil-C-55668 cables


   + Flame retardance meets NEC cable jacket ratings 
   + Heat resistance up to 180° C
   + High flexibility

  • Electrical
  • Medical
  • Aerospace
  • Heating systems


   + Survives in temperatures up to 482 °C.
   + Resistant to water and chemicals

  • Heat treatment
  • Foundries
  • Glass and ceramic kilns
  • Aluminum processing

Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene (CSPE) 

   + Good chemical, abrasion, oil, and UV resistance
   + Works in broad range of temperatures up to 105 °C
   + Good electrical properties
   + High color stability
   - Not environmentally friendly

  • Motor lead
  • Appliances
  • Transformers

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)

   + Low conductivity
   + Extremely flexible
   + Works at temperatures from -45 °C to 150+° C
   + Resistant to heat, weather, and abrasion

  • Appliances
  • Lead wire for motors, transformers, coils, and solenoids
  • Electrical


Thermoplastic Cable Materials

Affordability 🤑


Heat resistance 🫠

Low to Medium-High

Cold resistance 🥶

Low to High

Flexibility 🤸🏽

Low to Medium-High

Durability 💪

Low to High

Stripability 👣

Medium-High to High


Thermoplastics is a branch that includes a few well-known options: PVC and polyurethane cable jackets.

A thermoplastic is a material that changes hardness during heating and cooling. In extreme-temperature applications, this could mean the cable becomes deformed, decreasing its physical properties.

On the plus side, these cheaper materials are often easier to strip, which makes large-volume application more efficient (i.e. for automation equipment).

Other benefits:

  • More economical for low-intensity use
  • Lightweight
  • Great colorability for easy-to-ID cables in low lighting
  • Better electrical properties

Thermoplastic jacketing and insulation is common in:

  • Medical applications
  • Food & beverage industry
  • Military purposes
  • Industrial power plants
  • Interior spaces either beneath raised floors or above dropped ceilings
  • Marine and low-temperature environments
  • Power & control cable applications
  • CPE cable insulation displays

Common Thermoplastic Jacketing & Insulation Types


   + Widely available
   + Best price point among low-voltage range
   + Resistant to moisture and salt water 
   + Excels as insulation
   + High strength
   - Some products aren’t oil-resistant

  • Control tables
  • General industrial use
  • Production & assembly lines (medium-stress applications)
  • Direct burial
  • Washdown

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (PUR/TPU)

   + Halogen-free
   + High tensile strength
   + Good abrasion, cut-through, & tear resistance
   - Limited flexibility

  • Paint industry
  • Automotive industry
  • Medical
  • High-movement applications

Polyethylene (PE)

   + High insulation resistance
   + High moisture resistance
   - Not flexible
   - Flammable

  • High-speed transmission
  • Exposed work & extreme environments
  • Burial

Thermoplastic Elastomer/Rubber (TPE/TPR, Santoprene)

   + Halogen-free
   + Flexible
   + Excellent cold resistance (down to -125 ⁰C) 
   + Mechanically durable
   + Resistant to UV, oils, & chemicals

  • The harshest environments!
  • High-movement applications
  • Automotive
  • Electrical
  • Health care
  • Appliances

Chlorinated Polyethylene (CEP) - Thermoplastic Version

   + Excellent moisture, UV, & oil resistance
   + Flame-retardant
   + Withstands high temperatures

  • Power & control
  • Instrumentation



Affordability 🤑


Heat resistance 🫠


Cold resistance 🥶


Flexibility 🤸🏽


Durability 💪


Stripability 👣



This family of plastic resins is known for its toughness. For example, fluoropolymer insulation boasts high resistance to acids, solvents, and bases that corrode cables.

Other benefits include:

  • Miniaturized design with high dielectric strength, allowing for thinner walls
  • Steady electrical performance, even with thin walls
  • Difficult to crush or cut

Fluoropolymer jacketing and insulation is common in:

  • Military
  • Aerospace
  • Electronics
  • Automotive
  • Appliances
  • Automation
  • Critical building construction
  • Confined areas (i.e. tunnels, transit, & submarines)

Common Fluoropolymer Jacketing & Insulation Types

Perfluoroalkoxy (PFA)

   + Enhanced electrical efficiency due to low dissipation factor
   + Withstands temperatures from -65 to 250 °C
   - Costlier than other insulation choices

  • Automotive gas sensors
  • Lab instruments
  • Steel & glass plants
  • Chemical processing
  • Near boilers & steam lines

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

   + Exceptional resistance to chemicals, oil, and moisture
   + Highly flexible 
   + Usable in a broad range of temperatures (-73 to 204 °C)

  • Small gauges
  • Sensors
  • Petrochemical tanks
  • Life science
  • Military
  • Aerospace

Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE)

   + Excellent corrosion resistance
   + Amazing resistance to chemicals & high-energy radiation
   + High melting point
   + Resistant to electrical current

  • Spacecraft
  • Nuclear 
  • Medical
  • Instrumentation
  • Datacom

Ethylene Chlorotrifluoroethylene (ECTFE or Halar) 

   + Superior strength
   + High chemical resistance
   + Very flexible
   + Can be extruded & braided for extra wear resistance

  • Aerospace
  • Near engines
  • Submerged or buried metal structures

Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP, Variation of Teflon)

   + Excellent electrical insulation properties
   + Resists UV and chemical/oil damage
   + Extremely flexible
   + Resists flames & heat
   - Very expensive

  • Extreme conditions
  • Temperature sensors
  • Oil & gas TEC cable
  • Military RG316 coaxial cable
  • Aviation & aerospace

Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) 

   + Low cost
   + Lightweight
   + Flexible
   + Flame resistance meets UL910 guidelines for plenum cables
   + Heat-resistant

  • Industrial power control
  • Aircraft
  • Electronics
  • Pipelines & oil tanks
  • Marine craft


More on Commonly Used Insulating & Jacketing Materials for Cables

Performance-minded engineers usually stick with thermoset cables in applications where failure isn’t an option. Some of the most extreme environments may require a unique fluoropolymer material.

That said, there are other, less-common materials under all three main branches. Basically, there’s a solution for any industrial application you could dream up.

Not every cable and wire manufacturer offers all of these materials. However, manufacturers who also offer distribution services can source the cable types they don’t make in-house. 

If you’re ready to explore options, try searching for your favorite cable manufacturer to see what it offers. Or check out our other learning resources on industrial design with cable and wire:

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