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Thermoplastic Insulation vs. Thermoset Insulation: Which One is the Best For My Project?


Thermoplastic and thermoset are the two common groups of matters that wire and cable insulation is made of. They carry different properties depending on their structure. Read this blog to learn the basic differentiation between thermoplastic and thermoset compounds in modern insulations.

What is thermoplastic insulation?

Thermoplastic insulation is made of compounds that separate when heat is applied. This allows insulation to be reheated and reshaped without damage to the material. The melting point of thermoplastic insulation is relatively low. Polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride are common thermoplastics.

What is thermoset insulation?

Thermoset insulation is made of a material that gains strength when heated. However, these materials cannot be reheated or change shape without damaging the material's structure. Thermoset is basically a cured polymer. Rubber and synthetic rubber are common thermoset materials.

Thermoset vs. Thermoplastic: Benefits and Shortcomings

Here is the list of several points to consider when choosing between thermoset and thermoplastic insulation:

  • Thermoset insulations have a higher tolerance to high temperatures compared to thermoplastic insulations. Thermoplastic insulations have a risk of heat deformation at inappropriately hot temperatures.
  • Thermoset insulations have superior flexibility, which they retain in cold temperatures. They stretch better than thermoplastic counterparts without the risk of breakage.
  • Thermoplastic materials are light in weight; therefore, thermoplastic insulations are a go-to when the weight matters. They can be put in very thin walls without negative consequences.
  • Thermoplastic insulations are easier to produce, which makes them cheaper than thermoset analogs.
  • Thermoplastic insulations are recyclable, while thermoset insulations cannot be recycled.
  • Thermoset insulations are quite hard and rigid, which can be a pro or a con depending on the particular electrical application.
  • Thermoplastic materials have superior resistance to corrosion, industrial chemicals, and mechanical impact in many cases, though this factor depends on the particular insulation. 
  • Thermoplastic materials are more accessible to color-code, which positively impacts identifying them.

The factors discussed here are general; they illustrate the overall differences between the types of insulations. The performance of each particular cable also depends on the quality of the materials, type of cable, and the overall structure of the cable. Not every thermoplastic or thermoset insulations are the same in terms of performance.

Common Thermoplastic Insulations

  • PVC polyvinyl chloride is the most popular thermoplastic insulation. This versatile and cost-effective insulation has an average temperature range of -40 to 105°C. It is tough insulation resistant to chemicals and abrasion. Like classic thermoplastic insulation, it does not perform well in extreme temperatures.
  • Polyethylene (PE) is thermoplastic insulation characterized by its excellent low dielectric constant. There is a variety of PE insulations from low density to high density. The less dense the insulation is, the more flexible it is. The insulation is usually resistant to water but not to flames.
  • Nylon is one of the most flexible thermoplastic insulations with resistance to chemicals and abrasion. Unlike other thermoplastic insulations, it does not have water resistance.
  • FEP (Fluorinated ethylene propylene) is a rare thermoplastic insulation with an operating temperature of 200 C. The reason? It is a part of a special group of fluoropolymers, which can be both thermoset and thermoplastic.

         Common Thermoset Insulations

  • XLPE (Cross-linked polyethylene) is a popular thermoset insulation with excellent resistance to the environment.
  • EPR (Ethylene Propylene Rubber) is a material perfect for high-voltage uses. It is resistant to mechanical impact, chemicals, and moisture, with an operating temperature of 150 C.
  • Rubber Silicone is insulation with a superior temperature range of -80 C to 250 C. It is a non-conductive material with excellent chemical resistance. Unfortunately, it does not have incredible mechanical strength.
  • Neoprene is insulation with superior electrical conductivity used in military and industrial applications. It possesses excellent chemical and oil resistance.

The Bottom Line

For high-temperature applications and flexible applications, thermoset insulations are a usual choice. Thermoplastic insulations are a usual choice for residential applications. They are cheaper than thermoset insulations while still maintaining excellent electrical properties. However, the most important thing is to choose a high-quality cable that is correct for the particular application. Some insulations, like fluoropolymer ones, may not fit the standard characteristics of thermoset vs. thermoplastic. For high-quality electrical wire and cable of all types at manufacturer prices, visit


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Thermoplastic Insulation vs. Thermoset Insulation: Which One is the Be