Cables are vital to every sector in society – from robotics in manufacturing to diagnostic equipment in healthcare. Cables make cars, trucks, buses and trains run. Cables also bring electricity to our homes, charge our smartphones, and connect us to the world. As the most used material for cable insulation and sheathing with a market share of around 40%, PVC or vinyl has a key role to play in shaping Europe’s future.
Discover why PVC is the material of choice for cables:
Due to its unique molecular structure, PVC has the widest range of applications in the polymer family. Properties for PVC cable formulations include excellent flexibility, high insulation resistance, fire-retardancy and ease of coloring.
PVC is easy to extrude for cables is because of its low viscosity. PVC has a high molecular weight but low viscosity, which means it flows easily when heated and subjected to pressure.
PVC also has a wide processing window, which means it can be processed at a range of temperatures and pressures. This flexibility in processing conditions allows for better control over the extrusion process and helps ensure consistent quality of the final cable insulation product.
The easy extrusion yields very high productivity for cable manufacturers.
PVC is easy to co-extrude for cable insulation is because of its relatively low viscosity when melted. This means that PVC can flow easily through the extrusion process. Also, PVC can be processed at a range of temperatures and pressures. These two factors allow PVC to be combined with other materials for multi-layer cables during the co-extrusion process.
PVC shows good flexibility, electrical characteristics and mechanical strength from -40 to 125 degrees Celsius. The great temperature span makes PVC suitable for cables in demanding applications and harsh climates.
PVC cables are resistant to UV radiation, high temperatures, and humidity without degrading or losing their functionality.
PVC cables have good resistance to many types of hydrocarbons, such as mineral oils, diesel fuel, and petroleum.
High insulation value is one of the most important properties of cable sheathing.
PVC insulation provides good electrical insulation properties and has a high dielectric strength, effectively preventing electrical leakage and breakdown.
PVC insulation is also resistant to moisture, chemicals, and UV radiation, which makes it a popular choice for outdoor and industrial applications.
Due to its high chlorine content, PVC is by nature a flame retardant and can be considered self-extinguishing. This means PVC cables have a low flame propagation rate, do not generate flaming droplets, and emit very little smoke and toxic gases when they burn. PVC cables are commonly used in applications where fire safety is critical, such as in buildings, transportation, and industrial settings.
Studies and tests show that, due to its intrinsically self-extinguishing characteristics, PVC would produce very little smoke in a real fire situation, it is difficult to ignite and does not sustain combustion.
The PVC value chain is constantly working on new formulations to ensure maximum safety. New formulations for PVC cables show that PVC compounds can obtain the highest fire reaction results compared with any other thermoplastic material, reaching B2Ca class, and d0 and S1a subclasses under the EU Construction Products Regulation (CPR).
Most of the PVC cables are recycled and provide valuable recyclates for new products such as roofing, flooring, waterproofing membranes, pool and pond foils, mats, speed bump and other road safety products.
Thanks to the collection and recycling schemes set up in the framework of VinylPlus®, nearly 1.6 million tonnes of PVC from cables have been recycled since 2000, saving nearly 3.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.