If you’ve ever looked at a cross-section of tray cable, you’ve likely seen several layers of insulation protecting each copper conductor from corrosion and damage.

The outermost layer of insulation, called the jacket, surrounds all the conductors, drain wire, and shielding and is the first line of defense for a piece of tray cable. Similar to how a puffy jacket protects you from freezing during the winter, tray cable jackets serve many purposes in commercial and industrial applications.

Depending on the type of jacket material used with your tray cable, it can carry a few different protective qualities, including:

  • heat resistance 
  • flame retardance 
  • protection from oil, water, and chemical corrosion in hazardous locations 
  • sunlight resistance (this is a black sunlight-resistant jacket that protects the cable from UV radiation) 
  • protection across a wide range of temperatures 
  • use in wet and dry locations 

Depending on the type of jacket you go with, it will have different properties and protective abilities. This isn’t to say one jacket is better than another, but the decision is more than likely going to be based on where the cable will be installed and what the conditions are.

What Are the Tray Cable Jacket Types?

There are two main types of tray cable jacketing; thermoset and thermoplastic. Depending on the polymers used during the extrusion process, it will give the tray cable different abilities and resistances that make


Thermosets are polymers that are cured onto the wire, making it rubbery. Typically, you’ll find thermoset tray cable jacketing used in locations and applications where the wire will be exposed to high temperatures. This is because a thermoset jacket maintains its properties in high heat and won’t soften like other jacket types.

CPE, also known as Chlorinated Polyethylene, can handle high temperatures, but this tray cable will lose some flexibility, especially in colder temperatures. The lost flexibility is offset somewhat by great UV protection, making it a good outdoor cable.

Neoprene is another type of thermoset polymer and is a synthetic rubber compound. This rubber coating gives the tray cable heat, sunlight, and oxidation resistance, makes it less prone to becoming brittle in cold environments, and provides solid protection from abrasion damage. This jacketing material excels in environments where the cable could encounter sharp or jagged objects, like underground.


Thermoplastics are another type of plastic polymer applied to tray cable during the extrusion process. These polymers are unique because they can handle several heating and cooling cycles without chemical changes. At lower temperatures, thermoplastics harden to become very strong but will become soft and pliable at higher temperatures.

Although thermoplastics are more cost-effective than thermoset options, thermoplastic tray cable jackets are best used in applications where the heat is more controlled. This is because they risk melting in locations where the temperature is consistently high.

PVC, or Polyvinyl Chloride, is a heat, oil, chemical, and sunlight-resistant thermoplastic polymer applied to tray cable jacketing and is among the most used materials. PVC jackets are strong, flexible, and offer great abrasion resistance, but may not be great for heavy usage in industrial applications.

Polyurethane (PE) is like PVC but lacks the same flame and water resistance unless additives are included. Otherwise, PE has incredible abrasion, oil, and chemical resistance.

Chlorinated Polyethylene, or CPE, can be a thermoplastic or a thermoset. As a thermoplastic, CPE has good heat and flame resistance, is oil resistant, and can survive in the elements. What differentiates the thermoplastic version of CPE from the thermoset version is that this version doesn’t have the same high heat tolerance.

Low Smoke, Zero Halogen (LSZH)

This specialized type of tray cable jacketing is used where the fire risk is higher than usual – mainly in enclosed spaces and tough-to-access areas.

What makes these jackets special? They’re made without halogens like chlorine and fluorine, which can spew off toxic gases that can be deadly when inhaled during a fire. They’re also made using chemicals that produce less smoke than other jacketing materials. If a fire breaks out, less toxic smoke will be created, and people will still be able to see so they can evacuate the area.

You can typically find LSZH cables in areas where health is a priority or where you might find large groups of people gathered. These locations could include schools, hospitals, office buildings, and public transport locales. This cable is also a good choice to install in tough-to-reach spaces and tight spots where access may be blocked off.

Choosing the Right Jacket for the Right Application

With so many options available, deciding what type of jacket to invest in seems like a tough job. Well, it can be, but there are ways to narrow down your options and find the jacket you need.

Before placing a tray cable order, consider these questions;

  • What’s the application? 
  • Will the tray cable be installed in a high-heat location, or will it be colder? 
  • Will it run underground as part of an exposed run or installed in cable trays? 
  • What is the risk of a fire or chemicals coming into contact with the cable? Does the wire need to be flame test rated? 
  • Does the job require a thermoset compound, or can you use a more cost-effective thermoplastic product? 

Once you can confidently answer these questions, it’s easier to figure out what type of tray cable jacket you need for the job.

Different Polymers, Different Results

Whether you’re looking for vinyl nylon tray cable (VNTC) or cross-linked polyethylene (XPTC), learning as much as possible about the project’s application can go a long way.

Kris-Tech has the expertise and skills to help you decide what you need to complete your work safely and ensure it lasts for years. Our tray cable products are UL 1277 certified, rated for exposed runs, and available with custom color codes and printing legends if needed.

If you need help or want to learn more about our tray cable products and services, click here for a fast, free, no-obligation quote from Kris-Tech.

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