2018 | GEO Pressure Systems Inc.

Downhole Instrument Cable: Round vs. Square Encapsulation

Which is the ultimate in performance and durability?

The following study was preformed to directly compare 11mm square to 11mm round encapsulation of 4mm Downhole Cable. Various items were studied, including: Manufacturability, Weight, Flexibility, Crush Strength, Cross-Sectional Twisting, Dynamic Friction, and Deployment/Retrieval.



Round cable outperforms square cable in weight, flexibility, and crush strength. There are also issues with manufacturing and twisting of the square encapsulate down the axis of the wire during deployment and retrieval. All these factors increase the possibility of damage and wear in operation.

This study indicates that square encapsulated cable will have an overall higher cost of ownership than round encapsulated cable.


The studies on the various factors was preformed primarily using Finite Element Analysis. Simulation is a very subjective form of analysis and study outcomes can vary widely based on methods used. For this reason simulated studies should be used as an indicator to performance, not absolute fact. Further physical testing should be performed to verify simulation data.

1. Manufacturability

Extruding plastic encapsulating material over a core of other material (Steel, Copper, ect) is a mature process that has dominated cable manufacturing since the 1960’s. Although usually circular in cross-section, wire can be made in square, hexagonal, flattened rectangular, or other cross-sections for specific applications such as home electrical wiring.

Due to the stiffness and natural arc of the 4mm wire keeping it concentric (centered in the encapsulate) will be more difficult for the cable manufacturer. This points to the need to use of higher end manufacturing facilities that have the capability to produce a consistent product. This may produce a higher quality, but, will likely increase cost, lead-time, and limit manufacturing at low cost centers.

The pictures below clearly display the issue (Figure: 1).


Figure 1: Cross-Section of 11mm Square Cable


Figure 2: Cross-Section of 11mm Round Cable

2. Weight

All things being equal, material and wire, the 11mm square encapsulated cable weights ~11% more than an 11mm round encapsulated cable. This is due to the fact that there is more material in a square than a round profile.


Figure 3: Round Cable = 0.08lb/ft (Total)


Figure 4: Square Cable = 0.09lb/ft (Total)

3. Flexibility

A Round cable is more flexible than the square cable. A round cross-section has the same resistance to bending no matter which direction it is moved in. Square, on the other hand, has varying resistance to bending due to the thicker sections. Results of simulation show round cable is 34-40% more flexible than square.


Figure 5: Flexibility of Round Cable, 500lbs @ 90°


Figure 6: Flexibility of Square Cable, 500lbs @ 90°


Figure 7: Flexibility of Square Cable, 500lbs @ 45°

4. Crush Strength

Crush strength simulations performed using simulation can be used as an indicator to the performance under a given situation. When crushing forces were applied to a section of cable indications show that both Round and square cross-sections apply about the same force directly to the encapsulated wire. This simulation assumes that the wire is concentric in the encapsulation. Simulations on a cross-section of the actual Square cable (Figure: 10) show forces are higher face of the wire. It has been observed that, in practice, it is difficult to keep the wire concentric with the square cross-section encapsulation. See manufacturing section (1).


Figure 8: ~7100psi on Face @ 500lbs applied (Round)


Figure 9: ~7100psi on Face @ 500lbs applied (Rounded Square)


Figure 9: ~7100psi on Face @ 500lbs applied (Rounded Square)

5. Cross-Sectional Twisting

There is a tendency of the square cross-section encapsulated cable to twist along the axis of the wire when deployed and retrieved. This will increase both the volume needed on the reel as well as the frictional forces applied to the cable during deployment and retrieval. Round cross-section cable, even if it twists along the axis will not increase volume on the reel or frictional forces.


Figure 11: Square Cable Twisted Down Axis


Figure 12: Round Cable Twisted Down Axis

6. Dynamic Friction

Friction is a function of weight, surfaces in contact (roughness), and speed of retrieval. Each function has a bearing on the forces needed to be applied to the cable when being deployed and retrieved. If a cable weights more and has a rougher surface more forces will be applied.

Square cable has more weight and a rougher surface line (twisting down the axis) so it will create higher friction as compares to round.

With more friction comes more wear, it would be expected that this will reduce the operational life of the square cable over the round cable.

7. Deployment/Retrieval

When delivered from the factory both round and square encapsulated cable lay perfectly onto the reel. After deployment and retrieval the cable can be a twisted jumble on the reel.

Twisting forces on the square cable will reduce the flexibility (manageability) of the cable as well as increase the area requires on the reel for the cable. Reels need to be big enough to compensate for the extra area it will take up when retrieved.

Round cable, even though it can still be difficult to manage, will not be effected by twisting and frictional forces to the extent the square cable.


In conclusion, after years of experience and extensive testing, we at GEO PSI have concluded that a round profile proves to be superior in almost every way. This is why we encapsulate all of our TEC with a round polypropylene encapsulation which maximizes durability, and usability.

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Want to be the first to know? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Enter your email below and we will send you our latest content directly to your inbox. Be the first to read about topical discussions, and new product releases.

Leave a Reply

9 − three =


More Articles

Jeff Scott

In Country Support: Does it still Matter?

In the technologically advanced age we find ourselves living in, is in-country client support as important as it once may have been? The perception may be different to the reality. Advances in communication and travel has provided a different type of client and service support that could not have existed 20 years ago. Having a

Read More »
Jeff Scott

Artificial Lift Innovation

A New Technology in Real Time Downhole Vibration, Pressure, and Temperature Measurement for Artificial Lift Systems Our Breakthrough In Downhole Telemetry Our R&D engineering group at GEO PSI has developed a new robust downhole telemetry for our permanent downhole tools that greatly improves the speed, quantity, and quality of downhole data transmission. Similar to most other

Read More »


Vertical Integration


Cable Protectors


Top Posts


Artificial Lift




Downhole Gauges

Looking for a complete fit for purpose solution for your well?

Fill out this short questionnaire and one of our experienced team members will show you a solution designed to match the specific requirements of your application.

Contact Information

Provide us with the necessary contact, and location information.



Downhole Conditions

Tell us about the downhole environment present in your well.


Please describe the type of environment the sensors will be in.



Packer/Obstruction #1

Packer/Obstruction #2

Packer/Obstruction #3


Completion Data

Please provide us with as much information on your specific completion as possible.

Surface Casing


Production Casing

2nd Production Casing


2nd Tubing




Open Hole



What are the major application(s) for the downhole sensor(s)?

What are your preferred wellhead exit options?

What are the surface electronics required?






  • Your email is safe with us.

Africa Sales Contact

  • Your email is safe with us.

Europe – MENA Sales Contact

  • Your email is safe with us.

South-Central America Sales Contact

  • Your email is safe with us.

USA Sales Contact

  • Your email is safe with us.

Canada Sales Contact

  • Your email is safe with us.

Asia Pacific Sales Contact

  • Your email is safe with us.