What is A Wire Rope? – Understanding the Specifications and Construction

Wire rope is used in a number of different applications, both in commercial and personal projects. It is relied on for its strength, flexibility, and ability to transmit forces or energy in a predetermined manner. It’s incredibly useful and versatile.

Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about wire rope – a starting point for anyone interested in learning the basics of this impressive material.

As with any machine, the proper usage and functional characteristics of wire rope must be recognized to maximize its longevity.

What is a Wire Rope?

Wire rope consists of several strands of metal wire twisted helically about a central axis known as the core. Each cylindrical steel rod or thread is known as a wire. Each group of wires twisted together forms a strand. A group of strands twisted around a central core known as a wire rope or cable. Sometimes a filler wire is used to fill voids between wires in a strand to provide stability to the shape of the cable.

stainless steel wireWire rope was originally created to replace steel chains which had a history of mechanical failure. Where one flaw or weak link in a chain could lead to catastrophic failure, flaws in steel cable are less critical as the remaining strands take up the load. Furthermore the twist of the fibers produces friction between the individual strands maintaining the strength of the cable even when there is some damage.

Historically wire rope was created using wrought iron however today wire ropes are typically made of stainless steel wire which is extremely resistant to corrosion and can withstand temperatures up to 1050°C.

Wire rope construction is designated by two numbers, the first is the number strands in the cable and the second refers the number of wires in each strand.

Components of Wire Rope

Four basic components make up the design of a finished wire rope:

  • Wires made from metal that form a singular strand
  • Multi-wire strands laid around a core in a helical pattern
  • A fiber or steel core
  • Lubrication
What is Wire Rope

#1. Wire.

Wires are the smallest component of wire rope and they make up the individual strands in the rope. Wires can be made from a variety of metal materials including steel, iron, stainless steel, monel, and bronze. The wires can be manufactured in a variety of grades that relate to the strength, resistance to wear, fatigue resistance, corrosion resistance, and curve of the wire rope.

The wires themselves can be coated but are most commonly available in a “bright” or uncoated finish.

#2. Strands.

Strands of wire rope consist of two or more wires arranged and twisted in a specific arrangement. The individual strands are then laid in a helical pattern around the core of the rope.

Strands made of larger diameter wires are more resistant to abrasion, while strands made of smaller diameter wires are more flexible.

#3. Core.

The core of a wire rope runs through the center of the rope and supports the strands and helps to maintain their relative position under loading and bending stresses. Cores can be made from a number of different materials including natural or synthetic fibers and steel.

#4. Lubrication.

Lubrication is applied during the manufacturing process and penetrates all the way to the core. Wire rope lubrication has two primary benefits:

  • Reduces friction as the individual wires and strands move over each other
  • Provides corrosion protection and lubrication in the core, inside wires, and outside surface

Clamp for wire rope

A wire rope clip, sometimes called a u-bolt clamp or u-bolt clip is used to clamp the loose end of a length of wire rope, once it has been looped back to form an eye. These fittings consist of a u-bolt and has a saddle secured by two nuts.

Generally, wire rope assemblies need at least two or three wire rope clips to secure the ends properly to the length of the rope.

Advantages of Wire Rope

The advantages of a wire rope are that they are more resistant to wear, have better crushing resistance, and high strength compared to a round-strand wire rope of equal diameter and classification. However, a swaged wire rope may have less bending fatigue resistance.

The wire ropes have the following advantages as compared to fibre ropes.

  • Higher flexibility and more wear resistance.
  • It has better-crushing resistance,
  • They have high strength compared to a round strand wire rope of equal diameter and classification.
  • It may have less bending fatigue resistance.
  • Reduction of mechanical stress on both the rope and the sheave, thus extending the life of both the sheave and the winch drum
  • Decrease of damages between the neighboring wraps in multilayer spooling – Better winding on drums
  • Significant Cost Reduction due to reduced rope abrasion and increased service life with less maintenance expense

Construction of Wire Rope

Wire ropes are made from various grades of steel wire with tensile strength ranging from 1200 to 2400 MPa. The wires are first given special heat treatment and then cold drawn for high strength and durability of the rope. Specialized machines manufacture steel wire ropes.

construction Wire rope Drive

First, strands such as 7, 19, or 37 of the wire are routed into a strand, and then a number of strands, usually 6 or 8, are rotated about the core or center to form the rope. The core may be made of hemp, jute, asbestos, or soft steel wire. The core must be continuously saturated with lubricant for the long life of the core as well as the entire rope.

Asbestos or soft wire cores are used when the ropes are subjected to radiant heat such as cranes working near furnaces. However, a wire core reduces the flexibility of the rope, and such ropes are used only where they are subjected to high compressions. Such as in the case of the wounding of multiple layers on a rope drum.

Classification of Wire Rope

According to the direction of twist of the individual wires and that of strands, relative to each other, the wire ropes may be classified as follows:

Classification of Wire rope drive
  • Cross or Regular Laying Ropes: In these types of ropes, the direction of twisting of wires in the strides is opposite to the direction of the twist of the stand. These types of ropes are the most popular.
  • Parallel or lang lay ropes: In these types of ropes, the direction of rotation of the strands in the strands is similar to the strands in the rope. These ropes have a better bearing surface but are easily split and twisted when loaded. These ropes are more flexible and the wearer is more effective. Since such ropes have a tendency to rotate, they are used in lifts and waved by guide methods and also as rope ropes.
  • Composite or reverse-laid ropes: In these types of ropes, the wires in two adjacent strands are rotated in the opposite direction.

The direction of the laying of ropes can be right-handed or left-handed, depending on whether the strands form a right-handed or left-handed helix. But right-handed ropes are most commonly used.

Procedure for designing a wire rope:

  • The following procedure can be followed while designing wire rope.
  • First, select the appropriate type of rope for the given application.
  • Find the design load by assuming a safety factor of 2 to 2.5 times the safety factor.
  • Find the diameter of the wire rope (D) by equalizing the tensile strength of the selected rope for the design load.
  • Find the diameter of the wire and the area of ​​the rope.
  • Locate the various stresses (or loads) in the rope.
  • Find the effective stress (or load) during normal functioning, starting, and load acceleration.
  • Now find the real safety factor and compare it to the safety factor. If the actual safety factor is within the permitted range, the design is protected.

What Is the Difference Between Cable and Wire Rope?

The terms “wire rope” and “cable” are often used interchangeably. You may have even heard them combined into “wire rope cables.” Their main difference is in their size. Wire rope refers to steel ropes with diameters larger than 3/8″, while smaller ones are considered to be cable or cords, also called aircraft cable.

To make wire ropes, aircraft cables included, a set of wires are twisted together to form a strand. One or multiple strands are twisted together and then form a single wire rope.

Cables commonly come in 1×7, 1×19, 7×7, and 7×19 configurations. The first number is the number of strands, and the second is the number of wires in each strand. Wire ropes come in several more configurations, some utilizing strands of different widths.

Both wire ropes and cables are made of either stainless steel or galvanized steel. They can be coated with PVC or nylon to increase their weather resistance.

Is size the only difference between the two, then? Not exactly. While it may be the only obvious difference, size influences a wire rope or cable’s other physical properties. This means they also have different applications.

The primary difference between cable and wire rope lies in their construction and intended use. Cable focuses on electrical or electronic transmission, emphasizing flexibility and conductivity, while wire rope prioritizes mechanical strength and durability, suitable for lifting, towing, or securing heavy objects.

Despite their differences, both cable and wire rope play crucial roles in modern technology and industry, reflecting their distinct design features and specialized functions.

Fibre Rope

Fibre ropes are made from fibers of varying length depending on their source. these are twisted up into yarns, and the twist given binds the fibres firmly together so that they hold by friction when the yarn is subjected to strain. The yarns are then laid up to form rope.

Ropes for transmission power are usually made of fibrous materials such as cannabis, manila, and cotton. Since hemp and manila fibres are rough, the ropes made of these fibres are not very flexible and have poor mechanical properties. The hemp rope has less strength than the Manila ropes.

When the hemp and manila ropes are bent over the sheave. The fibres cause some sliding, causing the rope to rub internally. To reduce this defect, rope fibres are lubricated with a tar, elongated, or graphite. Lubrication also makes the rope moisture-proof. Hemp ropes are suitable only for hand-operated hoisting machinery and for tackling rope tack, hooks, etc.

The cotton cord is very soft and smooth. Lubrication of cotton ropes is not necessary. But if it is done, it reduces the external wear between the rope and its edge grooves. It may be noted that Manila ropes are more durable and stronger than cotton ropes. Cotton ropes are more expensive than Manila ropes.

  • Manila and cotton ropes typically have a diameter of 38 mm to 50 mm. The size of the rope is usually specified by its circumference or ‘circumference’.
  • The ultimate tensile braking load of fibre ropes varies greatly. For Manila ropes, the average value of the ultimate tensile braking load can be taken as 500 D 2 kN, and for cotton ropes, it can be taken as 350 D 2 kN, where D is the diameter of the rope in mm.

Advantages of Fibre Rope Drives

The fibre rope drives have the following advantages:

  • They serve smoothly, steadily, and quietly.
  • They are slightly affected by external conditions.
  • Shafts may be out of strict alignment.
  • Power can be turned off in any direction and in degrees of the entire amount.
  • They give high mechanical efficiency.

Application of rope drive

The use of ropes for hunting, pulling, fastening, attaching, carrying, lifting, and climbing dates back to prehistoric times.

Power transmission over long distances is the main application of rope drive. Rope drives are used to drive systems that are more than 8 meters in distance using a distance power transmission system. Metal ropes are used for distances beyond sixty meters. It is commonly seen in elevators and cranes.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rope Drive:

Advantages of rope drive

  • Significant power transmission.
  • It can be used for long-distance power transitions.
  • Ropes are strong and flexible.
  • Provides smooth and quiet operation.
  • It can run in any direction.
  • Low-cost and economic.
  • Precise alignment of the shaft not required.

Disadvantages of the rope drive

  • Internal failure of the rope has no sign on external, so it often gets unnoticed.
  • Corrosion of wire rope.