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It was a German mining engineer who first acknowledged the need for stronger and more robust materials to lift the mined materials to the surface. They commonly used hemp rope which frequently broke, causing many accidents.
The very first wire ropes were experimental, and produced by wrapping bundles of wires together with hemp; although this was not a great success it was a good starting point. Many techniques were tried until they found wrapping wires around a hemp core to make up a thicker strand and subsequently twisted multiple strands around a further hemp core in alternate directions worked it was a much greater success, giving much more stability and strength.
This practice was continually developed over the years, trying out different cores and twisting techniques until coming to the types we see today.They were first mass produced in America by John Roebling who incidentally went on to build the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. This man made many improvements in the design and production of them.
Today they are labelled in a way to make it easier to determine its construction. For example if you see – 6x19 IWRC this would say that the rope has an Independent Wire Rope Core wrapped with 6 individual strands which contain 19 wires each. Other common abbreviations include FC = fibre core; RHL = right hand lay and NR = non-rotating.