Here at Rope Services Direct, our range of wire rope products is simply second to none. Whether you require a one-off crane rope or a dozen wire rope slings, we can supply them all. Not only that, thanks to our own riggers and machinery we can make them up to suit your exact requirements. This includes the type of rope, construction and size of rope and end terminations.
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Wire Rope can be seen all around us, even if we may not always register it! It is most commonly used to lift or support objects but can sometimes just be used for aesthetic purposes and it can have many advantages.
Probably one of the most common industries to utilise it is the lifting equipment industry where it’s frequently used to lift heavy loads and can be seen on a variety of equipment including cranes, winches, hoists and lifting slings.
Another common area they are used is in lifts to raise and lower the lift compartment. This can be in office buildings as well as cable cars, ski lifts, railways and other types of aerial lift.
Even aviation and marine industries along with water and sewage treatment facilities use it -though often the stainless-steel variety due to its high corrosion resistance.
Steel cable is also often used for architectural purposes as it is known for its strength, versatility and aesthetic properties. A common example is suspension bridges.
Other examples include guard rails, security cables and home maintenance, including washing lines and lock systems. However, these are often plastic coated for extra handling protection and flexibility. It’s also used in the home for suspended staircases and bookshelves to create a modern feel as well as in certain types of fencing, decking and barriers for protective purposes.
One of the reasons for the wide range of uses is the different end fittings that can be attached to the rope to enable them to fit to any anchor point and also to adjust to the required tension.
When choosing a wire rope, it is important to speak to a specialist to ensure you get the correct one for your purposes.
Things to consider include:
- The breaking strength of the rope
- Corrosion resistance
- Difficulty in flattening or crushing the rope
- Flexibility and suitability for the task
- Average lifespan and frequency of use
- Working conditions
- Rotation needs
- Type of spooling on the drum
- Length of rope
- Finish e.g. galvanised
- Minimum breaking force
- End terminations needed
- Lay and construction type
There are many different diameters available. They are commonly found in diameters ranging from 3mm to 76mm. It’s important to choose the right diameter as a 50mm rope would be no use round a pulley with a groove of 10mm.
One of the most important considerations is how you will useit. This is especially true if it is being used in the lifting industry, where if the rope fails then serious injuries can occur. It is of the upmost important that you examine the rope for signs of wear and if in any doubt, do not use. It is also a good idea to have a regular inspection and testing schedule, carried out by a suitably qualified person so that you know the rope is fit for purpose and safe.
Whatever type of wire rope you choose, it is important to be aware of the properties and construction of it so that you are using the correct rope and also enhances your safety knowledge.
In manufacturing it, hundreds of tiny metal filaments are wrapped, twisted and braided together to make the inner wires. These will then turn into strands by twisting together the smaller inner wires / filaments. Twisting strands in various ways around a central core is what makes the wire rope. It is how they are twisted which gives them their differing properties e.g. non-rotating, low stretch, higher breaking strength. There are also different constructions depending on left and right hand lay.
Note: the numbers used when describing a wire rope denote the number of wires and strands within it. For example, a 6 x 36 wire rope has 6 strands made of 36 wires. Likewise, a 7 x 19 has 7 strands with 19 wires. Strength and/or flexibility is provided when the strands are twisted around an inner core which can be steel wire or fibre core.
Due to their construction, it’s important to identify any broken wires or strands which could have severe consequences if used without inspection and testing. However, if a few strands break during a specific lift, it is more likely the intact wires and strands will hold the load whilst it is safely lowered – then the rope can be destroyed. It is this property which makes them safer than chains because if a chain link breaks then the load will likely fall.
There are many factors which can affect them, including bad coiling using pulleys and sheaves etc., grooves that are too big or too small, excessive pulling angles or twisting the rope in the opposite way to its ‘lay construction’, dirt ingress and poor lubrication to name but a few.
Handling, Storage and Protection
In this section we look at how to safely handle and store it as well as how to prolong the life of it.
Handling it can impart numerous hazards. From metal splinters when cutting the rope to acute bruising if the rope abruptly recoils so vital safety strategies must be adapted when handling the product.
Personal Protective Equipment suitable for the job must be worn including mandatory safety gloves, overalls and boots. Eye protectors may also be required when cutting.
Damage to the rope is easy to do, especially when unloading reels from a vehicle or unreeling. Throwing a rope from the reel is a big no-no.
The best option is to raise the reel off the floor so it turns without restraint. Some possible ways to do this is to utilize a soft sling through the centre of the reel which can be let down by means of an electric hoist or passing a bar through and resting it over the forks of a forklift truck or jacks could be a possibility, or using a reel turntable. However, if you are using a forklift truck do not place the forks directly onto the reel as misguided forks could damage it.
Before unreeling – make sure the floor space is clear so that the rope can be pulled off the reel in a straight line safely. The rope must always be pulled from the top, not the bottom of the reel and it should be pulled in a straight line which should minimise the danger of bending or kinking the wires, which will permanently damage it and make it unusable.
If it’s in a coil rather than a reel, then the only safe way to remove the rope is to carefully roll the coil in a similar way to pushing a child’s loop, again ensuring the surrounding area is clear of debris.
Reeling / Winding
Equally, it can be damaged when it is being reeled back up again after use. You need to keep it wound tightly and wind it the same way the wire has been wound out which will avoid reverse bending of the rope. You should also ensure the wire is wound over the top of the reel to ensure it’s even and to avoid the bottom layers crushing.
Storing it correctly is just as important as using it correctly as any damage, even tiny damage, can result in a significant impairment in performance.
Storage should be ideally on a rack, stand or pallet and not on the ground. It is also important to store the rope in a clean, cool and dry environment as moisture or condensation can develop amid the wires and begin the decay process rendering the rope unusable – waterproof containers and breathable tarpaulin like bags should ideally be used if the rope is stored outside.
Wire ropes are lubricated during manufacture but further lubrication at frequent intervals should be done, especially if it’s being stored for long periods of time. This will help to shield it from moisture ingress.
- A well ventilated and dry storage area is the best practice.
- Periodically rotate reeled rope to help to prevent the migration of the lubricants within the rope.
- You should not store the rope in areas where the temperature is high, as this can affect its performance.
- You should try to keep the rope elevated, off the floor to allow good air circulation. Reduce the risk of the rope becoming contaminated with dirt, dust and other particles that may affect it.
- A-frames or cradles can be used for storing reels.
- Ropes that are in storage should be inspected from time to time, and re-lubricated if necessary.
- Check new ropes before being placed in storage.
Storing rope should be done in such a way that it will not be at risk from any accidental damage. Either whilst in storage or whilst removing the rope from the storage area.
Overall, always remember manufacturers guidelines and instructions should be followed at all times to keep safe and prolong the life of the rope. If you are unsure if a rope is fit for purpose, always get it inspected and load tested which ought to be done regularly anyway.
Also available within our wire rope range are:
Wire Rope History
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 – 6×19 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.