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What is Wire Rope?

By S. Mithra
Updated May 17, 2024
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Wire rope is a heavy, tensile, strong, weather-resistant hoisting cable made from many small metal filaments wrapped and braided together. You can get a lot of strength and flexibility out of this type of rope because the separate wires equalize pressure throughout the bunch and work well with pulleys. It can be found on a modern farm, a fishing boat, and an international dock.

Usually, wire rope is comprised of steel strands arranged in an array around a central core. This design allows the entire wire to hold a lot of weight and still stay ductile. The individual filaments are wrapped into a bunch called a strand. Several of these strands, perhaps six or nine, are then arranged into an even larger bunch called a wire surrounding a central core, the sheath.

Wire rope can be made from steel or iron. Most types for outdoor use are galvanized so they won't rust through corrosion. Wire that hasn't been galvanized is called "bright." Other types are available with alloys that add various advantages. Wire rope usually can be maintained with cleaning and lubricating to make sure it remains compatible and safe with rigging hardware.

Some characteristics of wire rope are diameter, breaking strength, resistance to corrosion, difficulty of flattening or crushing, ability to be bent, and average lifespan. For each application of pulleys, chains, and weights, an industrial engineer needs to determine the correct type rope. Only that size, weight, and braid of rope can be used to ensure that it won't fray or snap.

People use wire rope to protect forests, unload imported goods, or provide raw food. Farmers use it to lift entire grain silos. Firefighters that take water out of lakes for dropping onto flames must tie the scoop to the helicopter. In major ports, both the docking ships and the vehicles on the ground need it in rigging to move giant pallets.

The most important aspect of wire rope is how it will function under the stress of each application. In many uses, it supports giant, heavy objects, and if it fails, lives could be in danger. Always know the breaking strength of your rope and, unless you are a professional, don't use it in a way that could potentially injure someone.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By JLucas2012 — On Oct 27, 2012

Thank you for posting. I've always been curious to know what wire rope is made out of. I know that it has many different uses.

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