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wire rope

wire rope

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06/13/2013

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Wire Ropes
Wire rope is a vital machine element for transmittingtensile forces and motion. Describing wire rope orcable as a machine is generally accepted, as it hasmultiple moving parts that transfer force anddynamically distribute the applied loading to performuseful work. These versatile constructs are used in awide variety of industries and in very severe appli-cations. The purpose of this article is to explain thecomplicated selection, use, care, inspection, andfailure analysis of wire rope.
1. Development and Applications
The archaeological record shows that Stone Age maninvented natural fiber ropes. The use of metal wires tomanufacture much stronger ropes began over 2500years ago. Modern stranded wire rope was primarilydeveloped and refined in the last 200 years. Many of the advances were application oriented, for silvermine hoists, railways, and cable cars. Foremostamong the primary advantages of wire rope is thatit can transmit very high forces and remain flexible.Rope can withstand multiaxis bending that is notalways possible in other flexible tensile members,such as chain. Standard wire rope consists of manyindividual wires, precisely arranged into strands thatare assembled into a rope, as shown in Fig. 1. It is thecontinuous realignment of the individual wires andstrands that permits the assembly to endure thetension, torsion, bending, and compression forcesapplied in service.Wire rope service is typically categorized as staticor dynamic. These categorizations are significant, asthe concerns accompanying each are substantiallydifferent. Static or stationary applications includetower supports, guy wires, suspension bridge sup-ports, and electrical power transmission lines. Dy-namic applications are usually for pulling or lifting,and include elevators, t
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eriques (aerial cable cars),cranes, hoists, dredges, and control cables. Dynamic-ally stressed ropes require flexibility to pass oversheaves and onto drums.
2. Wire Rope Configuration
The basic element of a wire rope is metal wire. Wire ismanufactured from rod by successive cold drawingprocesses until the final diameter and strength levelare attained. Interim annealing processes are requiredto restore the requisite ductility between successivedrawing steps. The high strength of rope wires is dueto cold work rather than heat treatment operations.The wires are then fabricated into rope by automaticstranding machinery. All of the properties of wireropes are a result of the wire manufacturing, wiresizes, and the manner in which the wires are arranged.The descriptions of wire rope for design orselection purposes have been standardized. A normaldescription contains the following attributes: length,diameter, construction, lay, grade, finish, core, andlubrication. These characteristics are described belowand the appropriate designations are summarized inTable 1. Many standard organizations have prepareddetailed specifications for wire rope, including ASTMA 1023 and ISO 2408.
Length.
The length of a wire rope in meters or feet.
Diameter.
A ropes nominal or rated size ismeasured across the circumscribed diameter, ratherthan across the flat sides of the geometric shape that isformed (e.g., such as a hexagon or octagon). Individualwire diameters are not usually specified, but will bedependent upon the rope size and construction.
Construction.
The design configuration of a wirerope is called the construction. The number of strands and wires is the class of the rope and isincluded in the construction. The most widely usedclass is 6
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25, for six strands of 25 wires. Ropestrands were originally made with a single wirediameter in single-layer construction. As wires getlarger, more unused space exists between the wires,reducing both the load-bearing cross-sectional areaand the crushing resistance. Several mixed wire sizestrand constructions were developed in the 1800s tooptimize properties as more severe applications wereenvisioned for wire ropes.Various cross-sections of ropes are shown in Fig. 2.The Warrington (W) construction contains alternat-ing wire sizes to form a more compact, densearrangement. The Seale (S) strand arrangementcontains alternating layers of wire sizes, with largerdiameter wires on the exterior. Filler wire (FW)constructions contain auxiliary interior wires thatserve primarily to support the rope’s geometricalconfiguration under loading. Small filler wires alsoprovide some cushioning as the outer wires seat betteron the intermediate or inner wires. Hybrid strandconstructions of numerous layers are used, oftenrequiring complex multiple stranding operations.Additional constructions contain nonround wires,plastic-coated strands, and other features for veryspecialized service characteristics. For example, thelocked coil tramway cable shown in Fig. 2 was
Figure 1
Diagram of wire rope components.
1
 
developed for high strength and abrasion resistance.The interlocking construction prevents broken wiresfrom protruding from the rope.High-strength straight wires evince spring behavior;therefore, the spiral stranding into a rope will result inresidual stresses within the individual wires andstrands. These stresses are superimposed onto appliedstresses, thereby reducing the safe working loadpermissible. Preforming is a process where wires andstrands are mechanically formed into the nested helicesthey assume in the rope, minimizing inherent residualstresses. The reduction in internal friction is alsomanifested as better flexibility and fatigue resistance.
Lay.
The strand lay, or lay direction, of a rope isthe direction strands are laid around the core, and thedirection wires are laid around the strands. Fivestandard lays are shown in Fig. 3 with their designa-tions included in Table 1. Regular lay and lang layropes exhibit substantially different characteristics.Regular lay ropes are typically easier to handle andare not prone to untwisting in hoisting applicationswith suspended loads. The axial lay of the wires inlang lay ropes provide better flexibility and fatigueresistance, but they are less resistant to crushingunder heavy loading.Alternate lays are special-purpose constructions of alternating regular and lang lay strands. Rotation-resistant ropes are available, using greater numbers of strands or strands with successive layers laid inopposite directions. The term rope lay or pitch is usedto signify the distance in which one exterior strandmakes a complete revolution about the core. The laylength is of particular importance in visual inspec-tion, as described in Sect. 6.
Grade.
Most wire ropes are made from steel. Steelrope wires are classified by a number of historicalnames, but these are somewhat imprecise. Thestrength grades include traction steel, plow steel,and various grades of improved plow steel. Ropesand cables are also made from stainless steel,aluminum, copper alloys and other specialty materi-als. These materials are discussed in greater depthin Sect. 4.
Finish.
The finish of a steel wire rope indicateswhether it is coated. Most ropes have a bright finish,indicative of uncoated steel. Galvanized (zinc-coated)ropes provide better corrosion resistance and areusually used for static service, such as ship rigging,guy wires, and suspension bridge supports. Theseropes are not for heavy hoisting and they abrade
Table 1
Standard steel wire rope identifications.Characteristic Description DesignationLength Linear length meters (feet)Diameter Nominal diameter or size centimeters (inches)Construction Number of strands by number of wires per strand e.g., 6
Â
25Single layeruniform wire diameter in strand NoneWarringtonalternating wire sizes in a single layer WSealealternate layers of different wire sizes SFiller wirene wires between layer wires FW or FLay Right regular laystrands laid right and strand wires laid left RRL or sZLeft regular lay—strands laid left and strand wires laid right LRL or zSRight lang laystrands laid right and wires laid right RLL or zZLeft lang laystrands laid left and wires laid left LLL or sSAlternate layregular and lang lay strands alternate RAL/LALGrade Traction steel TSPlow steel PSImproved plow steel IPSExtra-improved plow steel EIPS or XIPSExtra-extra-improved plow steel EEIPS or XXIPSFinish Brightuncoated, bare wires BGalvanizedzinc or zinc alloy coated wires GCore Fiber core FCWire strand core WSCIndependent wire rope core IWRCLubrication Special requirements
Adapted from Wire Rope Technical Board (1993) and ASTM A 1023 (2002).
2
Wire Ropes
 
easily, removing the protective zinc. Polymeric coat-ings are also available.
Core.
The outer strands of a wire rope are laidabout a core. The core acts primarily as a foundationfor the outer strands, which carry most of the load.The type of core has a substantial influence on theproperties of a wire rope. Cores are identified as fibercore (FC), wire strand core (WSC), or independentwire rope core (IWRC).Fiber cores do not add any mechanical strength towire ropes, only modest support for the outer strandsto prevent crushing. The natural materials used forthese cores include manila, sisal, cotton, hemp, and jute. Synthetic fiber cores from extruded petrochem-ical resin are also used, predominantly polypropylene(PP). Fiber materials can be severely degraded bydrying or charring. Fiber cores are not suitable forservice over 82
1
C (180
1
F) (Wire Rope TechnicalBoard 1993). Wire strand cores and independent wirerope cores add from 7% to 10% to the strength of awire rope, but do not provide some FC benefits, suchas greater flexibility and lubricant retention. Metalcore ropes exhibit better crushing resistance thanfiber core ropes.
Lubrication.
Like most machines with movingparts, wire ropes and cables require lubrication.Lubrication reduces friction between individualwires, between strands, between coils of rope, andbetween the rope and other surfaces, such as sheavesand drums. The wires and strands must slide inrelation to each other to permit stress distributionand equalization. Fiber cores act as an effectivereservoir for a continuous supply of lubricant.A variety of different lubricants are used in wireropes, dependent upon the specific service conditions.Lubricants include natural and manmade substances,such as boiled linseed oil and graphite greases, butare usually petroleum oil based. Additives may beincluded in these compounds to provide betteradherence to the wires, increase water repellence,
Figure 2
Typical wire rope constructions: (a) 7
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7 WSC,(b) 6
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19 Warrington construction with a fiber core(W FC), (c) 8
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19 Seale construction with a fiber core(S FC), (d) 6
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21 Filler wire construction with anIWRC (FW IWRC), (e) 6
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26 Warrington–Sealeconstruction with an IWRC (WS IWRC), and (f) lockedcoil tramway cable. Shading is representative of a fibercore.
Figure 3
Diagrams of several standard wire rope lays: (a) rightregular lay, (b) left regular lay, (c) right lang lay, (d) leftlang lay, and (e) right alternate lay. Each depiction is asingle rope lay.
3
Wire Ropes

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