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
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.
The length of a wire rope in meters or feet.
A rope’s 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.
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
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
Diagram of wire rope components.