# Mechanics of Wire Rope

Mordica Lecture—Interwire 2003 Wire Association International Atlanta, Georgia—May 12, 2003

George A. Costello
Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract.—This presentation on the mechanics of wire rope will be divided into two parts: a theory for the static and dynamic response of wire rope, and practical examples in the form of consulting problems with which I have been associated.

Introduction
It is indeed an honor to be selected as one of the Mordica lecturers for the Wire Association International’s 2003 Interwire conference. The subject of my talk is the mechanics of wire rope. However, before I talk about wire rope, I’d like to point out the importance of mechanics in solving a wide class of problems in engineering. A student came in to see me the other day; he had a problem outlined, and he wanted to work on a thesis in the area of mechanics. I suggested some ways of looking at the problem, but he replied, “How do I do that?” I said, “Well, that’s the problem.” People underestimate, or are often unaware of, the power of mechanics. Consider the application illustrated in Fig. 1, which shows a scale model of a lunar tractor. The date is about a year before we put a man on the moon. Engineers at one of the major subcontractors were worried about the tractor sinking into the lunar soil. At the time, it was not clear what was on the moon. And the engineers at this company didn’t know what all the effects of gravity were, so they came up with a laboratory study. The picture of the experimental data they obtained looked like somebody had hit it with a shotgun. The basic question was, how do you account for the difference between the gravity on Earth and that on the moon? How should their experiments be designed? I got a phone call from a relative. After listening to the problems they were having, I asked if they were using dimensional analysis. Nobody had heard of that area, although most students in fluid mechanics would have come across dimensional analysis in their course work. It turns out that you can get the effect of gravity in a particular problem by using it in a dimensionless variable. By incorporating gravity in this fashion, they were able to improve their experimental design significantly. Dimensional analysis, I should point out, is just one of the tools that people in mechanics can use to solve engineering problems.

GEORGE A. COSTELLO

Theory of Wire Rope

(1)

where s is the arc length along the wire axis. There are also three equations of equilibrium for moments: dG − G ′τ + Hκ ′ − N ′ + K = 0 , ds dG ′ − Hκ + Gτ + N + K ′ = 0 , ds dH − Gκ ′ + G ′κ + Θ = 0 . ds

(2)

2

for the rotational strain and the axial strain. when you pull on the cross section. a twisting moment M t . and ξ is the axial wire strain. as indicated in the figure. Besides these equations of equilibrium. and a bending moment M b . the outer wires do not touch each other. all the wires shorten transversely due to the Poisson effect. 4 πR 4 E (κ ′ − κ ′ ) . A is the cross-sectional area. Equations (1)–(2) simplify drastically for a helical wire. you need the constitutive relations. can also be considered in a similar manner. where E is the modulus of elasticity of the wire material. For a wire with a circular cross section of radius R. Also. and you’d like to have a solution of these in terms of s for a given wire. (3) G = G′ = H = πR 4 E (κ − κ 0 ) . 7. (1)–(4) also hold for strands within a rope. you have an axial force F. You can actually calculate what the velocity should be. Wire Association International Notice if you will that the equations are nonlinear because of the products of certain unknowns. where the strand consists of many wires. twist. 0 H = C( τ − τ 0 ) . One way to reduce the stresses and make the strand more flexible is to leave a little gap between each of the wires. to cause zero contact force. G ′ = EI y (κ ′ − κ ′ ) . It’s very difficult to compress one of these and put it into a shape like that in a static machine. so that when you pull on the cross section. and elongation: G = EI x (κ − κ 0 ) . the relations between the generalized forces and the components of curvature. Treating the strand. I can’t go into all the detail in the theory. then the rotation and axial strain as a function of time may combine to form a critical condition where the contact forces go to zero. 3 . C is the torsional rigidity. T = EAξ .2003 Mordica Lecture. 4(1 + ν) 4 (4) T = πR 2 Eξ . A strand Figure 5 shows a front view and the cross section of a simple straight strand. Strands are often subjected to bending and torsion. however. as illustrated in Fig. I x and I y are the cross-sectional moments of inertia. but notice that the six outside wires appear oval in shape. A detrimental effect that ropes sometimes experience is that of bird-caging (Fig. 0 4 πR E (τ − τ 0 ) . 6). What you can show is that if a rope is loaded dynamically. On each cross section. You have six equations. A typical strand consists of a straight center wire and six helical outer wires wrapped around the center wire. Generalized forms of Eqns. that is.

Model of lunar vehicle. 1.Fig. .

2.GEORGE A. Curved wire in undeformed and deformed configuration. 8 . COSTELLO x3 B P A Undeformed C Deformed y P’ x z x2 x1 Fig. x3 ω0 C A B r0 α0 x1 x2 Fig. Undeformed helical wire with rectangular cross section. 3.

x2 Mt F R1(1−νξ1) A A r2 R2(1−νξ2) Section A A F Mt Fig. Loads acting on a thin wire.2003 Mordica Lecture. Straight strand subjected to an axial force and twisting moment. 5. 9 . Wire Association International x3 x G N s X Y Z K K’ Θ G’ N’ y z H T x1 Fig. 4.

Straight strand subjected to an axial force. COSTELLO Fig. 10 . a bending moment. Condition for bird-caging in a strand. and a twisting moment. 7.GEORGE A. 6. q F MT MB p F MT MB d ρ Fig.

Stranded-wire compression spring. 8.2003 Mordica Lecture. 11 . Wire Association International (a) Before deformation (b) Pulled in tension Fig.

COSTELLO Strand 1 Strand 2 Strand 3 0.0040'' 0.0035'' 0.0045'' 0.0030'' Fig. 12 . 9.GEORGE A. Cross section of a 6x49 internal-wire-rope-core rope. or 7x7x7 rope.

Wire Association International q p D d Wire rope F MT F MT Fig. 13 .2003 Mordica Lecture. Rope pulled and bent over a sheave. 10.

Disk drive head cable. 11. Strand 0.GEORGE A.006" OD 14 .002" OD (b) Cross section Fig.063" OD Insulation 0.020" OD Wire 0. COSTELLO (a) Detail of strands Jacket 0.

2003 Mordica Lecture. Wire Association International Fig. 15 . Cross section of a radial tire. 12.

13. COSTELLO Fig. Model of power lines (with G. 16 . Costello on the right).GEORGE A. A.

13.2003 Mordica Lecture. Ice buildup on a transmission tower. Wire Association International Fig. 17 .

Superconducting magnetic energy-storage rope. 14.GEORGE A. 18 . COSTELLO Superconducting wire rope strands Superconducting wire rope Electromagnetic force Stainless steel wire rope core (a) Rope and cross section R β /2 ρ p φ r Wire rope (b) Detail of rope segment Fig.

15. Wire Association International Fig.2003 Mordica Lecture. Puerto Rico. 19 . The Arecibo Radio Telescope.

COSTELLO Fig. Oil platform under construction.GEORGE A. 20 . 16.

Oil platform on barge. 21 . Wire Association International Fig. 17.2003 Mordica Lecture.

18. COSTELLO Fig. Part of broken hook and slings after hook failure. 22 .GEORGE A.

23 .2003 Mordica Lecture. 19. Wire Association International Fig. Compound sling made from a left-lay rope (foreground) and a right-lay rope (background).

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