The history of wire rope

The use of wire rope dates to the early 1830s, when engineer Wilhelm Albert created it for mining hoist operations in the Harz Mountains of Germany. Improving upon earlier wrought iron chains and hemp ropes, Albert’s design consisted of three strands containing four wires each. The exceptional strength made wire rope perfect for lifting and hoisting cranes and elevators, and it quickly caught on.

Further technological development led to wire rope being adopted for other uses. It proved an excellent choice in supporting suspension bridges and aerial tramways and, by the end of the 19th century, was increasingly used to transmit mechanical power and provide structural reinforcement.

Today, wire rope’s strength and versatility are utilised in a wide variety of ways. Cranes and hoists, elevators, mining equipment, conveyor belts, suspension bridges and towers – even planes, trains and automobiles – all rely on wire rope.

Wire rope is surprisingly complex

You might think of wire rope as a fairly simple product, but it’s actually quite complex. Several strands of metal wire are braided together into a helix shape surrounding a core. A typical 6×25 wire rope measures greater than ? inches in diameter and contains 150 wires in its outer strands; these all move independently of one another and continue to move and adjust when the rope bends. This provides the strength and flexibility needed to support, lift and move heavy objects.

Wire rope was once predominantly made of iron, but these days, it’s most likely made of steel, stainless steel, or galvanised steel. Copper, bronze, aluminum, titanium and nickel alloy might also be used.

There are alternatives to wire rope, and while each has benefits, there are drawbacks, as well. Metal chains are strong enough to handle heavy loads but tend to have a shorter service life. If one link in the chain breaks, the entire chain can no longer be used. They also weigh more and are less adaptable than wire rope, which comes in a large variety of shapes and sizes and can accommodate different types of lifting equipment for use in a larger number of applications.

Synthetic rope products have emerged in recent years. They are a lightweight alternative to wire rope and more resistant to corrosion but, because the technology is new, don’t yet have a proven track record. Synthetic rope is subject to certain temperature restrictions and is more prone to cutting or damage than wire rope. It can, and has, been used successfully in crawler crane and other lifting applications, but has proven more challenging in mobile cranes, which require a more precise balance between breaking load and weight.

5 factors to consider when purchasing wire rope

Choosing a wire rope supplier requires a little bit of homework on your part. As rugged and durable as wire rope is, you want to be sure to select a supplier with a quality product that doesn’t cut corners. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Wire Rope Selection. Wire rope is available in a wide variety of types and sizes. Your supplier should offer a large selection that can be customised to suit your needs. Don’t just look for different materials; make sure they have options for finishes and coatings, as well as varying diameter, construction and internal core options.
  2. Wire Rope Accessories. Wire rope requires additional hardware, so choose a supplier with an extensive selection of accessories in a wide variety of sizes. They should carry products such as hooks, shackles, swivels, hoists, clips and sleeves. Accessories should be made of durable, high-quality materials like stainless steel.
  3. Commitment to Safety. The best indicator of a wire rope supplier’s product is their commitment to safety. Knowledgeable suppliers offer well-engineered products that don’t just meet industry standards — they exceed them. The supplier should provide product information, brochures and other technical resources to ensure safe use.
  4. Knowledge and Expertise. A reputable wire rope supplier will have extensive experience and a proven track record. They won’t just sell a product; they’ll help you with design, selection, installation and operation to ensure strong performance and maximum service life. Look for a supplier that has been in business a while and has strong testimonials and positive reviews.
  5. Strong Distribution Channels. The best product in the world won’t do you much good if you’re unable to buy it. With global supply chain issues increasingly common, your supplier should have an extensive network of distribution centers. Not only will this help ensure you can buy wire rope when you need it; it’ll also save you on shipping costs — something that can add up with a heavy product like steel.

This post was written by, a wire rope manufacturer offering global customers precision-engineered products since 1948.