The difference between wire rope and industrial cable is important to understand. Both are renowned for their incredible strength and durability. While smaller cables and wires are used in everything from swing sets and exercise equipment, more robust models are used in suspension bridges and skyscrapers.

While wire ropes and cables are used all the time in today’s world, they have only been around for less than 200 years. The first wire rope was created in Germany by a mining engineer with wrought iron. However, today’s cables and wire ropes are made nearly exclusively from steel.

But this is not the only detail that both wire ropes and industrial cables share. This is often why these pieces of hardware are confused and their terms are used interchangeably. So, what is the difference between wire rope and industrial cable?

Understanding Industrial Wire Rope

As the name implies, a wire rope is constructed similarly to ropes made from fabric like hemp, but in this case, it is made with thin metal strands. These are woven together to form a strong yet flexible material that is used for support, overhead lifting, and securement. Wire ropes are used in industrial applications commonly with cranes, hoists, swivels, shackles, or hooks for attachments.

The demand for durable wire ropes has been steadily increasing since it is extensively used in massive industries like oil and gas, construction, marine fishing, and mining. While COVID-19 slowed down production in 2020 and 2021, the market size is expected to grow by 8% through 2026 and will exceed $17.5 billion.

There are several components to be aware of when selecting industrial wire rope:

  • Material and finish
  • Strength and weight load limit
  • Flexibility
  • Resistance to abrasion, crushing, corrosion, and rotation
  • Patterns and Lay
  • Core construction

There are various mechanics which attribute to the strength and recommended use of wire ropes. For instance, a wire rope constructed with more strands will be more flexible than one with fewer. The diameter of the wires also contributes to flexibility and strength.

Wire ropes come in bright, galvanized, or stainless-steel finishes. Bright wire ropes may only be used for applications where the rope will not come into contact with moisture, as the material will corrode. Galvanized and stainless-steel ropes are corrosion resistant, and stainless steel is the strongest material available.

Other factors to be aware of when purchasing wire ropes are the core and pattern or lay. Wire ropes may have a fiber, independent wire, or wire strand core to support either flexibility or strength. The lay or direction in which the wires are woven also impacts the rotation resistance.

Understanding Industrial Cable

Although cable shares many of the same properties as wire rope, it is most easily classified based on size. The key difference between industrial cable and wire rope is the diameter of the strands. The smallest diameter of strands for a wire rope is typically 3/8”, while cables can have wires as small as .032”.

Since industrial cable wires are smaller, they are far more flexible and a bit more versatile. Like wire ropes, cables are used in construction, engineering, and machinery. But industrial cable is also commonly used in aviation and aircraft.

Another slight difference between industrial cables and wire ropes is the materials. Industrial cable is not offered in a bright finish, only galvanized and stainless steel. This is because the increased flexibility naturally decreases abrasion resistance. Galvanized and stainless steel are better at resisting fatigue and abrasion than bright steel.

Industrial cables do have the same core offerings as wire rope: fiber, independent wire, or wire strand. However, another difference is the strand groupings. Industrial cables are most commonly offered in either 7×7 or 7×19 construction, while wire ropes have far more groupings.

When Should You Use Wire Rope vs Industrial Cable?

While the differences between industrial cable and wire ropes may appear subtle, it is critical to select the correct hardware depending on the application. Weight load limits are generally the first indication of whether a wire rope or industrial cable will be used. Since wire ropes have a larger wire diameter, they can withstand heavier loads.

The required range of flexibility is also an important factor. For applications such as pulley systems, industrial cables are often recommended. Their construction is more flexible and abrasion-resistant, and it even offers a bit of stretch to combat cable fatigue.

No matter what, safety and overall construction quality need to be of top priority when selecting this type of hardware. If you are unsure of which to use, consult a knowledgeable wire rope and industrial cable wholesaler for assistance.

Have More Questions About Wire Rope and Industrial Cable?

If you have further questions regarding the construction and use of either wire ropes or industrial cable, you can reach out to the Elite Sales team. We’ve built a reputation as a trustworthy and experienced wire rope and industrial cable supplier – and our team is here to help you out.

We believe that purchasing high-quality wire ropes and cable is the best way to ensure its strength and performance. That’s why we only offer the best-rated hardware on the market. Get in touch today to place an order.