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There are different ways of creating wire ropes, and each produces a rope that offers unique stress and rotational qualities suited to specific tasks. For most tasks, the two primary types of rope in use are stranded and spiral wire ropes.

Stranded wire ropes—steel strands wound in one or more layers around a core made of synthetic material, a wire strand, or a wire rope—secure loads as wire rope slings or running ropes because, in addition to being stressed by tensile forces, they take stress by being bent over the items that they are securing.

The three types of spiral wire rope, steel strands wound in opposing helical layers to make them nearly non-rotating, offer their own positives and negatives. Open spiral wire rope, made only from round wires, is suited to lighter applications. The half- and full-locked variants have a round wire core surrounded by profile strands that protect the rope and keep it lubricated. Given these qualities, spiral ropes are generally used as stationary ropes and stay ropes as they are good with both static and fluctuating tensile stresses. Full-locked ropes also serve as track ropes for cable cars, ski-lifts, cranes, and similar machines as they experience an increase in their free-bending radius when the tensile force increases, decreasing the bending stresses on the rope. As the roller force increases, however, that tensile force, along with the free-bending radius of the rope, decreases.