Each filament in steel cable is made of one of a number of iron alloys belonging to the steel family. The most common metal alloy in the world, the steel family includes several variations and combinations of iron and carbon along with other metallic elements to reach specific mechanical and physical properties.
Steel is a popular cable composition because of its wear and corrosion resistance as well as its high breaking strength and long product lifespan. Each of these considerations is crucial to steel cable applications.
Often used as safety and control cables, steel wires such as these must be reliable as mechanical failure can lead to costly and even deadly consequences.
Additional specifications include diameter, length, specific composition, resistance to crushing or flattening, and ductility. These should be examined with regard to the intended use of the cable which can range from supportive guy lines, hoist ropes, and cable railings to safety cables and braking mechanisms. Such applications prefer steel cable above other fibrous or synthetic ropes as the multi-strand construction results in the ability to work even in high weight situations while remaining ductile.
Though the configuration can vary, steel cables have the same basic composition. Cold-drawn steel wires known as filaments are the first component. Multiple of these filaments, which have a relatively small diameter, are twisted or braided together to form a grouping referred to as a strand.
The number of filaments per strand is one of the key identifying features of steel cable and can range from two to several dozen.
Strands are then wrapped in a helical pattern around the core. The composition of the core, which may be fibrous even in steel cables, is another element used to identify wire ropes.
Work load limit and finishing may also be used to ensure a given cable is suited to an application.
With steel cables, in particular, it is important to consider the specific alloy in use as steel refers to a grouping of metals with different properties rather than a single element. Stainless steel cables are among the most popular as they offer increased resistance to corrosion and wear even in harsh environments. Galvanized cable, however, is often more cost effective and suitable for most moderate environments. Bright or non-galvanized steel cables are also common.
Each type of steel cable can come as such as a completed assembly with fasteners, fittings and other hardware attached for fray prevention and connectivity.