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Fiber vs Steel Core Wire Ropes: Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Post author:Viper WRL
  • Post category:Wire Ropes
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Wire ropes are complex mechanical devices with many moving parts working harmoniously to provide adequate support for heavy loads and objects. Wire ropes are used in many different industries, from construction to marine and other various applications. Their function is supported with swivels, shackles, or hooks to allow for controlled movement. There are two different types of core materials that make up these industrial wire ropes: fibre or steel.

Today, we’ll look at the components of wire ropes, their core materials, and the difference between fibre and steel wire rope cores.

components of a wire rope


Image credit: Mazella Companies

The strength of wire rope makes it an incredible and often essential asset for any industry where lifting and rigging are a part of daily operation. Its design consists of multiple wires made from stainless steel or galvanised steel arranged in a spiral shape, wrapped around an independent steel or fibre core. This wire strand core promotes high strength and flexibility and can handle extreme bending stresses.

Wire rope structure

  • Wires are created with strands of metal to form one singular rope
  • Wire strands are laid in a spiral pattern
  • The wire rope contains a steel or fibre core

While keeping the basic components of wire rope construction intact, manufacturers will edit the strand pattern type, wire or core material for different applications and benefits. Some industries require greater crushing resistance, bending fatigue resistance or corrosion protection, which is where selecting the correct wire rope becomes paramount.

A wire rope is a machine with many moving parts, but ultimately, the rope’s abilities come down to its core. The core is the foundation of the rope. The core runs through the centre of the rope to support the strands and keep the wires in position under intensive stress.

Wire Rope Cores

When looking for the correct rope core for your application, consider the following two types…

IWRC – Independent wire rope core

This refers to an independent wire rope core made from steel or fibre.

WSC – Wire Strand Core

A wire strand core is a steel wire rope with a core from the same material and construction of the rope.

For example, 6×19 FC refers to a six-strand lay with 19 wires per strand wrapped around a fibre core.

Wire rope Core materials

Two different types of material make up wire rope cores: Fibre and Steel.

  • Fibre cores are made from natural vegetable material, such as sisal, or man-made material, such as polypropylene. Theses are an independent wire rope core (IWRC).
  • Steel cores have either an IWRC or a WSC. Generally, a steel core is slightly more diverse in its application than a fibre core, with higher resistance to heat, resistance to crushing, and increased strength.

Fibre Core Wire Ropes

A fibre core wire rope is formed with either natural or synthetic fibres. This creates a more flexible wire rope than a wire rope with a steel core.

Fibre core wire ropes are manufactured for their flexibility and resistance to fatigue over time; however, their susceptibility to crushing is unsuitable for environments with high heat or open flame.

Fibre core wire rope applications

  • Cranes, winches, and hoists
  • Engineering applications
  • Holding and closing grab crane ropes
  • Rigging applications
  • Lifeboat falls
  • Mooring wire rope
  • Towing and luffing ropes

The advantages of fibre wire rope cores

  • High flexibility
  • High strength to weight ratio
  • Superior breaking load
  • Good fatigue life

The disadvantages of fibre wire rope cores

  • Lower crush resistance
  • Lower strength than steel in some applications
  • Cannot be used in high-heat environments

Steel Core Wire Ropes

Wire ropes with steel cores are created with either stainless steel or galvanised steel. They are best suited to applications where a fibre core will not provide enough support or where the temperature may exceed 180° F.

Steel Core Wire Rope Applications

  • Construction
  • Mining 
  • Cranes 
  • The marine industry 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Mooring 
  • Mining 
  • Transportation 

The advantages of steel core wire rope

  • High strength
  • High crush resistance
  • Suitable for most applications
  • Highly durable
  • Longer lasting rope diameter
  • High strength
  • High crush resistance
  • Suitable for most applications
  • Highly durable
  • Longer lasting rope diameter

The disadvantages of steel core wire rope

  • Lower flexibility
  • Poor resistance to bending deformation
  • Lower flexibility
  • Poor resistance to bending deformation

Choose the Right Wire Rope core for your application

Selecting the correct wire rope and type of wire rope lubrication for your application, environment, and industry is of the utmost importance. Incorrect selection can result in poor stress resistance, premature breakage, or unsafe and inefficient function. The load-bearing abilities of your wire rope will be highly regulated based on their application. Its core type determines its strength and flexibility.

Safety is compromised whenever the wire rope is used out of accordance with its intended purpose. Understanding the construction and material used in the wire rope core is a great first step to correct wire rope selection.

Strong wire rope material is essential for the safety of your workers and worksite. It also affects how you maintain and care for your ropes over time.

Extend the lifespan of your wire rope core with proper lubrication

All wire ropes are lubricated during the manufacturing process to add flexibility, corrosion resistance and strength; however, this lubrication will wear off over time. A poorly lubricated wire rope with a dried-out core will be susceptible to snapping, premature fatigue, poor performance and a lack of flexibility. Lubrication without a wire rope lubricator that penetrates to the core can be ineffective and messy

Viper’s vast range of wire rope lubrication systems apply lubrication evenly and properly to increase the lifespan of your rope up to 300% longer. The strength and flexibility of your wire rope begins at its fibre or steel core.

Browse our range today, or contact our crew if you have any further questions about wire rope lubrication or the maintenance needs of your specific wire rope and its core.