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wire 2010: wire – indispensable, versatile and future-oriented

The wire and cable processing industry at wire 2010 in Düsseldorf.

Whether it is steel ropes, cables, springs or screws – the products of the wire, cable and wire-processing industry are practically ubiquitous. They may look unassuming but they are indispensable when it comes to the transmission of electric power or electronic data, and they assure that mechanical systems function well. The technological and economic development of a society is closely connected with this industry and its suppliers.

Most metals are also available as wire. Wire is produced by rolling a metal rod to smaller diameters and subsequently pulling it through drawing dies with increasingly narrow openings. Rolled up as a coil or spooled onto a reel, it moves through further processing steps. As far as the volume of the processed metals is concerned, the number one position is held by iron, followed by copper and copper alloys, as well as aluminum and aluminum alloys.

However, other non-ferrous metals, precious metals and composite metals are also made into wire. By alloying, i.e. the addition of certain elements to the molten base metal, and using various heat and surface treatment processes during or after the wire production, the physical characteristics of wires and the products made thereof can be varied to a large degree. The characteristics of a wire determine the use of the products made from it.

Iron wire consists of unalloyed steel with a carbon content of less than 0.25%, steel wire, on the other hand, has a carbon content of 0.25% to 1.00%. The products made of iron or steel wire include mounting elements such as screws, nuts, nails and rivets, bent parts, screens, reinforcements, chains and cable armour, but also technical springs and the balls or pins for friction bearings.

According to the brochure “Draht zur Zukunft“ (Wired for the Future), produced by the Stahl-Informations-Zentrum (Steel Information Centre) in Düsseldorf, there are approximately 16,000 different products made of iron or steel wire. This includes the shopping carts in the supermarket, paper clips and clutch springs as well as steel ropes.

The suspension cable of the Aiguille du Midi cable car at Mont-Blanc Mountain is one spectacular example of the capability of wire. The suspension wire of the upper section of the line, which leads to the mountain station at 3,778 metres, crosses a difference in altitude of 1,500 with a free span of 2,867 m. The cable, consisting of numerous interlaced and stranded steel wires, carries a gondola that can accommodate up to 65 passengers, yet its diameter is merely 54 mm.

Copper and aluminum are metals that, in pure condition, possess excellent power and heat conductibility, can be processed easily and are highly resistant to corrosion. By alloying, numerous different combinations of characteristics can be produced. About 60% of the total copper production is used as conductor materials in the energy and information technology industry. Copper wire is processed into conductors, cords, cables and conductor ropes and used in high, medium and low voltage power networks and as (insulated) lacquer-coated wire for spools, electronic engines and transformers. Wires made of certain copper alloys are used as contact elements in electrical and electronic components.