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Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoists: What’s The Difference?

Short Answer

Chain hoists are compact in size and extremely versatile. However, for heavy-duty tasks, an electric wire rope hoist can help maximize your production needs. Wire rope hoists are often more expensive and durable than chain hoists.

wire rope hoists vs. chain hoists

Hoists, whether manual, lever-operated, electric, or pneumatic, make an easy job of lifting heavy items in construction sites and industrial or manufacturing plants. You require sufficient information to make an informed decision when purchasing the right lifting equipment for safe operations. Read on to discover how the two compare; that is, chain hoists vs. wire rope hoists.

What Do You Look For in a Hoist?

The things to look for in hoists impact the cost, usage, and effectiveness of lifting equipment. A critical part of selecting your hoist is determining if it is powered by a motor or gear system.

In this case, the equipment’s rated capacity is crucial, as overloading can lead to accidents and reduce the hoist’s lifespan. Next, check if the lift uses load chains or wire ropes to move loads, and lastly, pay attention to the mounting configurations or suspensions.

The three most common types of mounting are hook, lug, and trolley-mounted hoists. Also, factor in all safety features such as limit switches, load brakes, and overload sensors while confirming your hoist complies with OSHA safety standards.

Different specifications dictate the type of hoist you purchase. For an in-depth comparison, we examine hoist applications, pros, and cons, hoist lift speeds and height, duty rating, environment, and budget.

Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoist Application

A chain hoist is used in multiple applications, like pushing or pulling heavy loads, performing vertical lifts, and equalization for precise load adjustments. A wire rope hoist is predominantly found on pneumatic or electric type hoists. It offers a much faster operation and large lifting capacity than chain hoists, thanks to a rope tensile strength.

Pros and Cons of Wire Rope and Chain Hoists

Wire rope hoists are usually more durable than chain hoists and can take up more space due to the drum in which the wire rope is wrapped. Additionally, wire rope hoists are more expensive than chain hoists, but you need them to lift heavy-duty loads.

Chain hoists can be operated by hand chains, using a pendant or wireless remote control to lift or move heavy loads. Unfortunately, the equipment can only lift no more than 30 tons. It, therefore, must be purchased with extra devices such as shackles, beam clamps, or slings to assist with the load connection.

Duty Cycle Rating for Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoists

Load capacity is often used to dictate the application of a wire rope or chain hoist. Using lifting equipment on a load heavier than the stated duty rating or capacity is unsafe for workers. Besides, should the equipment fail mid-operation, a business will incur costly repair expenses to replace hoist parts and revenue loss due to unplanned downtime.

As such, use chain hoists when handling a load capacity of 0.5 to 30 tons. Conversely, wire rope hoists boast a higher strength-to-weight ratio. With adequate headroom and a sturdy monorail trolley, such a hoist can lift 0.5 to 50 ton load capacities.

Lift Speeds for Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoists

Most hoists have lifting speeds that generally range between 10 and 26 fpm of continuous operation. Hoist speeds depend on the runway length and chain size. If you have a short or congested floor area, a chain hoist operating at a slower speed is most appropriate to help position loads accurately. Maximum speed flexibility is gained with wire rope hoists that can handle long runways. Another parameter to which lifting speed is equally related is a hoist’s lifting height.

Lift Height for Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoists

In ideal conditions, a 3 to 6-meter lifting height for a chain hoist is recommended. The maximum lift height for overhead wire rope hoists/cranes is determined by measuring the distance from the floor to the hook’s saddle in its highest position. If you’re designing a bridge crane into a new or sizable structure, you will have more control over the lift height dimensions.

Mounting Options for Wire Rope and Chain Hoists

Installing an electric chain hoist is easy if you’ve already set up a bridge crane on your business premises. Otherwise, you need accurate mounting configurations of your hoist if you’re mounting a new lift. Use a hook-mounted configuration to attach a chain hoist to a trolley or fixed position.

In case the lift height is an issue, consider a lug-mounted hoist that can be attached to the frame of a wire rope hoist via a mounting bracket. The built-in trolley system in a trolley-mounted hoist makes for an easy crane installation. But should the hoist break down, you may end up dismantling the entire unit.

Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoist Mounting Environments

Along with the duty cycle, other considerations when sourcing lifting equipment include the lift speed, height, and the environment where a hoist will be mounted. Chain hoists are widely employed in areas that commonly utilize stainless steel. Applications are not limited to paper or steel mills, ship wharfs, production plants, slaughterhouses, and automobile workshops.

With a chain hoist, consider the height of the hook point, the dimensions of an A-frame gantry, and if you’ll be using a flat or tapered H-Beam or I-beam to mount a lift from the ceiling. Wire rope hoists are purposely built for performance lifting. It can operate efficiently in the most extreme environment for aggressive applications like steel coil processing, galvanizing lines, or die handling.

Budget Consideration for Wire Rope vs. Chain Hoists

Don’t let your budget restrict you from purchasing a product that can be safely operated and offer the operation efficiency your business needs. A chain hoist is perfect if you require an inexpensive, easy-to-install lift with lower-capacity applications and won’t take up too much space. However, if your business handles substantial weight loads, you require a wire rope hoist, though substantially costly.

Key Takeaways

Always work with the right gear for the job. A chain hoist is compact in size and versatile for multiple lightweight lifting operations. When you need a workhorse for heavy-duty tasks, an electric wire rope hoist can help maximize your production needs. For additional help choosing the correct lifting equipment, check out our Ultimate Hoist Buyer’s Guide.