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The Difference Between a Wire Rope Sling, a Chain Sling, and a Synthetic Web Sling

Hoisting, lifting, and rigging are critical aspects of many construction and manufacturing processes and are necessary for accomplishing projects.These projects require the use of slings to lift and move heavy loads safely and efficiently.

There are three types of slings commonly used for hoisting, lifting, and rigging: wire rope slings, chain slings, and synthetic web slings. Each sling possesses unique properties that offer different functions for different applications.

What Are the Types of Slings?

Wire Rope Slings

Wire rope slings are made of steel cables wrapped together in a spiral or helix pattern. They are strong and durable slings best suited for heavy-duty lifting. Wire rope slings are resistant to wear and tear and can withstand high temperatures, making them ideal for use in harsh environments.

Wire rope slings are available in different configurations, including single-part, multi-part, and braided. Single-part wire rope slings consist of a single length of wire rope with an eye loop at each end. Multi-part wire rope slings are made up of several lengths of wire rope that are braided together to form a more flexible sling. Braided wire rope slings are the most flexible and are more resistant to kinking than single-part slings.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Wire Rope Slings

Wire rope slings are popular in lifting and rigging operations across different industries. These slings are ideal for lifting heavy loads. They are powerful and can handle much weight, making them perfect for heavy-duty jobs. They are also very durable and can withstand harsh conditions like scraping, cutting, and crushing. 

Wire rope slings can mold to the shape of the load, making them very secure and reducing the risk of anything falling or shifting. They are also resistant to chemicals and can be used in corrosive environments. Wire rope slings can also handle high temperatures, making them perfect for working with hot materials.

Wire rope slings are helpful, but they have some downsides, too. They are pretty heavy, making them harder to move around than other lighter slings, like ones made of synthetic materials. They are also more expensive to buy. While they can bend and flex, synthetic slings are better. This attribute makes them harder to use in tight spaces where you must move things around a lot. 

They can become damaged and lose strength if you don't care for them properly or twist them too much. Lastly, they can rust and weaken if you don't maintain them properly.

Chain Slings

Double-legged Rigging Chain Slings

Chain slings are made of steel chains and are ideal for lifting and rigging in harsh conditions. They are also resistant to wear and tear and can withstand high temperatures, which are good for outdoor and industrial settings.

Chain slings also come in various configurations such as single-leg, double-leg, and multi-leg. Single-leg chain slings have a single length of chain with a hook at one end and a chain link at the other end. Double-leg and multi-leg chain slings are made up of two or more lengths of chain that are connected to a master link or a lifting hook.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Chain Slings

Chain slings are commonly used for lifting and moving heavy objects due to their incredible strength and durability. They are built to last and withstand harsh conditions, ensuring they last long. 

One of the great things about chain slings is that they can be adjusted to fit different shapes and sizes, making them useful in various situations, load shapes, and sizes. They can also handle high temperatures and are resistant to many chemicals, making them great for lifting hot materials and diverse uses in different industries.

Heavy-duty chain slings are known for their strength and durability. However, they can be more difficult to handle manually as they are heavier than other options, like synthetic slings. They can also be more expensive to purchase initially. 

If not adequately maintained or made from corrosion-resistant materials, chain slings can rust and corrode, making them less safe. They may not be as flexible as synthetic slings and can produce noise during operation, which may require hearing protection for workers. 

It's essential to regularly inspect and maintain chain slings to ensure their safe and efficient use and to select the correct type of sling for each lifting application based on load capacity, environmental conditions, and budget.

Synthetic Web Slings

Synthetic web slings are made of either nylon or polyester webbing and are the lightest and most flexible of the three slings. They are used for lifting and rigging delicate loads, such as electronic equipment, because they are less likely to damage the load's surface.

These synthetic web slings are available in different configurations, including infinite loop, eye and eye, and reverse eye. Infinite loop slings are made from a continuous loop of webbing and are good for lifting cylindrical objects. Eye and eye slings are made from a length of webbing with an eye loop at each end. Reverse eye slings are made from a length of webbing with the eyes turned in opposite directions.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Synthetic Web Slings

Synthetic web slings are equipment used for lifting and rigging heavy objects. They have become prevalent due to their many benefits. 

One of the most significant advantages is that they are very lightweight, which makes them easy to move around and transport. Additionally, they are flexible and can adapt to the load's shape, reducing the risk of damage. 

These slings are also resistant to many types of chemicals, so they can be used in harsh environments where other equipment might not hold up. When used, they don't make much noise, which can be crucial in specific workplaces. 

Finally, synthetic slings are not conductive, which means they don't conduct electricity. This makes them a good choice for situations where there is a risk of electrical shock.

Synthetic web slings have certain limitations. For instance, they can't bear as much weight as their steel or chain counterparts, making them unsuitable for heavy-lifting jobs. Additionally, synthetic web slings are vulnerable to damage from cutting or abrasion, especially when the load has rough or sharp edges. 

High temperatures can also weaken these slings, making them more prone to damage. Furthermore, exposure to sunlight and UV radiation can cause these slings to weaken over time. Finally, synthetic web slings have a shorter lifespan than steel or chain slings and may need replacing more frequently.

What You Need to Consider When Choosing a Sling

When choosing the type of sling for a lifting or rigging operation, it's essential to consider a range of factors. These factors help determine the appropriate choice between slings (e.g., wire rope sling vs. synthetic sling). 

  • Weight of the Load: Different slings have varying load capacities, so selecting one that can safely support the load's weight is essential.
  • Center of Gravity: Knowing the load's center of gravity is crucial for balancing it properly. Often, lifting operators configure the sling and lifting equipment to maintain stability and prevent the load from shifting during lifting.
  • Load Limit: Be aware of the manufacturer's load limit specifications for the chosen sling. Exceeding the load limit can lead to sling failure and accidents.
  • Height Restrictions: Consider the height at which the load needs to be lifted or lowered. This can affect the choice of sling length and configuration required.
  • Slinging Configuration: Consider whether a vertical, basket, or choker hitch is most suitable for the load's shape and size.
  • Hitch Type: The hitch you choose depends on the shape and weight distribution of the object you're lifting. A suitable hitch type will keep everything in place and prevent accidents.
  • Upper and Lower Fitting Restrictions: When lifting heavy objects, you must ensure that the straps are the right size and fit securely to both the lifting object and the machine. 
  • Ambient Environmental Conditions: Choose slings made from materials that can handle the specific environment (e.g., chemical-resistant slings for corrosive workspaces). Things like temperature, moisture, chemicals, and UV exposure can affect the strength of the slings.

Which Sling Should You Use?

The choice of sling to use depends on the type of load being lifted, the lifting environment, and the lifting capacity required. Each sling is made with specific properties for different functions.

Wire rope slings are best suited for heavy-duty lifting, such as lifting steel beams and concrete blocks. They are made to be used in harsh environments, such as construction sites and industrial settings.

Chain slings are great for lifting heavy loads in outdoor and industrial settings. They are ideal to use in harsh environments and can withstand high temperatures.

Synthetic web slings are best suited for lifting delicate loads, such as electronic equipment, and for use in clean environments. They are also lightweight and flexible, making them the best choice for lifting irregularly shaped loads.

The Right Sling for Every Job

Wire rope slings, chain slings, and synthetic web slings are essential tools for hoisting, lifting, and rigging in various industries. Each sling has unique properties that make them suitable for every job. Your choice of sling all boils down to the type of load being lifted, the lifting environment, and the required lifting capacity.

Southeast Rigging has a wide range of hoisting, lifting, and rigging slings that are designed and made with the finest quality materials that ensure the safety of workers and the successful completion of projects. Browse our full catalog now and know more details about our synthetic web slings here.

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