Synthetic braid rope has been in use in the maritime industry for some time, but onshore in Australia we are starting to see new recognition for the technology, which has a number of advantages when compared with traditional steel cable.
Only in the last 12 months we've seen Bullivants begin to supply Samson's 98mm synthetic braid, which is being used at BMA's Peak Downs operation for dump ropes for dragline operations on open cut coal mines.
Synthetic is lightweight and easy to handle, and by diameter even stronger than flexible steel wire rope.
Braid is also perfect for winching and recovery, due to the ease of handling, storage and transport, which makes it quite popular for use in recreational settings.
For use on draglines, the synthetic rope has three main advantages, targeted after preliminary testing on Rio Tinto sites in the Hunter Valley.
First, the dragline dump rope is super light at 100kg, whereas a traditional steel dump rope weighs somewhere in the order of a tonne.
Installation of steel rope therefore requires use of a mobile crane, while a synthetic rope can be easily manhandled, which saves on installation time.
Using synthetic braid, the changeout for a dragline rope is about seven minutes, whereas steel takes 30-40 minutes, which can mean huge savings in loss of productivity for the largest and most important machinery on site.
The other advantage is the additional payload that can be lifted by the gear. With the rope weighing 500-900kg less, this represents more product the dragline can safely lift, a huge boost for productivity over time.
Synthetic ropes have also made some exiting new developments in crane technology, with North American manufacturer Samson recently releasing a new line of rope called KZ100, the first synthetic braided fibre suitable for use as hoist line for mobile cranes.
This is the first time a synthetic rope has been specifically made for use as a hoist line in cranage applications, and there are a number of benefits to its use.
The most practical benefit of synthetic rope is that it is 80 per cent lighter than non-rotating FSWR. This makes it much easier to handle for riggers involved in checking the line, reeving, or simply handling it in general.
In turn there is a significant removal of the potential for hand injuries from broken wires while handling the rope.
The decrease in weight does not affect the strength, however, in fact a load chart easily demonstrates the most striking advantage of using synthetic braid versus FSWR.
At 16mm ordinary FSWR has a Safe Working Load of two tonnes, and feels like it weighs nearly as much.
However, a 16mm KZ100 rope only weighs about 170g per metre, yet even keeping to a 5:1 safety factor, the rope is good for an astonishing 21.4 tonnes.
At 28mm FSWR is safe for approximately 6.3 tonnes, but the KZ100 can lift 60 tonnes, yet it only weighs 500g per metre.
The rope even strengthens under cold conditions, such that if the ambient temperature is less than zero celcius, the breaking strain of the rope increases by 10 per cent.
The new rope was developed in conjunction with Manitowoc Cranes, and was named for the engineer Karim Ziyad, who helped pioneer the use of synthetic crane hoist ropes, but passed away in a cycling accident in 2013.
Unfortunately, the KZ100 rope will be exclusively available on Grove cranes, as Manitowoc secured 24 months of exclusive sales thanks to its involvement in the development phase.
However, with six months down, there's only 18 months before other retailers, including Bullivants, will be able to sell the revolutionary new hoist line.
There is a legislative catch though, according to Bullivants specialist rope manager Guy Duffy.
"There are no issues with using the rope on a Grove crane if it's OEM componentry, but the big catch with it is there's no Australian standard for these high performance synthetic ropes," he said.
"It could fit in under federal specs from the US, but AS1380, which is the fibre rope standard in Australia has been withdrawn, they're actually rewriting it, it's 30 years old, so it may cover the synthetic ropes in the future."
Synthetic braid also has anti-wear properties, so that when running over sheaves the rope can compress and spring back into shape, unlike steel which wears the outer wires and requires lubrication to function safely.
KZ100 and other forms of synthetic rope are covered with a proprietary coating, a substance which is the secret to the success of the high-performance synthetic ropes.
"It's the coating that makes it perform," Duffy told Australian Mining.
"They won't even want to tell us what it is, so they can keep it secret¬ and we don't want to know either: What we don't know we can't talk about."