Everywhere you look, it’s a wired world – but not in the way you think. Wire cloth, screen, wire mesh; all interchangeable terms, are often invisible, buried deep within equipment or hiding in plain sight in an architectural accent.
The invention of the steam driven loom for textile weaving in the 18th century led to its adoption by the wire weaving industry. Encouraged by the success of an endless mesh belt for paper production in 1798, the industry rapidly expanded. Fast forward another 188 years to 1986, when the passenger air bag was introduced in cars. Wire cloth was used in the inflator assembly. To satisfy the auto industry’s demand for product, the wire weaving industry designed weaving looms with an ‘endless warp’. Today’s high production weaving looms can weave for weeks, or even a month or more with one set-up; less set-up and downtime, yields more output.
Today’s wire cloth and mesh products are exceptionally sophisticated. This overview touches on several basic aspects of wire cloth, including different uses, weaves, materials and sizes.
Woven wire cloth is used extensively in many fields, including aerospace, automotive, architectural, chemical, food handling, pharmaceutical, medical, paper production, waste water processing, hygiene and sanitation, radio and microwave screening, ore and mineral processing and optical lens manufacture. The possibilities are endless and drive decisions in the following three attributes.
There are two main types of wire cloth: woven and welded. Woven wire cloth is more common and generally used for filtering, while welded cloth has a smoother surface and greater strength and rigidity.
Understanding the different types of traditional weaves available is important because your specific application dictates which is necessary. For example, a hydraulic filter in an airplane engine requires a different weave and material compared to a medical stent. The two basic components of any weave are the warp wire, which runs the length of the cloth, and the shute wire, which runs the width of the cloth. Varying these wires form the different weaves.
- Twill weave – A wire cloth where each warp wire and shute wire pass over and under the two adjacent wires in both vertical and horizontal directions. Using this pattern enables the use of heavier wire in the mesh.
- Pre-crimp weaves – Generally used in coarser wire cloth. The wires are crimped before weaving. This causes the warp and shute wires to nest securely with each other, prevents random movement and ensures accurate and consistent openings. There are several types of pre-crimp weaves.
- Plain weave or Double Crimp – The most common wire cloth, with warp and shute wires passing over and under rows like interlaced fingers.
Strength, weight, durability, flow characteristics, heat and corrosion resistance are critical factors to consider when choosing a wire cloth material. Wire cloth and screens are commonly woven from steel wire due to its relatively low cost and high tensile strength, but there is a wide range of pure metals and alloys to choose from. Here is a non-exhaustive list:
- Nickel Alloys
- Copper Alloys
Finally, wire cloth is manufactured with mesh openings ranging anywhere from five inches to 20 microns and measured based on that size. The first two measurements below apply to wire cloth with mesh sizes greater than or less than one inch, while the last only applies to mesh less than one inch.
- Center-to-Center Spacing: Measures from the center of one wire to the center of the adjacent wire.
- Opening Size: Measures the clear opening between wires.
- Mesh Count: Measures the number of mesh openings per lineal inch.
In summary, here are the main takeaways about wire cloth:
- Application drives three key decisions.
- Weaves determine strength and durability.
- Material selection is influenced by operating environment.
- Size is measured differently based on mesh width.
Newark Wire Cloth, a recognized leader in the wire cloth industry, manufactures off-the-shelf and custom woven wire cloth for any and every application. It has specialized in the fabrication of wire cloth parts and assemblies for the past 105 years. Contact them today for your next wire cloth project.