Wirenet Image Band
wirenet.org mobile image band

The Basics

The essential information on facts, stories, and principles in the wire and cable industry.

June 3, 2021 – Are you being worked to death? If you feel at times as if you are being worked to death … you might be right! To be clear, this news in no way implies that the wire and cable industry is not good for one’s health … but it does raise a concern to any working person.

Overworking is so prevalent that the Japanese even have a word for it: karoshi: death from overwork. Working more than 55 hours per week can lead to a slew of adverse health reactions, from ischemic heart disease, stroke and stress to impaired memory/sleep, suicide and death. Karoshi is common in Asia, but it is spreading around the world and in diverse industries.

Per a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study, 745,000 people who worked more than 55 hours a week died of heart disease and stroke in 2016. The number for heart attacks was up a shocking 42% from 2000. And long work weeks are quite common. In 2016, WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 488 million people worldwide worked more than 55 hours a week. Of note, the latest ILO statistics show that the country that leads the world in long work weeks is Yemen, where 97% of employees work 49 hours or more. (The U.S. was listed at 14%.)

Overwork can include being available for work emails and calls 24/7. The Harvard Business Review reports that such overloading can make certain job duties more difficult, from sales and decision-making and judgment calls to getting along with coworkers. Ironically, those who give it their all may not reap any praise, let alone rewards: a Boston University study found that managers often could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who pretended to.

You might think that working from home during Covid-19 would have resulted in fewer work hours and less stress. Just the opposite. “Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work,” noted WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Forbes. Workers with family obligations fit their work in during bizarre hours like very early in the morning, during the night, and over the weekends, disrupting the circadian rhythm of their sleep–wake cycle.

WHO Director Dr. Maria Neira suggests that governments and employers should forbid mandatory overtime, arrange flexible work schedules, create work-sharing among employees, and set the maximum work hours to 55 per week for a single person. She recommends that employees ignore their smartphone for several hours per day, pursue a hobby or enjoyable activity, eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.

Of course, the ability to schedule in such recommendations would be the real challenge.

Last modified on June 3, 2021

June 3, 2021 – Penicillin, the microwave oven, Viagra, and chocolate chip cookies were all successful accidental accomplishments. Joining these is one-dimensional (1D) atomic silver wire. Eluding scientists for two decades, this milestone in nanotechnology was achieved by an international team of researchers who were trying to do something else.

 Researchers from Fudan University in Shanghai, Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science, and Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Materials Science were examining the properties of silver by putting silver atoms on the outside of manganese dioxide nanorods that had channels inside them. The scientists conducted the experiment in regular air, rather than inside an inert vacuum, expecting the silver atoms to react with oxygen and form silver oxide.

 Instead, the silver atoms diffused quickly inside the nanorod channels in a self-assembly technique that formed 1D silver rods up to 1 μm in length that was stable outside a vacuum. The team made 200 silver wires as wide as one atom. In an article at ZDnet, QUT professor Dmitri Golberg said that unexpectedly, the silver demonstrated a temperature-controlled insulator-to-metal transition. This means that depending on the temperature, the wire could be used as a switch in thermal electrical devices. If the wires are processed at suitable 3D sizes, which is still a challenging endeavor, they could be connected to nanocircuitry. Ultimately, the atomic wire discovery could contribute to the manufacture of electronic devices on a molecular scale. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Last modified on June 3, 2021

5/10/2021: Summer is approaching, and for many people that means that it is will be peak time to fire up the grill. There have been many stories about the danger of cleaning your grill with a wire brush, as sharp particles and splinters can break off of stainless steel- and brass-wire brushes. If that happens, those particles can become imbedded in future cooking, and result in significant risks if ingested.

However, wire brushes are efficient at cleaning a grill, and can be safely used, but they do require some common sense. There are two ways to approach this, and either can be right if you do it properly.

When the cooking is complete, wait for the grill surface to cool down to where it is still warm but not cool. Then, using a good quality wire brush, sweep off any food particles. Doing this when the grill is still warm makes it easier to scrap away food particles that, once cooled, are baked on, potentially containing wire slivers. Conversely, if you don’t want to bother cleaning at that point, you can wait till next use. At that point, though, you should pre-heat the grill at a high temperature for an extended period (at least 20 minutes). Then, place a wire brush into a bucket of warm, soapy water, and scrub off the surface of the grates.

Whether you reach for a wire brush before or after cooking, give it a close look. See if it has any broken bristles, or if it is worn or warped. If anything looks iffy, discard it.

As an alternative to wire brushes, Consumer Reports recommends cleaning with a coil brush, pumice stone or abrasive pads. Good Housekeeping suggests crumpled aluminum foil and a strong degreaser. And, for those who like a natural approach, consider the following: pre-heat the grill as described above, then slice an onion in half. Pierce the onion with a fork, and run the cut-side down along the grill grates. The onion's juices will release and produce steam to remove the bits and charred-on debris.

Last modified on May 10, 2021

5/7/2021:  Whatever your political affiliation, President Biden’s American Jobs Plan infrastructure investment plan should be welcome news for many wire and cable companies.

The American Jobs Plan infrastructure investment plan promises big expansion in broadband internet and clean energy. The plan calls for $100 billion to bring more affordable and reliable high-speed broadband internet, or wireless broadband via 5G, into rural areas especially, but also urban areas, for 100% coverage across the country. The plan will also increase funding for Community Connect broadband grants, support towns that want to build municipally-owned broadband networks, and make available federally controlled telecom resources like towers, poles, and rights-of-way.

Lack of funding and infrastructure have hampered expansion in the past. The FCC estimates that as many as 42 million Americans don’t have access to high-speed broadband. The shut-in during the pandemic highlighted the importance of people having access to high-speed internet. By removing governmental barriers, Biden’s plan expects to promote competition among internet providers by encouraging companies to increase speed and decrease prices.
Of note, the broadband expansion is opposed by the cable internet industry, which calls Biden’s plan unnecessary. Internet & Television Association CEO Michael Powell said in a statement that America’s current modern digital network has been successful, and that it is wrong to suggest that “the government is better suited than private-sector technologists to build and operate the internet.”

For clean energy, the infrastructure plan extends Investment Tax Credits and Production Tax Credits to incentivize the installation of at least 20 GW of high-voltage-capacity transmission power lines, move the federal vehicle fleet to electric vehicles, and invest $15 billion in climate research and development projects.

How much is actually accomplished is another story, but the bottom line is that a lot of money could be funneled into applications that could accomplish good as well as create more wire and cable business.

Last modified on May 7, 2021

5/7/2021: Steel and copper wire makers are facing shortages of raw materials that have already resulted in higher prices and manufacturing slowdowns. Covid-19 shutdowns, growing demand, lack of investment, lack of discovery of new deposits, truck driver shortage, strikes, delays at U.S. ports of entry, and supply chain disruptions have all contributed to the problem. Shortages of basic materials such as steel, steel plate, copper and aluminum have affected many industries from computer chip makers to solar panels.

The shortages are affecting manufacturers worldwide who are struggling to find domestic and imported sources. In Europe, finished steel distributors are having difficulty finding steel supplies. In India, shortages have caused some steel metal wire makers to operate below capacity and may close down if lack of supplies persists. High-grade wire rods, the main raw material for wire production, is especially sought after.

Raw copper supplies have been in decline due to lower investment and mine development, notes Rob Haworth, a senior investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management. As a consequence, the higher bidder determines who gets the available materials. Such competition among manufacturers means higher prices are passed on to the consumer. Copper prices rose 100% from March 2020 to April 2021. To counter the shortage, large copper companies are increasing investment. For example, the Chilean government is spending $2.5 billion to expand existing mines; the Australian mining company BHP is allocating $900 million to find new copper and oil deposits.

On the bright side, higher material costs usually convert to higher profit margins. Shortages and price increases are expected to continue into 2022.

Last modified on May 7, 2021

4/9/2021: The U.S. Navy uses thoriated tungsten wire (W-Th) in their radar equipment. A small piece of W-Th is used inside high power microwave vacuum tubes to amplify radar signals. While W-Th has a good source of electrons and can operate at high temperatures, over time it can decay. One drawback is that making the wire produces hazardous byproducts, which is why the Navy is asking the industry for help. It wants a new material to replace W-Th that offers the same performance parameters yet is made in a more environmentally friendly process.

The Navy has several suggestions. One is improving W-Th wire performance by using additives. The majority of W-Th is tungsten, with 1% thorium oxide by weight. Another solution could be applying alternative wire surface coatings that would need to have a low work function, and be resistant to deformation at 1600°C. The Navy has already tested alloys of cerium and lanthanum with tungsten wire, but it is looking for a new process or alternative materials that can be used in the vacuum tubes, and operate within the same voltage and temperature as the W-Th wire.

Since the diameter of the wire used in the vacuum tubes is small, about 35 AWG, and each tube would only use about an inch of wire. The total length needed would depend on the number of tubes needed. An estimated 15 km of wire would be needed per year, notes Brady Walter, the science and technology contact at the Indiana Innovation Institute (IN3), which is a partner in the project.

The Navy is open to industry proposals. Anyone with expertise on the subject can submit a response, and a security clearance is not needed. The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 15, 2021. IN3 is working with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, on this project. The Navy ultimately decides if a proposal will be accepted, and if so, it will provide the funds. Enquiries about the project and submissions can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last modified on April 9, 2021

4/9/2021: Wire buyers, manufacturers and investors who are planning for the upcoming year should see price spikes in wire and cable, specifically copper and silver, which is a healthy sign for the U.S. economy.

After the Covid-19 manufacturing slump, companies continue to ramp up. The pent-up demand for wire and cable reflects what should be a manufacturing boom. Other reasons include coronavirus vaccine roll-outs helping more people return to business as usual, China’s manufacturing recovery after the pandemic and President Biden’s American Jobs Plan infrastructure proposal that includes green initiatives such as electric cars and clean energy.

Once upon a time, the price of copper was talked about in pounds, and there were long periods when it was generally stable at about a dollar. Today, though, most of the world follows the price of copper by the metric ton, and it has been far from stable in recent years. Per MetalMiner, the price rose from $4,371 per metric ton in March 2020 to $8,631 in February 2021. Spurring the increase is China ramping up manufacturing and the need for copper in renewable energy products, electric vehicles, telecommunications, construction and transportation.

Yet where copper prices go from here is not so simple. It depends on who you listen to. One school of thought is that prices may not remain bullish. The initial rise in prices may fall back by year-end, once the supply crunch for copper rebounds with added production and orders being filled. But the view from the Trafigura Group, the world’s largest copper trader, is that copper prices could top $10,000 a metric ton this year, and as much as $15,000 a metric ton in the coming decade as demand from global decarbonization produces a deep market deficit.

Silver is another metal on the rise. It is used to plate copper in PTFE-insulated wiring conductors, but much demand stems from vast industrial demand for solar panels, the global roll out of 5G technology and jewelry production. The Silver Institute, a sterling organization, predicts that the price of silver, which rose from $16.19 per ounce in 2019 to $20.52 per ounce in 2020, could rise by 46% to a seven-year high of $30. Another cause in the spike in prices was a Reddit social media post encouraging a short squeeze on silver. The increase in silver prices will likely impact the rest of the wire and cable supply chain.

Last modified on April 9, 2021

4/9/2021: Who hasn’t seen a slew of birds sitting in a line along overhead wires, all facing the same way, and wondered: why are they doing that? Is it really that comfortable there?

It turns out that there is no one reason. Birds perch on wires because they are resting, preening, scouting out the territory for prey (if they’re a predator) or for predators (if they’re likely to be the meal). They also like to sleep in high places for protection. Birds also gather on wires to look for a date and check out the competition. Conservation biologist Mark LaBarr of Audubon Vermont says that in late summer and early fall, birds congregate on wires as they prepare for their long migration south. It’s also easier for some birds than others to do this. Songbirds, also known as passerines, have four toes, three of which are directed forward and one backward, that allows them to firmly clasp onto branches … and telephone lines. 

Last modified on May 6, 2021

The cable and wire industry is intrinsic in modern life - wire and cable products are used in everything from construction to automotive manufacturing to telecom markets. To that end, given the way the global markets dropped sharply in 2020 due to the pandemic, it's no surprise that wire products were in low demand. But now that a vaccine is increasing the probability of getting the virus under control, how will that affect the industry in 2021?

2020 Is Over: Now What Was the Impact of COVID-19 on the Wire Products Market?
The global demand for wire and cable products dropped by at least 2 to 5% in the United States, Europe, and China in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was largely attributed to the temporary shut down of manufacturing plants, construction sites, and other revisions that require wire and cable products. The Chinese market, in particular, saw the sharpest downfall throughout 2020, with a record low of 35.7 PMI last February.

However, the predictions made in early 2020 were much more drastic than reality and the current industry growth is projected to be more robust than ever before. In fact, forecasts suggest that the demand for the industry will be on track again in 2021.

Future Market Projections
At the moment, the global cable and wire industry is projected to grow by 4% over the next five years, with the industry capping at least $1 billion US dollars by 2027. Much of this growth is being attributed to the new demand for green energy, including green automotive designs that will replace combustion engines by 2035 in the United States. The current growth and new demand for the industry suggest that the impact of COVID-19 was nothing more than a hiccup in the long run.

While there is no denying that the pandemic negatively impacted the wire industry in 2020, it's also true that the industry is bouncing back stronger and more in-demand than before.

Last modified on February 24, 2021

Market forecasts are reliable tools that can predict shortfalls in interest and demand with relative certainty. For industries that are experiencing increasing global demand, such as the electrical wire and cable market, a forecast can give industry leaders insight into how businesses should operate to keep up with demand - particularly in terms of the wires and cables that need to be manufactured.

What Will the Electrical Wire and Cable Market Look Like in Five Years?
The wire and cable market has seen steady growth over the last five years, even with the 2020 pandemic creating a demand shortfall. But with the new quarter of 2021, it's clear that the industry is bouncing back strongly and is quickly catching up to the projections that were made previously. In fact, some forecasts indicate that demand for the industry is going to increase even more with new legislation and policy, especially in America

Big Industry Growth in America
The most recent global forecasts suggest a 4% growth in all wire and cable industry segments worldwide by 2027. In America, however, there is a much more impressive growth projection being seen. Current forecasts indicate that the American industry will grow by 8% CAGR by 2026, meaning the American market will be outperforming the global average by a significant rate.

New automotive policy legislation, which is phasing out combustion vehicles by 2035, and commitments to producing green energy and creating accessible high-speed internet are all reasons why the American market is projected to boom so dramatically.

The current trends in global cable and wire industry growth are promising, particularly in light of new engineering and construction advancements that are being pursued by global governments. There is every possibility that current market projections will increase with new industry trends.

Last modified on February 25, 2021

If you're not an expert in metallurgy or ferrous metals, you're not alone. Many Americans know very little about this critically important industry. It may not be the most thrilling subject, but ferrous metal is everywhere you look: anything carbon steel, stainless steel, or cast iron fits the bill. Ferrous wire, in particular, is vital for maintaining the flow of society. It's used for fences, in airports, on highways, in construction, and in the electric industry, to name a few.

Ferrous Metal vs. Non-Ferrous Metal
Simply put, ferrous metals are magnetic and consist primarily of iron. Non-ferrous metals aren't magnetic and don't contain any iron. The high levels of carbon in ferrous metals make them susceptible to rust when exposed to moisture. The only metals that can withstand oxidation are chromium-stainless alloys and wrought iron, which is so pure it resists rust. The magnetic properties of ferrous metals make them ideal for the wire and cable industry.

Wire and Cable
Ferrous wire is just the technical term for carbon steel wire, stainless steel wire, and alloy steel wire (think welding wire or even tension bridges). Wire is incredibly versatile; it can be easily bent or coated with other materials for enhanced durability.

Principles of Metallurgy
Metallurgy is defined as the study of metal's behavior, structure, and properties. The actual process of metallurgy refers to the methods used for extracting metals in their purest form. Essentially, it refers to creating alloys and the purification of metals. These principles include:

  • Roasting (heating) in the presence of oxygen
  • Pulverization into powder via grinding/crushing
  • A hydrolytic process that utilizes water and the settling of denser ore particles
  • Separation using magnetic wheels and a rotating belt
  • Separation via oil, leaving the ore as surface froth

Metals composed primarily of iron are relatively inexpensive to produce, and they're incredibly versatile—they can be fabricated to fit an array of applications. Ferrous wire is also critical to maintaining everyday life's comforts: even steel nails are manufactured with wire made using metallurgy techniques!

Last modified on February 24, 2021