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The Basics

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

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 April 9, 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