The most commonly used slings used for overhead lifting applications are:
- Wire Rope Slings
- Chain Slings
- Nylon Slings
- Polyester Slings
Each sling has its advantage and disadvantages. Provided below is a quick overview of these differences:
1. Wire Rope Slings
Advantages: Compared to chain slings, these slings are lighter and much cheaper. Wire rope slings are available in longer lengths than any other type of sling listed here. They utilize multiple strands of wire which are twisted together to form a thicker wire rope. There can be as many as 150 individual strands which all help to carry weight within the sling. So just in case one individual strand is damaged, the other 149 will continue to hold the load secure.
Disadvantages: Wire rope slings are flexible only to some degree. While these slings do curve, these slings will deform if bent too far. If a wire rope snaps it can take on the characteristics of a whip and injure or kill an operator. Wire ropes are more lightweight than chain slings but are much heavier than synthetic slings, like nylon or polyester. Wire rope slings require more work for the operator to carry and install. More detailed information on wire rope slings can be found at: Rigging.com.
2. Chain slings
Advantages: Compared to any other sling listed here, chain slings are the most durable slings. Because of their extreme durability, they tend to last much longer than other types of slings. They are flexible and are available with a variety of fittings and configuration set-ups.
Disadvantages: Compared to any other sling listed here, chain slings are much more expensive on a capacity and per foot basis. The slings are also much heavier than any other sling. These slings are extremely heavy to carry, transport, and install. More in detailed information on chain slings can be found at: Rigging.com.
3. Nylon Slings
Advantages: Nylon slings are very flexible and do not scratch loads. Compared to chain or wire rope, the slings can be used in a choker hitch with relative ease. Nylon is an extremely cheap raw material. If a nylon sling snaps and breaks, it generally does not whip with the same force as a traditional sling, and the slings are consequently safest to operators and bystanders.
Disadvantages: Nylon slings are subject to abrasions and get cut easily. Consequently nylon slings have a short life if used frequently.
4. Polyester Slings
Advantages: Polyester slings have the same advantages as Nylon slings. In addition polyester slings are even softer and more flexible. The price of polyester slings is approximately the same as nylon slings on a capacity and per foot basis.
Disadvantages: Polyester slings have the same disadvantages as nylon slings. More in detailed information on polyester slings can be found at: Rigging.com.
Be aware that all types of slings come in a variety of quality levels that is determined by the quality of the raw materials (grade of steel / density of synthetic fibers), the various types of construction methods, and the quality of construction, often determined by country of origin.
In retrospect: Not all slings are created equal!