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What Is Wire Sawing?

Road sawing in Auburn, Sydney Trains Depot

by Daniel Green

Ultimately it’s sawing with wire, but if that was the end of the story it would be a pretty shallow read. Wire sawing was pioneered by an Italian obstetrician in the late 1800’s for making clean and precise cuts to bone during obstructed labour. It was essentially two handles linked by an abraded, narrow cable and is still used today during cranial surgery. Other versions are used when slicing wafer thin sheets of precious stone for industrial applications. But let’s leave the gore and jewels behind and focus on cutting masonry.

While the concept is established, large scale industrial wire sawing for demolition is relatively new. Utilising often high phase electrical power, abrasive sleeved cables, lubricating fluid and a series of adjustable pulleys, a wire saw in action is truly something to behold. It’s mesmerisingly elegant – in a humming, slurry making kind of a way. More a symphony of precise demolition than a death metal assault of destruction, bringing an exactness that other forms of masonry cutting simply cannot.

All the major concrete cutting manufacturers offer wire saws: Tyrolit, Husqvarna, Hilti and so on. Having tested most of the available options, perfect Concrete Care has settled on Tyrolit wire saws for their ease of operation, efficiency and service support.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these synchronised systems of sawing.

Advantages.

The First Cut Is The Deepest

Traditional cut-off machines such as demo saws, ring saws and diamond chainsaws have a limited reach determined by blade diameter. Bound only by the operators imagination and length of cable, wire sawing offers an almost unlimited cutting depth.

Flush It Out

Yes, you can cut columns, beams and walls with a flush-cut saw. But can you flush cut a 10m x 10m concrete plinth with a Stihl TS800? Proper setup of the wire saw pulley system gives you the ability to cut completely flush, negating the need for further demolition with mechanical means. This also results in a smoother, more professional finish.

Waste Not Want Not

Breaking out with mechanical or hydraulic-over-mechanical equipment naturally generates material, which then needs to be disposed of. This brings further costs in time and money. Additionally, if the aim is to retain the concrete piece for future use, a reduction in kerf loss means not only less waste but also a higher retention of the concrete piece itself.

Mr. Clean

As above, compared to mechanical demolition, wire sawing arguably creates cleaner job sites. This is a huge advantage not only in terms of order but in terms of safety. Hydraulic breakers should be used with dust suppression, but let’s be honest – its rare. Wire sawing however, needs water for lubrication and cooling, creating easily managed slurry as opposed to uncontrolled airborne dust.

Surgical Precision

Since the wire is more narrow and flexible than traditional bladed saws, wire sawing will always be more precise. Jobs where tolerances are fine or that require exposed aggregate finishes will benefit from this.

Crammed In

Wire saws require far less space than conventional demolition equipment. In the case of removing the 10m x 10m concrete plinth, that would require a 20t digger with full attachment suite. The wire saw’s compact nature also means it can operate in hard-to-reach places such as underwater or on top of buildings.

Like a Mouse

Traditional concrete cutting and demolition methods are loud. Wire sawing however, causes less vibration and is far quieter than hydraulic breaking or bladed saws. As such it can be used in residential areas or ain night works.

No Smoko

Because wire saws don’t need constant supervision from an operator in the way that other machinery does, it can run at consistent speeds without breaks. It never gets sick, tired or hungry!

Safety Third First

Wire saws are almost exclusively remote controlled, meaning in the event of breakage or outright failure the chances of injury are far less. Additionally, due to the forced dust suppression via lubrication, airborne silica is reduced almost to nothing.

Disadvantages.

Don’t Let Go

Yes, the remote operation of a wire saw gives an additional layer of protection for operators and other works. However, the wire is under an extreme amount of tension. If damage occurs to the wire during operation resulting in breakage, well, use your imagination.

Make It Rain

With a setup cost of up to $150k, establishing a wire sawing operation isn’t exactly cheap. It can however, be cost efficient over longer/larger projects or for larger companies like PCC that can spread those costs over a longer period.

A Specialist

Within a few short hours, most construction savvy individuals can safely wield a demolition saw. Wire sawing however, requires specialised and sometimes lengthy training in live operating environments.

Time Is Money

It takes significantly longer to set up a wire saw, so it’s probably not suitable for quick, little jobs where a breaker and saw will do.

Perfectly Flush

If the wire is damaged or breaks, this can cause imperfections in the surface and if the exposed aggregate is the final finish then it will need further working.

Low Range

The precision of the cut comes at a cost – time. Like for like, it takes longer to make the same cut. However, if the cut can only be made by a wire saw then there is no comparison.
Demobilisation

There you have it, wire sawing in all its glory and all its guts. For short term projects where there is limited establishment time, budget and less emphasis on the outcome – the wire saw is probably best left back the workshop. But if the budget is there, the operator can be afforded proper setup & operational time and the end result has to be perfect – accept no substitutes.

Perfect Concrete Care has been wire sawing since February 2016. With scores of successful projects behind them PCC are Sydney’s premier wire sawing owner and operator.

Perfect Concrete Care.

Wire Get It Done.

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