A braid is a structure made by interlacing three or more strips, strands, or lengths in a diagonally overlapping pattern, forming a flat or tubular rope-like item. The material used and the size of the strands can be very versatile, depending on the application.
Braiding differs from weaving in that the threads are not interwoven at right angles to each other but crossed over. The most common and simple braid is a solid, flat, three-stranded structure. The more strands used in a braids construction, the more complex in range and structure it becomes.
During the Industrial Revolution, mechanized braiding equipment was invented to increase production. The braiding technique was used to make ropes, with both natural and synthetic fibers, and coaxial cables for radios using copper wire. In more recent times it has been used to create a covering for fuel pipes in jet aircraft and ships. Pipes for domestic plumbing are often covered with stainless steel braid.
An outstanding feature of braids is that their load capacity compared to similar products, made with other techniques, is considerably higher. Standard braids have only a low lateral stability. Due to this property, they can be sewn to other textiles without problems. On the other hand they can be made rigid and stiff with inserts and finishing treatments.
Braids have found a range of technical applications in fields including medicine, candles, transport, and aerospace. Because of the special properties, braids can be found (often hidden) in many different products. Some examples are: clothing and shoes, candle wicks, sash cords, water ski ropes, mountaineering ropes, yachting ropes, parachute lines, fishing nets, mooring lines, medical applications such as catheters or dental floss, ground cables, or harnesses.