German Gleistein peaks turn 200 years old in 2024

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Two of the peaks featured in Gleistein's catalog.
Two of the peaks featured in Gleistein’s catalog.

There is a company in Germany that makes nautical ropes that has a 200-year history. Gleistein, founded in 1824 at a time when ropes and ropes were mainly used for maritime and agricultural purposes, is Bremen’s oldest family-owned company and has evolved through eight generations. Today the company, still led by two descendants of the founder, Klaus Walther and Thomas Schlätzer, has become a leading global manufacturer with more than 250 employees.

A first shed of 400 meters

It all began in 1824 when Captain Gleistein decided to establish a rope factory in Bremen-Vegesack and chose a shed nearly 400 meters long. At the time, in fact, strings could only be rolled up after production, so a lot of space was needed in length. A space of 380 meters was needed to stretch a 220-meter (a standard length) taut yarn, so that the yarns could then be twisted into strands and joined together by twisting them. The first braiding machines, which are the custom today, did not peep into Gleistein until the 1920s. Until that time, tops were produced only by hand and with the help (since the mid-1800s) of steam engines.

Synthetic fibers = many different tops

Coming to more recent years, in 1980 Gleistein moved to its current location in Bremen-Blumenthal, about five kilometers west of the original site. In the new plant, mainly synthetic fibers began to be processed instead of natural fibers, while today biobased fibers and yarns from recycled synthetics are increasingly being used. Gleistein is also committed to offsetting its CO2 emissions and using R-PET bottles for production.

The original Gleistein plant with early machinery

In the old plant, natural fiber ropes up to a diameter of 200 mm were produced; in the new plant, despite the advent of synthetic fibers and thus with the possibility of reducing the diameter of the ropes without compromising their strength, Gleistein decided to focus on large-diameter ropes. This choice has proved successful, especially considering theincrease in the size of ships and vessels, which has allowed the company to position itself precisely in the maritime sector. Today, operating through modern, large braiding machines, Gleistein produces ropes of different sizes, with up to fifteen times the strength of the ropes once produced.

Innovation in materials and machinery now allows Gleistein to have a range of many different types of ropes, not just nautical ropes. From those for water sports, designed to be comfortable and soft, to those for playgrounds that must offer great strength and protection against vandalism. Then there are the ropes for cranes, which must withstand several bending cycles under load, those for safety that must absorb the shock of a sudden impact, and those for securing goods. It even goes as far as “wrapping up” the2021 Arc de Triomphe in Paris, part of an artistic performance by the two artists Christo and Jeanne Claude, for which Gleistein ropes themselves were used.

How are Gleistein tops produced today?

A phase of braiding at the modern Gleistein plant

To produce its ropes, Gleistein primarily uses six different yarn raw materials, many of them organically based or recycled. Yarns are either purchased or produced through extrusion machines at the Trenčín plant in Slovakia. Depending on the thickness of the rope, the strand may be formed by a bundle of very thin fiber filaments, or by a yarn produced by twisting multi-strands. For thicker strings, the strand is formed by twisting the yarns in opposite directions in an additional stranding step. To produce strands for even larger diameter ropes, up to 120 strands are twisted using special machines.

Several spools spin around each other on a ring-shaped disk along a serpentine line. The braid is formed above the braiding point by the alternating crossing of strands moving on the braiding coils. In the 12-strand braiding machine, six braided strands on the left are braided with six braided strands on the right to form one compact rope. The32-strand coverbraider, on the other hand, forms a tube that is filled by the incoming core to form a dimensionally stable rope. Depending on the construction, the cover has a protective or force-absorbing function and ensures that the inside of the top is firm.

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