A hotbed of innovation, Gleistein Ropes has laid claim to international leadership in its business sector for many years. But this cannot be taken for granted and must constantly be proven anew. Only those that have a clear vision of the future of rope applications and technologies, and those continuously active in the quest to develop textile connection solutions of generation next can lastingly maintain and extend the technological lead created in the past. That is why Gleistein places such importance on its research and development efforts to remain on the cutting edge of technology and push the boundaries of what is possible.
When does a rope need to be replaced? Very simply put: Before it breaks! However, in just about all case where ropes are used, the scenario of a rope breaking is completely out of the question – especially when it applies to safety. In practice it means that a rope must be replaced while it still is fully intact!
High-tech ropes – especially the types suitable for replacing heavy wire rope systems – are constructed using high modulus fibres. They combine the performance and precision of steel with the weight and handling attributes of synthetic fibres. Lighter constructions with a longer life are thereby possible, but they are commonly significantly more expensive. It therefore is all the more important to be able to precisely predict their residual life. And what would know this better than the rope itself?
Together with several prolific partners, the RWTH Aachen University in Germany is currently developing a special monitoring system that can ascertain a rope’s condition and predict its residual life. The name of the project is Smart RopEx – and Gleistein has been on board with this project from the very beginning.
Not a year goes by where ropes don’t get better: New types of materials, increasingly sophisticated constructions and larger diameters all do their bit to boost performance. The limits of most textile rope testing laboratories to assess the breaking loads of thick and strong ropes have long been surpassed. Instead, values are often simply extrapolated from smaller diameters, where strength conversion aspects and other factors having significant effects on safety must be taken into account.
But to really find out what a rope can take, there is no easy way – you need to tear it apart! In June 2011, Gleistein Ropes entered into a new era of possibilities when its latest state-of-the-art rope testing laboratory went into operation. Ropes can now be put to the test with tensile loads up to 300 tons – that’s more than the weight of 150 medium-sized vehicles! The testing lab features three tensile testing machines, allowing ropes of all sizes and ratings. Besides classic tensile tests for assessing break loads, the new laboratory also enables individual programs to be executed including precise shock and continuous load simulations as well as testing in liquids or under other real life-like conditions. The performance and potential of the new lab is second to none – even when compared globally. It enables ropes to be developed that optimise the use of raw materials and meet the required specifications precisely. Gleistein Ropes’ solutions will thereby not only boast higher performance in the future, they will also be lighter and even more economical!
With ever-increasing energy costs, harnessing the free and inexhaustible resource of wind like was done in shipping many years ago has once again become an extremely attractive prospect. Yet SkySails technology has very little in common with the tall ships of yesteryear. The system can be incorporated into just about any modern ship type and is also retrofitable. Besides the launching unit at the bow, it requires no space on board. The giant kite soars at an altitude of around 300 metres and moves in a figure of eight. Winds at this height are stronger and more consistent. The amount of energy harnessed can save up to 50% of fuel costs and is transferred to the ship via a solitary rope.
This rope must withstand extreme cyclic loads and continuous stresses, and function over long periods without showing fatigue within the modular ensemble of the complete system. Gleistein has been involved from day one as innovation partner. It has developed a special version of its DynaOne HS rope – an extremely light round braid made of Dyneema® fibres that is heat-set to optimise strength and elasticity for this precise purpose. The real innovation, however, can be seen in the many supplementary details. For example, completely new technologies were implemented for the connections and an electrical conductor cable was integrated within the rope to deliver electrical impulses to the control pod in the kite.
Systems capable of transferring 8 and 16 tons of force are already in production; tests are already underway for a 32-ton version; and loads of up to 130 tons are in the pipeline. Gleistein is rising to the challenges!
HMPE stands for High Modulus Polyethelyne. It’s the magic formula used in the manufacture of most high-end synthetic ropes. This buoyant material enables the construction of extremely lightweight rope that features the strength and stretch characteristics of wire rope. Our pure-grade HMPE DynaOne rope has long established itself on the market as a “textile wire rope replacement”. Gleistein exclusively uses the HMPE technology from market leader DSM Dyneema® and commenced early on with researching and developing the optimal use and processing of this raw material. A result of this work is stretching technology – or more precisely thermal stretching. But what exactly does that mean?
Conventional fibres usually feature a high elastic stretch. That’s why a fibre that is stressed more strongly in a rope doesn’t break, as a less stressed fibre will eventually come to its aid. However, the lower the elasticity of the raw material, the more important it becomes that all fibres are evenly stressed. Thermal stretching causes stress within braided ropes to be balanced out. This is done by tensioning ropes under heat – and then slowing reducing the heat again and relieving the tension. It is part of a continual process that is undertaken on equipment custom-made by our machinery department specifically for this purpose.
The process is also called “heat setting”, and besides optimally exploiting the raw material also makes the rope denser which means that there are more fibres in the same space of the cross section. Both effects bring about extreme gains in strength of up to 50% when compared to unprocessed Dyneema® ropes or cores of the same diameter. Gleistein products constructed using heat set Dyneema® can be identified with the suffix “HS” behind their name.
You’d think that things were pretty clear: That what a rope is capable of is fundamentally determined through the interplay of construction and raw materials used. But there also is a third force: Impregnations and finishes such as coatings and admixtures let rope characteristics also be strongly influenced. They protect against damage caused by abrasion, UV rays, chemical degradation, prevent water and dirt entering, and can influence targeted technical characteristics such as rope flexibility and gliding properties. This field is constantly bringing new products and possibilities to the light of day, yet only those capable of providing a real benefit in practice are really useful. That is why our R&D department is constantly experimenting with new materials and processing methods to develop and bring products to market with clear, significant advantages. A current example:
Carbonized GripFibre is used within the current generation of Dyneema® double braids. The high-tech fibre optimises the connection between the HMPE core and the protective cover. Traditionally, especially in the area of yachting ropes, a “woolly” intermediate cover of polyester staple fibres was used to ensure traction in the stopper. But this increases weight and requires space. Now, a razor-thin intermediate cover made of Carbonized FibreGrip is being used, for example, in the classic MegaTwin Dyneema® rope. It reduces core-to-cover slack down to zero and simultaneously provides more room for more core – and that means more strength per millimetre of diameter! But less can be even more: The high-end MegaTwin T4 and RunnerTwin product lines don’t have anything underneath! Here, Carbonized GripFibre is processed as an admixture directly in the Dyneema® core. This results in maximum performance on winches and rollers, optimises cross-sectional utilisation, makes splicing easier and also results in improved cost-effectiveness. It may sound easy, but the path to achieving such innovation traversed many years of developmental work and optimisation.