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200 Years of Gleistein

200 Years of Trust

Gleistein, Bremen's oldest industrial family-run business, is set to celebrate its bicentennial on 26 April 2024. Established in an era when ropes were primarily needed for maritime and agricultural purposes, Gleistein has evolved over eight generations into a leading manufacturer of fibre ropes and a global player in the industry.


Gleistein – steering a steady course for 200 years

Embark on a discovery tour through two eventful centuries!

Our historical photo album offers fascinating insights into our company's long history – a montage in black and white.


Rope making 50 years ago

A visual journey into the 1970s explains rope production step by step – although much has changed since then, the basic principle remains the same to this day.


Commemorative publication for the 125th anniversary

75 years ago, Gleistein celebrates its 125th founding anniversary and takes a glance back into the past.


A North German company chronicle

A meticulously researched chronicle, written by former managing director Helmut Paul, brings Gleistein's history back to life.


What moves us? Connections!

Gleistein becomes aware of its outstanding potentials and sets sail into a new millennium...


It’s 2024, and Gleistein celebrates 200 years of trust!
How did this happen?

This is a big question, and naturally, there can’t be just one answer…
To offer you some insights into what makes us tick, how we operate and what is important to us, we have put together the Gleistein Discovery Tour. We’re looking forward to presenting our company to you at the following 11 stops.

Today we are celebrating our bicentenary! And since Captain Gleistein wanted to establish a rope-making factory in Bremen-Vegesack in 1824, almost everything has changed... Back then, he had to find a plot of land that was almost 400 metres long.
Could ropes not be coiled back then?

Indeed, they could, but only after being manufactured: The core of a rope-making factory at that time was the ropewalk, also called Reeperbahn. On it, stretched yarns were twisted into strands and then united in a laid rope by a countertwist. To achieve the standard length of 220 meters that is still common today a 380-meter-long workshop was needed. Initially, ropes were made using muscle power: It wasn’t until 1856 that steam power was introduced at Gleistein, and more and more machines were driven by transmission belts. It was around the time of Gleistein’s 100th anniversary that braiding machines made their first appearance. Today, braided constructions have largely replaced the traditional laid design.

In 1980, the company was able to move five kilometres westward to its current premises in Bremen- Blumenthal, replacing the outdated ropewalk with a large rope-laying machine, which is now located in Trenčín and is still in use. Unlike the natural fibres that were common in the company’s early days, which have gradually been replaced by synthetic raw materials since the middle of the last century. Today recycled and bio-based synthetic materials are increasingly being used, building on the sustainability promise of the old natural fibres.

If you want to study arboriculture and work as a tree climber in the crowns of mighty trees, you must love nature, have a head for heights, be physically fit and have a technical understanding of rope work.
But aren’t ropes for tree climbers just climbing ropes?

Of course, ropes for climbing are part of every arborist’s equipment. For example, static ropes with low elongation such as GeoStatic NE, which fulfils all the requirements of the strict DIN EN 1891 norm and has become an industry standard. However, our tree care programme, which is available in Germany since 2005, offers much more: it includes descending ropes, restraint ropes and auxiliary ropes of all kinds as well as rope-based system solutions such as our tree-friendly and extremely easy-to-splice Gemini S tree crown protection system with a comprehensive application description.

We focus particularly on customised special solutions: The constantly extended Inco Prusik series comprises superior climbing aids with precisely defined properties that are only available at Gleistein. They ensure a slip-proof hold at any point on the climbing rope thanks to a friction hitch knot, thus replacing a heavy, hard metal fitting. After all, in addition to reproducible behaviour and easy handling, every gram that you don’t have to lug around is important when tree climbing!

In 1824, a rope was simply a rope. Today, numerous raw materials, constructions and machine settings enable a huge number of different rope types.
Do we even need them?

Every application has its own special characteristics: Ropes for water sports can be designed to be comfortable or sporty, playground ropes should offer defined resistance and protection against vandalism, thick ropes are needed in commercial shipping, crane ropes should be able to withstand a high number of bending cycles under load, safety ropes must absorb shocks and so on and so forth...

So there is no such thing as the perfect rope - only the perfect rope for every application! At Gleistein, of course, we always strive to be as sustainable as possible. That’s why we don’t just offset our CO2 emissions... We even make ropes from used rPET bottles - always in premium Gleistein quality, of course!

We are driven by connections - and our team really does feel like a family.
How did we achieve this and what is crucial in our co-operation?

Gleistein has been a family business for 200 years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that our employees also feel like part of the family... Although we are actively committed to the well-being of our team and create health promotion and team building programmes, it is above all our fantastic and committed team itself that shapes our community and makes the difference in how we all get through each week!

A few years ago, when we looked at the question of what defines us at our core, what values we follow and what future we want to work towards, we asked our entire team how our values of courage, forward-thinking, clarity, trust and responsibility become a tangible reality in our daily interactions. The applicable values that emerged from this process are everyone’s commitment to our community of values. The statements of our team also provide evidence of this.

We advertise our FLX Mooring System with the tagline “Direct course to the profit zone”, yet it costs significantly more than conventional mooring ropes.
How can a more expensive product be the more economical solution?

As the name suggests, our system is more than just a simple rope: it consists of a high-quality main line with Dyneema® that weighs only a fraction but lasts many times longer than any conventional mooring line. It is then combined with a highly efficient tail, which absorbs the shocks and wears like a conventional mooring line, but only constitutes the last few metres of the ensemble and can be exchanged in a flash.

This means that the investment pays off after just a few replacement cycles and, in addition to significant weight and space savings as well as easier handling, also quickly brings an economic advantage. But that’s just the beginning: in the overall balance, only a fifth of the waste is produced for the same number of mooring operations! It goes without saying that we use bio-based raw materials for production, the system is also really doing our environment a favour...

To ensure a crane load hangs straight, remains intact, and, most importantly, doesn’t fall off, lifting equipment is necessary. For instance, relatively inexpensive steel chains – or, alternatively, Gleistein’s elaborate lifting slings using high-performance fibres.
How can this be worthwhile?

Our lifting gear is made from flexible, textile material. This significantly contributes to preventing injuries to people and materials. Their main advantage, however, is their sensationally low weight – a comparably strong chain easily weighs 15 times more! This means that they can be handled without additional equipment, even with working loads of over 100 tonnes. In addition, the crane’s load-bearing capacity increases by the amount of weight saved. And that’s not just a few kilos, as is the case with the lifting sling for our small delivery vehicle: in the heavy lift sector, this can be up to 50 tonnes!

From our universal Allround MegaLoop round sling and our Updraft CustomSling, which is spliced precisely to measure, to completely customdesigned heavy lift solutions, Gleistein offers a complete range with lifting capacities ranging from a few hundred kilos to several thousand tonnes!

What a shame: it’s better not to be around when forces of up to 300 tonnes are unleashed with a loud bang.
How can you show exactly what happens when a rope breaks?

Because we want our ropes to never break during use, we need to know exactly under what circumstances and in what way it happens. In our state-of-the-art laboratory, we tear at least 20 rope samples a day, but we usually leave the room before it gets critical... Our visitors often can’t quite hide their disappointment about this - that’s why we recorded a rope breaking with a high-speed camera and can now show it to you in slow motion.

In order to develop new designs and check the quality of our raw materials and products, we simulate various environmental conditions as accurately as possible in our DNV-accredited laboratory. For example, we simulate load scenarios in harbour environments, UV radiation, irrigation or alternating bending loads. By the way: we also offer our customers the use of our infrastructure...

Patient, colourful and child-friendly: these are Gleistein’s playground ropes.
But how do you make a rope that is soft and tough at the same time?

Herkules rope consists of strands with internal wire ropes that are firmly enclosed in a textile cover. The steel wire not only offers protection against vandalism, but also provides the necessary resistance when climbing, while the cover minimises any risk of injury and ensures excellent grip.

Herkules is produced as a classic laid construction on rope-laying machines. It is made from four or six strands. The six-strand version has a central fibre or wire core on the inside.

A rope is braided or laid from several strands.
But what is a strand and how is it made

Depending on the thickness of the rope, a bundle of wafer-thin fibre filaments can form the strand - or a yarn which is produced by twisting the multi filaments on Roblon Tornados. For thicker ropes, the strand is formed by twisting yarns in opposite directions in a further stranding step. Up to 120 yarns are twisted on special machines to produce strands for larger rope diameters.

Gleistein mainly uses six different raw materials for yarn production - in line with our sustainability commitment, they are bio-based or recycled as often as possible. The raw materials are purchased as multi filaments or produced on our extrusion machines in Trenčín. By changing the direction of rotation in each stranding step, the yarns in the finished rope should lie parallel in the longitudinal direction of the rope. This can be used as a quality test: If the fingernail glides effortlessly through the strands in the longitudinal direction of the rope, the rope achieves optimum strength because all the rope elements work together as efficiently as possible.

Several bobbins whirl around each other at lightning speed and a rope is magically formed.
We have slowed down the machine to look at it, but what exactly is happening here?

An even number of so-called carriers dance around each other in two groups on a ring-shaped disc in serpentine lines. The braid is formed above the braiding point by the alternating crossing of the strands that the carriers move along on braiding bobbins.

In the 12-strand braiding machine, six left-twisted strands are braided with six right-twisted strands to form a compact rope core or rope. The 32-strand cover braiding machine, 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 rope is bundled.

At this stop, you can witness the splicing of a rope.
But what exactly is that and why do we do it?

The production of our fibre ropes using state-of-the-art machinery results in a highly developed industrial product of assured quality and with precise technical specifications. However, the main purpose of a rope is to create a connection, and therefore, its end is crucial. Because a knot would reduce the strength of a rope by up to 70%, its full potential can only be utilised through an optimal end connection: splices enable the safest transmission of forces!

More than 30 members of our team produce these specialised end connections by hand every day - for ropes ranging from wafer-thin to 300 mm in diameter, always tailored to individual customer requirements. We use around 30 different splicing techniques, most of which we have developed ourselves, and our terminations also integrate protective elements or fittings such as thimbles or shackles. The design always depends on the rope construction.

Text: Micheline Schwammborn

Historical imagery