History Repeats Itself in Cycles: Fatzer Ropes

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La Paz Linea Roja urbane Seilbahn-5 klein

Fatzer ropes doing the heavy lifting in La Paz

In a world of pliable brands that lend their name to nearly anything, Fatzer remains focused on doing what it has always done. The company has been creating rope since 1836 and steel wire cable since around 1900. Imagine trying to compete with so many generations of insider know-how. Imagine to break tight bonds between Fatzer rope engineers and the leading, close-by ropeway engineers, at the heart (the Alp triangle of Switzerland, Austria, South Tyrol/Italy and Savoy/France) of ropeway technology, where all state-of-art ropeways ever have been and still are engineered.

“When you do one thing really, really well, like aerial wire rope for ropeways and cable cars it’s hard for competitors to keep up,” says Daniel Graf, Fatzer’s Head of Transportation Wire Rope.

It Starts With Rigourous, Extended Testing

Every new Fatzer rope is tested on an improbably short ropeway at the company’s manufacturing site in Romanshorn Switzerland. Their engineers run the ropes at variable tension loads and exceptionally high speeds, unlike anything they would ever experience in the real world. The testing continues around the clock for weeks, sometimes months.

With the two stations just a few dozen metres apart and the constant bending and straightening of the rope, the effect is like a gondola system on steroids. The ropes quickly pass tens of thousands of cycles. So the Fatzer engineers quickly learn the life expectancy of a given product, whether wire rope, splice connection or rope pulleys and sheaves.

The testing goes beyond spinning the rope through cycles. “Everything that comes into contact with the rope, is tested,” says Graf, “and clients do appreciate that.”

Quality of Relationships and Trust of Their Clients

Graf is quick to add that a quality product is only table stakes in the ropeway game. “We know our business inside out”, but also makes a point of knowing our clients’ businesses inside out too. And there is the Fatzer wire rope at play: meeting not only written specs but the customer’s practical needs.

“When you understand what your client needs, you can recommend a solution that saves them big money,” says Graf. Such knowledge of their clients’ business is more essential than ever these days when use of urban ropeways in metropolitan areas is rapidly expanding worldwide.

As an example, he talks of clients in Barcelona created a win-win when they put in a rope with Fatzer’s Performa rope. Here’s what Fatzer client Mr. Carlos Sanchez said: “Bullwheel and sheave linings wear is significantly decreased, to appreciably prolong the useful life of such wear parts. Consequently, it demands lower power consumption due to the lower friction of the rope with all different rolling elements.”

The client satisfaction went further. “Concerning rope stretch is very low, allowing the installation to operate without costly downtime for rope shortening work. In our case, the Telefèric de Montjuïc, after 22,000 hours of operation, needed no resplice yet.”

The Performa rope is so effective for urban ropeway use, it was awarded a Red Dot Design Award earlier this year.


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