|UKC Visit to Mammut HQ, Switzerland - Design Team Q&A
added Mar/2014, see all Mammut news & reviews
product news by Rob Greenwood - UKC
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Ropes are one of those things that you just trust. It's not like placing a small wire or a marginal camming device, in the event of a fall you rarely worry about the rope failing - you worry about everything else. That said, the quality and performance varies greatly from brand to brand and I was interested to know a little more about how Mammut go about manufacturing, designing and testing their ropes. I also took 5 questions posted on the UKC Forums for the Mammut Design Team to answer.
Mammut have been manufacturing outdoor equipment for over 150 years and still to this day produce every single metre of rope at their factory in Seon, Switzlerland. From idea to design, prototyping to testing everything is done under one roof by a team of designers who's sole task is to improve on the designs and innovate new technologies. Rather than go into exhaustive detail about each constituent part of the rope - most of which is outlined in our 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Ropes Article' - and have instead concentrated on the information around a number of more specialist design features and facts from throughout manufacturing process I thought I would be of interest:
Despite many other colours being available, white is the most commonly used due to its contrast with the bright colours used in the sheath, therefore showing up more visibly in case of damage
- Threads are twisted two ways into S shapes and Z shapes so that when the rope is used it doesn't kink as the two cancel eachother out, if you enlarge the thumbnail you can tell the difference if you look closely.
- The core takes the majority of the load within a fall, usually between 70-80% depending on the model
Essentially the sheath is there to protect the core from sharp edges and dirt, but also provides additional strength
- Sheath threads are knitted into a tube first in order to prevent twisting in later stages of the manufacturing process
- 740m of sheath threads are required to make a 500m dynamic rope due to the amount to times it wraps around
1000m of rope takes 23 hours to manufacture (!)
- Mammut have a 'Lump Detector' to check for splices, thickenings and other anomalies meaning that every single metre of rope produced has been checked
- The Lap Coiling Machine exclusive to Mammut allows ropes to be used fresh from the packaging, for those that have ever made the mistake of trying this with a standard Circular Spooled rope you will know that this often ends up with a lot of kinks!
When testing ropes there is a 5 minute wait between drop tests, this is a particularly severe test as it doesn't actually allow the ropes to fully recover
- Diameter is tested under a 10kg load, but many manufacturers deviate from this norm meaning that rope diameters actually provide a vague assessment of it's true width.
Top 5 Questions from UKC Users to Mammut's Design Team
Question 1: How long should dry-treatment on ropes last?
Answer: Fritz Schäfer, Senior Product Manager - Climbing
Very difficult to answer as this depends on how the treatment is applied to the rope and how much the rope is used. When the treatment is only applied to the sheath, it wears of due to the abrasion of the rope on rock etc. And abrasion depends on frequency of use… With a frequent user climbing on a treated rope where only sheath is treated, I'd say the treatment lasts for one climbing season maximum. With ropes where core and sheath are treated, the treatment of the core is so strong that it lasts over the whole lifetime of the rope.
Question 2: How thin can ropes go?
Answer: Fritz Schäfer, Senior Product Manager - Climbing
With single ropes, I'd say we are very, very close to the limit (our 8.7mm Serenity is a good example of this). The limiting factor is the minimum fall rating of 5 falls that you need to achieve and in order to withstand the 5 UIAA falls you definitely NEED a certain amount of core twines that can not be reduced if you want to pass the EN standard. And with the number of core twines NEEDED you will always end up with a diameter of let's say +/- 8.5mm for a single rope.
All this only applies for ropes made of Polyamide which still is the only raw material that dynamic ropes are made of. The next "revolution" in ropes (so also thinner ropes) will only be possible if a new raw material will be found.
Mammut's team of expert designers
Question 3: Where do you see the future of insulation?
Answer: Oliver Walker, Senior Product Manager - Apparel
For down, treatments have been developed which make it longer lasting, give them some extra life, but they are not as long lasting as we want them to be.
For synthetic, Primaloft is driving technology forward here. They introduced brand new architecture and are about to develop / introduce other new technologies.
But what is almost more important: brands are mixing down and fiberfill (same as what we do with Eigerjoch / Biwack Jacket), use some innovative designs and even Syntethics and down are now mixed in an intimate way (Primaloft).
Question 4: Do you make any products you consider perfect?
Answer: Harald Schreiber, Public Relations
Our products are designed for specific aereas of use in mountain sports. Each product is perfectly designed for a purpose. However if used for the wrong purpose the same product might end up disappointing the user. An ultra light active shell jacket might be perfect for trail running in changing weather conditions but you would not pick it for your next ice climbing trip. And you would not use your Nordwand GTX mountain boot to climb in the Peak District.
Quesion 5: Why have you discontinued the Extreme Pack Range?
Answer: Maximillian Lenk, Product Manager - Backpacks and Sleeping Bags
The New Eiger Extreme Pack is a completely new Idea. It’s unique fabric containing fibres with a performance like dyneema fibres! For that reason this pack is:
- Extremely tear resistant
- Extremely abrasion resistant
- Extremely cut resistant
That is pretty unique because on comparable models you mostly have just parts of the pack made of these kind of fabrics, at Mammut it’s the entire pack!
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