Enka Glanzstoff, a Giant of the Industrial Mass Production

Diolen was the brandname of a polyester fibre top product  marketed by Glanzstoff . In my memory its industrial production in two fundamental  process steps, melt spinning and drawing, represents an unforgettable experience.

On the “Spinnbühne” (how the Glanzstoff- workers called the spinning room level), the different spinning chambers were arranged in a long row. The spinning process was quiet, only a distant humming from the winding room penetrated from the bottom of the spinning chambers. At the top of the spinning chamber the hot and fluid polyester resin was pumped through the holes of the spinneret and on its way down to the bottom of the chamber the filament bundle was cooled down and solidified by an air stream with constant temperature and humidity. Then the yarn bundle left the ”Spinnbühne”- level and entered the take-up-room below. There a system of a take up-godet and an idle roller led the filament to the traverse guide, which laid the yarn onto the rotating yarn package driven by the take-up roll.

The Diolen production was an endless process, i.e.  the spinning machines could not be stopped. So it was necessary to replace full packages by new tubes while the speed of the oncoming filament was several thousand m/min. For a newcomer it seemed like magic when a skilled operator with a suction gun threaded the fiber bundle round the godets, rollers and pins through the traverse guide and finally on the new spool.

 In order to obtain a yarn with high tensile strength and elasticity the spun yarn underwent the so called drawing process, the second fundamental step of Diolen production. When I entered  the drawing room I was struck by  a buzzing noise coming from the spindles of the drawing machines arranged  in several seemingly endless production lines. The yarn of the full bobbins coming from the spinning factory was stretched between two godets and an intermediate  heating plate. The ratio of the surface speeds of the two godets defined the drawing ratio of the end product.  The drawn yarn passed down to the spindle assembly, where it was  wound up on a bobbin fixed on a spindle rotating with about 20 000 rpm. A special machine element was the ring and traveller system which laid the yarn on the bobbin while at the same time  inserting  twist into the stretched fiber to bind the different filaments together. The up and down motion of the ring created the typical biconical cop form of the full bobbin of drawn yarn, ready for further processing.

Coming from a research institute the encounter with the industry of Glanzstoff Oberbruch was an entirely new experience which, with regard to  ambitions and way of working, strongly influenced my professional life. But not only the working environment but our life in North West Germany was so different from what I was accustomed to.

When in an evening  of the year 1970 I arrived for the first time at Oberbruch, a small village in the Niederrhein region, I discovered  a new world. Born and educated in Bavaria I was used  to scattered villages with  houses in various colors grouped around a church and a marketplace in the center. At Oberbruch the houses were exclusively red-brick buildings, similar to the nearby Netherlands,   aligned along a main street. The space  between the houses were often closed by gates  creating a little gloomy  impression as if the village was a little fortress.

The reason for my trip to the border between Germany and the Netherlands was a job interview for the position of the manager  of the Physical/ Mathematical laboratory of Enka Glanzstoff Oberbruch.  Enka Glanzstoff was the world market leader for synthetic fibers mainly for the textile industry. Essential products of the wide Glanzstoff range were Rayon, a cellulose fiber, and synthetic filaments out of Perlon , chemically  Polyamid 6, and Polyester , with the brand name Diolen. Rayon cord is an important reinforcing component of the tire carcass . Around 1960 Glanzstoff  broadened his product range for tire reinforcement materials  by the production of steel cord.

As head of the Physical/Mathematical laboratory I worked together with a team of about 15 physics laboratory assistants , who most of their time were not in the laboratory but in the different production units . Their principal role was to assist the engineering and production departments in troubleshooting activities. They identified the causes of manufacturing problems by measuring the critical process parameters  and controlled the success of the corrective measures.