A shining example… Global Stainless turns engineering into an art form

Global Stainless officially started business in 2004 by current owner Lincoln Raikes, after leaving Robert Stone Engineering (now FNE Engineering) in Hawera. Raikes had started experimenting with spheres back in 1995. He’d always had a dream of starting the business, and his son Bergen gave him the push he needed. Bergen, then 17, was due to leave school and was set on becoming a welder and fabricator like his dad.

For many years Raikes had the aspiration of creating stainless steel balls with no weld shrinkage, leaving a seamless orb with a mirror-like finish and for more than five years he worked on his unique technique to perfect it.

“The first five years of the business were tough with little money being made as myself and Bergen experimented with techniques, and we worked to promote the business,” says Raikes.

The industrial dome fabrication side of the business was there from day one, but Raikes had also had a burning desire to produce mirror polished spheres for the art world and via online began to make key connections that could showcase the company’s fine work – the ‘artistic creations’ side of the business took off.

“In 2009, a connection was made with London-based artist Anish Kapoor. He was looking for test spheres for work commissioned by the Royal Academy in London and requested a sample. The sample was fabricated and shipped direct,” says Raikes.

Shortly after, the order for 74 spheres came through and within several months, Global Stainless had doubled its staff to 11 and began much larger scale manufacturing.

Global Stainless fabricated the mirror polished stainless steel balls, packaged them up, and sent them to Auckland where TP Engineering mounted them on three masts with hidden cross bracing giving a weightless appearance. Once assembled, Kapoor’s ‘Tall Tree and the Eye’ sculpture stood 15 metres tall and resembled giant shiny bubbles emerging from the ground.

The stainless steel spheres were made from marine grade stainless, and manufactured to withstand wind and movement from potential earthquakes. The balls weighed four tonnes and the internal structure seven tonnes.

“The business had truly begun the path to where it is today.”

And today, the company offers a huge array of services. It manufactures domes for tank ends such as those used in the dairy, transport, and food industries and also fabricates long radius bends for pipework and ducting used in the production of food and beverages.

Global Stainless’ unique manufacturing process allows for bends in a much wider diameter than had previously been available. Both tank ends and bends are sent throughout New Zealand and Australia.

“The initial industrial developments evolved with an early unique method of shaping stainless steel into lightweight pieces. Now industries are demanding domes, half-spheres, and piping with thicker walls. Global Stainless has invested in equipment such as an extra wide hydraulic press and a heavy knuckling machine.”

Global Stainless now has high demand for hemispherical domes which offer a lot smoother contour than conventionally made hemispheres that are usually made from pressed panels welded together. The smooth surface we offer is perfect for avoiding burn on of products often produced in the health, cosmetic and dairy/food industry. This makes them more hygienic and easier to clean.

“We continue to have a high demand for mirror polished spheres designed by artists and sculptors, shipping to clients around the world.”