Travelling higher with rope-less lifts
Property developers around the world are on course to build 187 towers soaring over 250 metres high over the next 2 years. This new generation of high rises is pushing innovative lift companies to the limits of technology with the major lift engineering companies, Kone, Thyssenkrupp and Otis Elevator pushing for a breakthrough in their search for a futuristic lift without height limits.
The Romans used lifts which were powered by pulleys and levers to raise gladiators into the Colosseum around two thousand years ago. Since then, electricity-propelled cables have replaced ropes previously used to physically haul people up, however lift technology in general has changed very little with the system still largely based on the same mechanics.
Traditional cables have been a huge obstacle for the new era of skyscrapers with lifts only able to reach a certain height in tall skyscrapers such as the Burj. This means that travelling to the top of supertalls today is usually broken up into two stages.
Kone, headquartered in Finland, is a major player in the lift industry and is hoping to bring a maglev design which will eliminate the need for cables and pulleys. The company is currently trialling the magnetic lift system in a 246-metre testing tower which will have the ability to move passengers both sideways and vertically.
German lift engineers, Thyssenkrupp are also testing a similar lift called Multi which will transport people around buildings more efficiently with multiple cabins able to move up and down the same shaft as well as horizontally to allow other lifts to pass.
Multi is powered by electromagnetic forces and will operate by sliding along a track, a concept which originally came from a student in the 1970s. The system is built with the same magnetic levitation technology used for Japan’s bullet trains and the one proposed for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. With the lift shaft no longer the main element of the design, the innovative system in place will bring more flexibility with lifts having the potential to run inside and outside buildings in the future.
The prospect of a ropeless lift system is very exciting for architects as it will overcome the issue of height restrictions and provide them with a new range of possibilities. With the demand for a new lift system growing, there is likely that the first ever ropeless lift will be readily available soon.