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The ups and downs of Elevators get a sideways slant

“This is the Great Glass Wonkavator. An elevator can only go up and down but the Wonkavator can go sideways and longways and... and any other ways that you can think of. Just by pressing one of these buttons, any of these buttons. Just press a button, and zing! you're off!” - Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Every little boys’ and girls’ dream was to take a ride in the fantastical glass elevator that Charlie Bucket rides at the end of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.’ 

(scroll down to watch video)

That dream could soon be a reality with a new concept from world-renowned steel producer ThyssenKrupp, who’s design frees conventional lifts from their current vertical constraints. The innovative idea sees lifts that can move horizontally as well as vertically; and travelling at 5 metres per second, will never make you wait longer than 30 seconds for a ride. 

The design implements a system of compact elevators which are controlled by powerful magnets, allowing us to replace dated cable-hoisted, rope and counterweight technology. This will mean that there can be several cabins to one shaft, reducing wait times exponentially. The technology has been inspired by the German high-speed monorail Transrapid, which works using magnetic levitation.

Should the industry come to adopt ThyssenKrupp’s idea for new lifts, the world of architecture could be elevated to new heights. Designers would have more artistic freedom when proposing new buildings, minus the constricting factor of having to include an elevator core within the structure. The German company suggest that due to shaft sizes being smaller, more versatile and not needing to be staggered in tall buildings, developers could potentially gain 40% more useable floor space overall.

Chief executive of ThyssenKrupp, Andreas Schierenbeck says "as the nature of building constructions evolve, it is also necessary to adapt elevator systems to better suit the requirements of buildings and high volumes of passengers."

"Per year, New York City office workers spend a cumulative amount of 16.6 years waiting for elevators, and 5.9 years in the elevators. This data provides how imperative it is to increase the availability of elevators."

ThyssenKrupp will trial the first unit in 2016 on a test tower in Rottweil, Germany. Will it go left, right up and down in history? Only time will tell.

Published on 03/12/2014

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